Taking counsel - Effect of master plan solutions on land plot development

  • 2008-01-23
  • By Dalia Zalalyte [Jurevicius Balciunas & Bartkus]
Territorial planning issues have a significant impact on business development and investments. In accordance with the Law on Territorial Planning, by Dec. 31, 2007 all Lithuanian municipalities should have prepared and approved master plans for their territories. Several municipalities approved their detailed plans earlier 's e.g., the Klaipeda district approved its master plan in December 2005. The Vilnius City Municipality approved a city plan last February, but the Vilnius District Municipality has not yet approved one. At the moment, the master plan of the Vilnius district is under preparation; separate elements of the plan are being discussed with the public.

The main purpose of a master plan is to establish directions of territorial development. Master plans provide people and businesses with opportunities in certain territories. More importantly, a master plan is one of the tools by which a municipality can attract investors. Business conditions are directly dependent on the master plan solutions for a certain territory. For persons who use the master plan in their activities 's i.e. individuals, businessmen and civil servants 's such a plan may help in the decision-making, assessing operation possibilities, forecasting future city expansion and non-expansion and determining which funds (public or private) are best for development.

However, the solutions in a master plan attain special importance when detailed planning of a specific land plot is intended. In this case, provisions of the Law on Territorial Planning that regulate relations between master plans and detailed plans are very strict. Solutions of a detailed plan may not contradict the solutions of the master plan that is in force in a certain territory of a municipality. Therefore, development possibilities of a specific land plot always depends on the solutions of the master plan in that specific territory.
It follows that one would assume a detailed plan should correspond exactly to the solutions of the master plan. Say, if a territory for constructing residential houses is specified on a master plan, it may be assumed that construction of commercial objects is not possible in that territory. However, since a master plan is a document of a general character establishing general principles for the use of the planned territory, the legislator provides for certain possibilities to prepare and approve detailed plans the solutions of which do not exactly match the solutions of the master plan.

The Law on Territorial Planning provides for a possibility to keep the master plan unaltered if land plots intended to be used for other purposes do not exceed 20 percent of the total area of a certain territory marked as residential, public, industrial and warehousing or commercial.
There is also a possibility to prepare a detailed plan for which the intended solutions do not conform to the solutions of a master plan. If the organizer prefers, the detailed plan, the intended solutions of which do not comply with the solutions of a region or district master plans, may be prepared along with an amendment to the master plan. In this case, a person (organizer of the detailed planning) should address the institution that approved the master plan (the respective municipality) with a request to amend the master plan. In these cases detailed plans may be prepared in accordance with the established procedure, but they will be approved only after respective solutions of the master plan are amended. However, if solutions of the master plan are not amended, the organizer of the detailed plan will not be compensated for the expenses incurred in connection with preparation of the detailed plan.

Also, in accordance with the Law on Territorial Planning, a master plan may not be amended more than once a year. Amending a master plan is performed following the same procedures applied to its approval. Consequently, bearing in mind that all people may express objections or propositions and requests regarding the master plan, and that a number of various interests might need to be reconciled, the amendment to the solutions of the master plan may require substantial time.
Regardless, when acquiring a specific land plot with an intention to develop it, we recommend that you first get acquainted not only with the detailed plan but also with the solutions of the master plan for that territory. Knowing the solutions of a master plan is worthwhile both when the master plan has been approved in accordance with the established procedures and while it is under preparation.

Dalia Zalalyte is a lawyer at Jurevicius Balciunas & Bartkus, a member of Baltic Legal Solutions, a pan-Baltic integrated legal network of law firms including Teder Glikman & Partnerid in Estonia and Kronbergs Cukste in Latvia, dedicated to providing a quality "one-stop shop" approach to clients'
needs in the Baltics.