Developing in the Escarpment

May 15, 2017 by Talmage Hansen

There is a reason why seemingly prime land near the urban core often remains undeveloped. Sometimes it is protected under conservation laws. Other times certain areas are so heavily regulated that they effectively are undevelopable due to the time and effort needed to get approvals, e.g. property in a FEMA floodplain. In the City of Dallas, there is a special area called “The Escarpment” that is especially challenging.

NOTE: This map does not depict the full extent of the geologically similar areas which includes all the watersheds of creeks flowing through the escarpment zone.

The first question that usually arises regarding the escarpment is: “Am I located in the Escarpment?” A definitive answer requires a geological investigation by a geotechnical engineer, but the City of Dallas provides a rough sketch in their “Application for Escarpment Development Permit” with a disclaimer that at least gives you a general idea.

The only way to definitively know whether or not your site is located in the escarpment or a geologically similar area (GSA), is to get a geotechnical investigation and topographic survey. The results of the geotechnical investigation will identify the escarpment line which “means that line formed by the intersection of the plane of the stratigraphic contact between the Austin chalk and the Eagle Ford shale formations and the surface of the land.” The topographic survey will give you the slopes of the escarpment face so that you can determine the entire width of the escarpment zone (no development allowed here) and extents of a GSA (special permit required for development).

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Written by Talmage Hansen

Talmage Hansen

Talmage Hansen is a Graduate Engineer in the Dallas office of BIG RED DOG. Talmage has a passion for creating a sustainable built environment. His professional experience includes land surveying, municipal engineering, and infrastructure management with a focus on land development engineering and permitting. Talmage is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Texas (PE). He is also a licensed Surveyor in Training (SIT), and Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP).