Get the Most out of Your Civil Engineer

When you start a business or even add a new branch to your existing business, you have a lot to think about and a cornucopia of decisions to make. How will you find key employees? Who will be your Clients and how will you find them? You also have to answer mundane questions such as “Which light bulb should you use since there are going to be thousands of them in the building?”

Or, when you create the website for your new company, what font should you use on the menus? Forest green or Kelly green?

I can’t help you a lot when it comes to those vital decisions (though I can tell you that you should NEVER use Comic Sans on a menu). I can, however, tell you about how choosing a civil engineer can make or break your business and I can bet with all of those other decisions, that one may not have occurred to you.

Many businesses just use the engineer their architect or investor suggests and usually whoever suggests the engineer is getting something out of it. Great for them, but not necessarily great for you. Why are civil engineers important?

If you find out about problems mid-way through your project, or worse, after your project is finished, it can cost you thousands of dollars to fix the problem. An experienced engineer knows what things need to be taken into account to preempt such costly issues. An engineer can perform a feasibility study to determine if the site where you have chosen to build your facility can meet city requirements for site area. An engineer must take into account things like permitting, utilities, parking, drainage, growth, erosion and flooding.

Another problem that can pop up is that of permitting. A good engineer is an expert at getting you the permitting for your project. Without that permitting, your project could fail without ever even getting started. A good engineer will have good relationships with the people in charge of approving your permit. Many types of permits must be signed and sealed by an engineer, or the permit will not be issued.

A good engineer will do more than give you a drawing or a signature. The best civil engineers will make sure your project is a success and try to save you money long term. So don’t always go with the guy your architect hands over to you. Do research to see if the engineer has some good reviews or testimonials. Look at that engineers previous projects. Do they have experience working with a project similar to yours?

If you are looking to start a new development project, make sure you choose the right engineer. It could mean the difference between success and failure for your project.

Our New Project on Lake Austin, “Laguna Terrera”, is Under Construction!

It is great to see a project that you have drawn on paper become a reality.  Laguna Terrera is a high-end residential project located on Lake Austin near the community of West Lake Hills.  Our survey crew is on-site now providing locations for pilings.  Soon the utilities will be constructed.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress!


Using a Development Agreement to Develop Land in Texas

A Landowner can eliminate a lot of uncertainty and risk when developing land in Texas by entering into a Development Agreement with local Municipalities.  The Development Agreement also helps the local Municipality set forth rules for development that specifically apply to the subject property. 

We at The Moore Group have assisted both Landowners and Municipalities in the preparation of Development Agreements.  A Development Agreement should be a “win-win” agreement that helps both parties achieve their goals.  It can also streamline procedures for obtaining the additional entitlements that follow the Development Agreement.

One aspect of Land Development that can benefit from a Development Agreement is offsite improvements.  Municipalities typically require larger developments to make improvements to the infrastructure adjacent to the proposed development.  The infrastructure improvements are needed because of the additional burden a large development puts on local streets and utilities.  With a Development Agreement, the Landowner can know in advance how much will be required for offsite improvements, and the Municipality can be sure that the necessary improvements will be made to support the development.

In summary, a Development Agreement can help both the Landowner and the local Municipality plan Development in a way that benefits both parties.  We at The Moore Group have experience in the preparation of Development Agreements.  We can help prepare a successful Development Agreement

Negotiating City Maintenance of Ponds


City staff persons can attempt to cause unnecessary expense to a developer and the eventual home owners within a development.  For example, while obtaining entitlements for a recent land development in the City of Austin, a city case manager told us that we would have to pay into an escrow account an amount of money sufficient to maintain three ponds within our project for a 2-year maintenance period.  In addition, this staff person wanted us to provide restrictive covenants that would place the long term burden of maintenance on the eventual home owners within the development.

 We found that the city code did not require a developer to maintain ponds within this type of development.  Although the city case manager had made written comments requiring us to pay money for maintenance, there was no basis in the code for this expense!  The code requires the City of Austin to maintain the ponds serving this development.

 We showed the reviewer the portion of the code that covered maintenance of ponds in this type of development (and in this area).  The reviewer had to admit we were right, and that we would not be required to pay money for maintenance of the ponds.  However, he had a reason why he initially told us we would have to pay for maintenance.  He said “The City Council made a mistake, there is not enough funding for the city to maintain these ponds.” Grudgingly, he concurred with us that he did not really have the authority to require us to pay for pond maintenance.  I am happy to say that this issue was resolved in our favor.

 The lesson from this experience is to check the basis in the code for the requirements made by reviewers.  The staff reviewer may be asking for something he would like to see, but is not really a requirement.  We always strive to maintain good relationships with the city staff, especially the higher-up staff.  But when it comes to staff requests that are going to cost us money and are not requirements, we gently remind the staff person of what the code actually says.  Although at times we have had to find satisfaction from a person in a supervisory position, when we know we are right we have always succeeded in obtaining the correct reading of the code. The Moore Group