How Land Planners & Developers Collaborate on Master-Planned Communities

March 14, 2023

How Land Planners & Developers Collaborate on Master-Planned Communities

The land development and design of a master-planned community can prove challenging, especially when you factor in financial realities, increasing construction costs, zoning requirements and quality of design. The idea is to maximize land use while considering time and costs — a reality that both planners and developers contribute to immensely.

In fact, the overall impact that this relationship has on master-planned communities allows a community to charge more and sell out faster than the proforma, thus causing the internal rate of return to increase significantly.

Land planners and developers work together to create master-planned communities that offer homeowners a complete lifestyle experience. Master-planned communities typically feature a variety of home types, commercial and retail spaces, community amenities, and recreational facilities. These communities aim to provide a comprehensive living experience that caters to the needs and preferences of homeowners.

Collaboration between land planners and developers is essential to ensure that the master-planned community meets the expectations of future residents. The land planner is responsible for creating a comprehensive site plan that takes into account the natural features of the land, environmental considerations, and local regulations. They work with the developer to ensure that the site plan aligns with the developer's vision for the community.

Land planners and developers have a collaborative relationship in turning undeveloped land into a master-planned community. Here's how that relationship plays out in the process of developing a master-planned community.



What sets a great land planner apart from a good one is the land planner's ability to use placemaking to create differentiation in the market that leads to premium pricing and greater absorption, and long-term value for homeowners. Not to mention their ability to help communities envision and shape a better future from beginning to end. 

Placemaking helps bring a community to life and creates a feeling of belonging and a place to enjoy life, not just a place to live. The key elements of quality places vary, but here are some key elements that should be considered: 

1. Public Spaces: Master-planned communities should incorporate a variety of public spaces that are accessible and inviting to all residents. These spaces may include parks, plazas, squares, and other gathering places that encourage social interaction and community engagement.

2. Walkability: Master-planned communities should be designed with walkability in mind. This means creating sidewalks, bike paths, and other infrastructure that encourage walking and biking as modes of transportation. A walkable community also fosters a sense of community and can promote economic activity by making it easier for people to access local businesses and services.

3. Mixed-Use Development: A master-planned community should include a mix of residential, commercial, and retail spaces. This can help create a sense of place and promote economic activity by creating opportunities for people to live, work, and shop in the same area.

4. Sustainability: Placemaking in a master-planned community should prioritize sustainability. This includes incorporating green spaces, using renewable energy sources, and promoting sustainable transportation options. Walkability again is important because residents can bike or walk to community amenities rather than drive their car. This also contributes to the health and well-being of the residents. 

5. Identity and Character: Placemaking should help create a unique identity and character for the community. This may include incorporating local art, historical information, cultural elements, and architectural styles that reflect the community's history and values.

6. Community Engagement: The placemaking process should involve community engagement to ensure that the public spaces and places within the community meet the needs and preferences of residents. This can include community workshops, farmers markets, concerts and other forms of outreach to gather input and feedback from the community and improve the quality of life of its residents by fostering connections with neighbors.

Quality developers value placemaking because they are building great places for home buyers to live. These places aren't built with just the intent of making a quick buck but rather creating a safe, welcoming community that is likely to last 100 years or more. As an additional benefit, they also understand that they will get a greater return by creating these great places. A well-thought out master-planned community design and implementation will create a true sense of place for residents. 


A vital component of the organization and design plan for land use is an in-depth understanding of lots, sizing, and pricing. All three factors play an important role in assisting developers in using their land in the most efficient ways possible by making the best use of space, designing lots in a manner that utilizes the area of your land to its full potential, and doing so in a cost-efficient way that maintains the integrity of the master-planned community. 

Land firms can help identify the appropriate number of lots and the size of each lot that the land planner can include. According to Dewberry, this begins with conceptual planning and developing "a comprehensive assessment of the opportunities and constraints of the land in question — from multiple perspectives such as transportation and infrastructure networks to smart growth and sustainable design issues." Not to mention the need for regular site feasibility assessments.

On the other hand, developers are interested in knowing how many lots they can fit and sell, so they can begin creating a plan for ROI. With the extensive knowledge behind the site and its opportunities provided by land planners, land developers can then begin planning with more insight into realistic expectations and estimates.

It is also important that developers take this information and expand it in ways that make use of the land space.


Different cities have rules and regulations that new neighborhoods must adhere to in terms of zoning. These zoning and land-use laws affect the types of properties that can be included in the community and tie back to the lots/sizing/pricing section.

Aside from separating residential, commercial, and industrial districts (or zones), there are generally additional restrictions to look out for, like:

  • Specific requirements as to the type of buildings allowed
  • Location of utility lines
  • Restrictions on accessory buildings, building setbacks from the streets, and other boundaries
  • Size and height of buildings
  • Number of rooms

Think Architecture explains that the list can be "varied and extensive, so before you buy, you must first check all zoning regulations to be sure that you can do what you want to do with the property." With that being said, they also include regulations such as:

  • Frontage of lots
  • Minimum lot area
  • Side yards
  • Off-street parking
  • Historical or cultural site preservation
  • Ecological considerations

This information provided by the land planner plays a vital part in the responsibilities of a builder and developer. They need to understand the city requirements thoroughly, so they know what they can and cannot build. Otherwise, any misunderstandings or misinterpretations could lead to high costs and profit losses when changes need to be made. 


Community amenities are another component of land planner responsibilities that help craft the vision of the developer or builder. Without this knowledge and insight, it would be much more difficult to find opportunities that can increase profits and attract sales. 

In fact, city requirements/zoning laws can be instrumental in identifying the potential for:

  1. Schools
  2. Parks
  3. Mixed-use property
  4. Ease of transportation

That knowledge can then be used to further land development and planning. SEH advises that taking this information and exploring your 'creative side' can make a significant difference in results. For instance, you should consider community amenities such as pools, community centers with multiple uses, and playgrounds when selecting products and projects because they "may be just the thing to lure in a prospective group of home buyers." 

They also report that nearly 40% of homeowners are dog owners, so consider incorporating trails and a specified dog park to attract buyers who are seeking a dog-friendly neighborhood

It All Ties Together

In conclusion, collaboration between land planners and developers is essential to create master-planned communities that offer residents a complete lifestyle experience. The land planner and developer work together to create a site plan that aligns with the developer's vision and meets the needs of future residents. This includes incorporating a variety of housing types, public amenities and addressing environmental concerns. Through regular communication, the land planner and developer can work in collaboration with one another to ensure that the master-planned community is a success.

Essentially, it all comes down to the combination of land planner responsibilities and how they build the foundation for the vision that developers and home builders intend to bring to life. The overall impact of their relationship significantly influences your master-planned community and the resulting internal rate of returns. 

From there, you'll want to partner with a team of experts like those at Milesbrand for master-planned community branding and marketing to ensure the right buyers hear about the opportunity when they're ready to buy. We help our clients leverage the unique Brand DNA of the community and then craft messaging that compels your target audiences to take action. Our unique 3-step branding process leads to accelerated absorption and marketing ROI. When you’re ready to stand out from your competitors, partner with Milesbrand and we’ll take you FROM LAND TO BRAND.

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