Does your community require the stamp?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Does your community require the stamp?

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    Claudia Chalfa

    I’m conducting an informal survey, to see what the trends are nationwide with regards to requiring a stamp for plans.  So please input the following information:


    – Your state

    – Your city, county or other community

    – Whether the stamp is required or not

    – If there are any further details (such as, the stamp is only required for certain types of development)

    – If the stamp is required, do you think this is helping landscape architects in your area get more work?

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    State – Massachusetts: Title Act, no direct requirement that any private work requires an LA, the state may require a stamp on state projects.


    Local communities: There is one zoning district in one of the 15 towns that requires a stamped plan by an LA (an LA was hired as a consultant when the zoning by-law was being altered). It is a commercial district that is currently made up largely  of roof and pavement. The district is designed to add green to the area when property owners make improvements. Very few projects have been done in the district due to the economy (some projects were dropped in the permitting process).


    Is it helping landscape architects to get more work: Very few projects are being proposed in the district and there are very few landscape architects in the area. I’ve worked on a few, but I was already working on the civil site plans anyway. I did get one small liquor store job directly because of it. One developer only wants the minimum standards, so it is uncomfortable as it impacts reputation. The others would have had a nice landscaping plan regardless of the requirement because that is what they wanted. They may have had their landscape contractor design it rather than an LA – I do not know (nor do I have a problem with that).


    Added note: When I get hired purely to do a landscape design, it is because the owner wants an independent design in order to get several bids – stamp or no stamp. They come to me because I clearly do not try to get the build job and have no bias to a particular contractor and no incentive to blow up costs of the installation. The stamp gives me more credibility than a person listed in the yellow pages as a designer and helps the consumer screen potential designers.


    The State of California has a Practice Act and a Title Act.  Definitely need the stamp.

    Steve Roberts

    All states that have a practice act require a stamp, and all work must be stamped. Here is a link to the ASLA website where they explain all of this. I am not sure why you would ask this, you must not be a Landscape Architect, otherwise you should know this.


    Steve,  not All states have a practice act.  Washington just passed a law for a Practice Act, but Illinois, Maine, Mass. and Wisconsin are still only under a Title Act, so any landscape designer can practice.  And then there is Vermont, that has neither.


    In NJ, all rules are dictated by the Site Plan Law and also by specefic municipal ordinances. Lately, alot of municipalities require that landscape plans for public work only be designed by a licensed landscape architect, “or an individual the board approves as equal”. In 2009, our Title Act became a Practice Act, but the tasks that are allowed in this act are often not recognized by individual municipalities because a PE has always performed these tasks in the past. There are no licensing restrictions for residences or other development unless the town that it is proposed for specefically calls for one.

    Many civil firms would like a licensed LA (if they feel the need to have one on staff at the moment) to provide public testimony, and show clients they are somewhat “green”, until their overhead cant support one any more…they also dont like to pay a mid to senior level LA salary, thus the entry level unlicensed ‘cad jockey’ becomes the norm.

    I digress….

    Steve Roberts

    Jeff, I hate to do this to you man, but think before you speak or type, I said that all states that have a practice act require a stamp, not that all states have a practice act. Big differance.


    You’re right Steve.  I read your post wrong.  It should be obvious that if there is a Practice Act a stamp is required.  Now all States should have a Practice Act.  It protects the Landscape Architects.  Glad to see that there are only 5 states left until all 50 have Practice Acts.  (maybe 4, Illinois is in the process of requiring the Practice Act).

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Many Practice Acts that I have read have exemptions that you can drive a truck through (One ton dumps and little Toyotas) that make Claudia’s question a very valid one.


    New Hampshire:

    Exempt persons: …

    gardener, landscape gardener,

    landscape designer, landscape contractor, …..


    Rhode Island:

    Exempt…. Landscape gardeners, or nursery workers in the performance of their

    business or profession as distinct from the profession of landscape

    architecture ……

    New York:

    Exempt…. agriculturist, horticulturist, tree expert, arborist, forester, nurseryman or landscape nurseryman,

    gardener, landscape gardener, landscape contractor….


    Exempt persons (may not use the title ‘landscape architect’):

    • Any person making plans, drawings or specifications for any property owned by him or her.

    • Vendors of goods, services or materials, including nurserymen, landscape nurserymen, gardeners, landscape gardeners, and general or landscape contractors, providing drawings or graphic diagrams necessary for the proper layout of their goods or materials.

    • A landscape designer engaging in, for a fee, the design of spaces utilizing plant materials and  …





    Those are the first four states that I just searched.  I’d say that it amounts to “or anyone else”.


    Bret Ford


    Athens-Clarke County unified gov.

