At this point in the process, you will have selected the proposed site for your project. It may be a vacant lot or it may be a property with some improvements already constructed on it. Whichever is the case, you will need to know more about the size and shape of the lot and the type and location of the improvements on it. At this time, it will also be necessary to know the way the lot is graded and the utilities that are available to service the property.
You will also need to know if there are any other restrictions on the lot – for example, “Is there a sewer, water or other utility line that runs underground through the lot, which you may not build over?” or “Does someone else have a right to cross the lot in perpetuity?” To get the answer to all of these questions, you will need to have a survey performed by a Licensed Professional Land Surveyor. You may, however, begin the concept design process before going to the expense of contracting a land surveyor.
It’s likely that the municipal tax map will give you some information about the size and shape of your lot. However, the purpose of the tax map is not to help you with the planning of your project – it is to guide the tax assessor in determining how much your property will be valued for local property tax assessment. That said, many people use the tax map for initial planning purposes anyway. You may generally obtain a copy of this map through the Municipal Engineer’s office for a small fee (usually no more than $20). Some municipalities engage full-time engineers while others engage consulting engineers. If this information is not available from the phone book or municipal web site, call the Municipal Clerk.
If you are lucky, the municipality or county in which your property is situated may have topographic maps that are relatively current. These will show the general location of surface features, such as buildings, roads, sidewalks, etc. and will also provide information about how the property is sloped. Armed with this information, you may wish to look for a Registered Architect to assist you with the design of your building and site improvements.
NJ State Law requires you to have an architect design your building, unless your project happens to be a single-family, detached home. Then, you may design the project yourself.
Your architect will help you to develop a concept plan of your project, including its general size, shape and estimated cost. If it appears that your lot will accommodate the project, it’s time to engage a Professional Land Surveyor.
If you don’t already own the property, you might ask your attorney about constructing a contract to purchase the land subject to receiving all necessary development approvals.