How to Understand Planning Permissions and Zoning in Brazil

When making an investment in land in North East Brazil there are many factors to consider. Is the land near an expanding city? What is the population growth …

When making an investment in land in North East Brazil there are many factors to consider. Is the land near an expanding city? What is the population growth in the area and in which direction is it heading geographically? Is your proposed purchase in a historically poor and underprivileged area? Or is it in a high demographic and desirable area? Where is the major airport positioned? Is there good motorway access? Are there good beaches nearby?

But the most fundamental aspect to consider is what planning permission the land has.

There are many terms used to describe the planning permission that a parcel of land may have. Common terms are "zoned," "outline planning," "master-planned," "urban," and "rural."

The exact condition of the planning permission on the land is one of the main indicators of value, as a square mete of rural scrubland is virtually worthless, whereas a square metre of rural scrubland that has outline consent for construction in place is more valuable and marketable.

Property development in Brazil is heavily regulated with the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) the premier federal agency with responsibility to propose and publish rules and standards of environmental quality, zoning and the appraisal of environmental impact assessments.

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Each individual state has its own environmental agency: Sudema in Paraiba, Sernace in Ceara and Idema in Rio Grande do Norte.

For a development company to obtain planning permission to construct, they first need to make an application to the local Town Hall. This is the first license called an "Anuencia." It is an authorization from the Town Hall that confirms that the project conforms with the town legislation.

The Brazilian Constitution of October 5, 1988, article 225, IV, states that in every development that may cause an environmental impact or risk, the developer is obligated to make an environmental study, that can be simple or complex, dependent upon the State environmental requirements.

In fact this article means that an environmental agency is involved in almost all cases of development and the developer will be required to obtain multiple licenses from the state environmental agency.

The second license, which will be required by a state environmental agency, is the Licença Previa." This is a preliminary authorization from the agency for the planning of the project, approving the location, conception, environmental viability, studies and conditions to be met in the next stages of implementation. At this stage, a request for an Environmental Impact Assessment may be made, if one has not already been carried out.

The third  license required is the "Licença de Instalação." This authorizes the installation or construction of the project according to the specifications of the plans submitted, environmental studies, programs and approved proposals, including environmental control measures and other conditions.

The final license requred by the environmental agency, the fourth license, is the Licença de Operação," which authorizes the development to be operated, after the verification and compliance with the proceeding licenses.

The final license required from the Town Hall is th "Habite-Se," which is authorization from the Town Hall confirming that the construction is in accordance with the planning applications.

As evidenced above, the planning process is exhaustive in Brazil and protects the environment and purchaser.

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