Land Development is Like a Meatball

Let me list some ingredients for you…ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, spices (salt, pepper, garlic, parsley), and red wine. What do you get when you combine these together…a meatball! This list of ingredients makes up the family meatball recipe (sorry Mom Mom)…don’t ask for the written recipe because there isn’t one!

Land development is like a meatball. You read that right! Now I’m sure you’re sitting there wondering how meatballs could possibly relate to land development. That…or you’re now sitting at your desk hungry…or possibly both!

…Now back to the question. How does any of this relate to land development? Well, you see land development is like the list of ingredients above. Each plays a key part in the whole process. For anyone who’s had a meatball (if you haven’t, I recommend you get your life together and come back to this article after you’ve had one) you know they come in all shapes and sizes. Land development follows the same idea. You have projects ranging in size from a quarter acre pad site to a site that could be hundreds of acres or greater! Regardless of its size, a project uses the same “ingredients” to be completed.

Let’s start with cheese because in this analogy the cheese represents a project’s due diligence. While some meatball recipes don’t call for cheese, the recipes that do use cheese stand out from the others. The same goes for land development. A project with a good due diligence sets the rest of the project up for success! It’s something that can be overlooked but people will recognize whether or not it’s there.

Next comes the bulk of the recipe…the ground beef. My family’s preference is 80/20. So, we’re going to use that ratio for the sake of this article. Getting through Township and State approvals (i.e., NPDES and any other permit from DEP) is going to take up 80% of the project timeline and effort. Will it actually take “80%” of the effort? That’s going to vary from project to project…but like most statistics, they’re made up on the spot so we’re rolling with it for this analogy (no meatball rolling pun intended!). Anyway, you get the point. Getting approvals from the Township and State are going to take up most of the project effort and timeline.

Now on to the other 20%. This is going to cover all your other permits – the Department of Transportation (DOT), the county, sewer, water, other utilities, etc. While most of these won’t make up much of a project timeline/effort, they still play an important role and will need to be completed as part of the overall process.

Eggs and breadcrumbs follow. They are the binders for the recipe – they hold the meatball together. These represent the project team (i.e., the client, engineer(s), land planners/landscape architects, attorney, etc.). A project team needs to work closely together to bring the project through approvals!

Up next, the spices. In most of my family recipes, the spices are measured with your heart. The same applies here! A good engineering/planning team needs to have heart. They need to have the passion to help make the project a reality.

On to the cooking. Depending on the size and your taste preferences, the cooking methods vary – baking, frying, boiling, etc. The same goes for land development. Experience and your desired outcome will determine this step. Don’t get me started about whether it’s called gravy or sauce.

Last, but not least – the wine. For this one, I’m borrowing some wisdom from the old philosophy story of the “rocks, pebbles, and sand” in a jar. If you aren’t familiar with the story, give it a quick Google. No matter how difficult a project can be, you can’t overlook the importance of celebrating and acknowledging the small victories because small victories add up to big victories in the end!  Mangia!