Is that piece of dirt a good deal? Part II

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

A continuation on last week’s discussion.

Now you need to look at the various factors which affect the use of the site:

  • Storm drainage – is it provided regionally in the development or do you have to do it on site? This can eat up 20% of the site and add significant costs up front as well as delaying the construction since you typically have to build the detention before you can build your building. If it is regionally done, you have more usable land to work with.
  • Zoning – assuming your use is allowed, there are building and parking setbacks, required landscaping buffer yards, height limitations, access restrictions, parking requirements, maximum floor area ratios, and impervious surface ratios which affect the property.
  • Utilities – where are they? Are they to the site? Are there impact, access or tap fees?
  • Topography – Is the site inherently buildable? Believe it or not, a really flat site can be problematic in that you need to drain the site somewhere and really flat sites can make that difficult. Conversely, sites that slope too much make it difficult to meet ADA requirements and can make the parking and circulation treacherous in the winter.

You really need get a good commercial Realtor to do a fast evaluation of the options for sites then engage an Architect who can take your building needs and apply them to the site to see how that facility might fit on the site and whether it works well. We often have clients come to us after they are proud owners of land only to find out that the land has “issues” which affect its desired use. The worst thing that can happen is to buy something and then figure out that you cannot use it. You then need to buy something else and sell that land you just bought. It is also not much fun to pay full retail only to find that the land requires significant additional work to be usable, thereby, making that land much more expensive than you can justify.

The bottom line on all of this is to shop smart. Do your due diligence, hire the professionals who can help to guide you early and rely on them to sort out the complex issues that will face you before you buy that dirt. Then when you have zeroed in on the best buy, pull the trigger.