What is Land Improvement?

Ken Black

Land improvement, also called land amelioration, may be defined as any type of project that takes place on a piece of real estate that enhances or increases its value. In most cases, such land improvement comes in the form of constructing buildings that increase the land's value and make it more suitable for business or residences. In some cases, it may apply to various types of landscaping projects, grading, or even other structures such as fences.

Land improvement will result in higher property taxes.
Land improvement will result in higher property taxes.

Any land improvement typically serves one of two different functions, but the overall goal is to do something to the land to make it more suitable for human activity. The function may be to create a living space, build a road or other structure in an effort to make life easier for the owner of the property. In other cases, the improvements serve as a way for an investor to gain profit from owning a property, and that investor may not ever use the land improvement for its intended purpose.

Filling in wetlands and waterways so that they can be used for other purposes is one form of land improvement.
Filling in wetlands and waterways so that they can be used for other purposes is one form of land improvement.

In order to begin most land improvement projects, the owner of the land will likely need to undertake a permitting process. This process seeks to quantify the value of the improvement, and is used for the purposes of updating property taxes, as well as providing regulatory notification. In many cases, a local government inspector will need to inspect the improvement to make sure it meets certain codes, and approval from a zoning board of administrator may be required before even beginning the project.

In addition to the permitting process, another major process of land improvement involves the design and building of the project. A site survey helps to determine what buildings are appropriate by assessing dimensions and individual traits of the land such as elevation changes, vegetation and other factors. The developer often follows the site survey with architectural drawings of the proposed improvement.

The natural result of a land improvement is a property value increase. The value of the increase may or may not be equal to the cost of the improvement, but typically the two will be closely related. For example, it may cost thousands of dollars to grade a property, but that grading may not do much to increase the value of the property by itself.

One type of land improvement that is often more technologically difficult to achieve is land reclamation. This is taking wetland, or land that is under water, and turns it into dry land for the purposes of human use. Such projects often involve extensive filling, and may even involve constructing water barriers, such as dams and dikes, to prevent water from overtaking the area again. Land reclamation projects may be subject to a variety of environmental impact studies before being approved, simply because they tend to change the landscape a great deal.

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