    Locally, stamp required for:

    -Soil erosion/sediment control plans: “Maps, drawings and supportive computations shall bear the signature and seal of the certified design professional.” (Design Professional: A professional licensed by the State of Georgia in the field of: engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, forestry, geology, or land surveying; or a person that is a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control with a current certification by Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control Inc.)


    -Stormwater Mgmt Impact Analysis: “A professional engineer or landscape architect licensed to practice in the State of Georgia shall prepare the analysis/report.”


    -Stand Table (a table summarizing information regarding the total number of trees in the forest stand or woodland): For Athens-Clarke County purposes, a stand table shall be prepared by a registered landscape architect or a registered forester and shall include an estimate of the number of trees by species and by two-inch dbh classes using standard, professionally accepted sampling methods.


    Those are the only specific mentions I could find.  Surprisingly, a “Tree Mgmt Plan,”  which the planning dept. requires prior to issuance of a land disturbance permit, does not require a stamp from anyone, only that “the property owner or his/her agent shall provide an approved tree management plan…”.  Also, preliminary and final plat requirements only mention surveyors and engineers, because, you know, they design GREAT subdivisions!  😉


    Regarding getting work, the requirements are not really helpful; there is practically no differentiation between what a PE can stamp and what an LA can stamp. 

    Bret Ford

    Ditto, Georgia. 

    Claudia Chalfa

    Bret Ford answered the question I was really getting at – which was not whether your state has a title or practice act, but whether your municipality has a requirement for a licensed landscape architect to stamp plans. I am interested in determining whether these areas have more opportunities currently for landscape architects than those areas that don’t require a stamp.  Because….as a planner I have seen a lot of plans submitted recently that were drawn by an architect or civil engineer, rather than an LA. 


    Please, if you live in a community that has an ordinance requiring a plan stamped by a RLA, let me know…I’m genuinely interested in whether this helps us as a profession.

    Claudia Chalfa

    This thread has sort of died, so maybe I wasn’t clear in what I was asking for here.  I understand that most states have some form of a practice or title act in place.  That is not what I was asking about.  I am wondering if, on the local level, municipalities (or counties) require a licensed landscape architect’s stamp on commercial projects, and then if they do, is this helping LA’s get jobs in that area during this recession?  I ask because, as a planner, I have only seen perhaps three projects actually drawn by an LA in the last 18 months, and the rest are drawn by engineers or architects.  And they truly are, consistently, awful at addressing stormwater issues, tree protection, and basic site layout.  There is a real gap to be filled, and we are obviously the ones to fill it, but is that accomplished through trying to regulate the issue (by requiring stamped plans) or by better education of what we do?  I try to do the latter, every day, but I am the only person in this entire county who is trying to do that so my voice isn’t heard very loudly. 


    I would really appreciate some discussion on this issue…thanks!

    Bret Ford

    Claudia, I think your question is an excellent one and I hope you get some more responses; I have wondered the same thing, as it seems there is somewhat of an uneven playing field.

    While attempts at education are noble, in the end, regulatory requirements that necessitate a more widespread need for our services are what are most likely to have a positive impact on our profession and the clients/projects we design for, IMHO. In the little online research I’ve done regarding what engineers and architects can stamp, I’ve noticed that they can generally stamp most things that a landscape architect can, though the reverse is not true. For example, engineers can often stamp landscape plans for commercial development, but some places won’t allow landscape architects to prepare storm-water/hydrology reports. How many engineers took a plant ID class? Or know whether or not it’s a good idea to plant Taxus baccata near a children’s playground? Most of us have had plant ID classes and at least one grading/drainage course that included storm-water analysis, but when a client can hire an engineer and get everything done through them, why would they bother bringing in a landscape architect?

    Getting municipalities to recognize and appreciate the differences in the design professions and to value our expertise enough to mandate our services on certain types of projects, as they do for engineers, architects, surveyors, etc., is the most effective way to fill the gap that you mention. Though, maybe this is where practice acts come into play if they differ on what a municipality says requires an engineer’s; landscape architect’s; etc; stamp.

    My “research” is pretty limited, so who knows, maybe I’m way off base; I’m sort of wondering aloud here.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Curious to know what the issue is with Taxus baccata.  …not the berry thing, is it?


    I may have written more than necessary, as usual, above. We have one zoning district that requires an LA stamp. We do have some exclusive communities that have architectural review committees which also have landscape requirements. In each case they state that they require a landscape architect and then create a loop hole so that they may accept whomever they want at their discretion  … making it talking the talk without walking the walk.


    As one of three Registered Landscape Architects with an address within the Metropolitan District of Barnstable-Yarmouth (more recognizable as “Hyannis”), I can tell you that is does not force work to RLAs in this particular municipality.


    This is a great subject, Claudia. I wish more people with direct experience would chime in on it to separate fact from fantasy on the subject as well as point out areas where it has been beneficial to the profession. Thanks for bringing it up.

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