Critical Path to Site Development Pt. 3: Site Readiness and Due Diligence

  1. Environmental study
  2. Geotechnical study
  3. Archeological study
  4. Wetlands delineation
  5. Endangered species study

These five studies are the baseline for any site development program. What may not be pre-requisites for the average land developer, these items are essential in the development process for governmental agencies, outside agencies, site selection consultants and basically anyone else who is interested in developing a property but has no idea what is in the ground or was on the ground prior to a new project.

Often we run into issues locally when the conversation about due diligence studies begins. Site consultants often call this the “don’t call my baby ugly syndrome”. It is a habit of site/land owners to believe their asset is the most beautiful and beloved of all assets. Unfortunately for those companies who are evaluating multiple sites for their business, they are effectively in a beauty contest and they are looking for ways to discount your baby. Unknowns are the first thing they use in the ugly baby contest.

A buyer or developer of a property sees to maximize time/speed/money and one of the best ways to do that is reduce liability. Ever bought something that you thought was a great buy and the minute you purchased it you realized you had to put some TLC into it to make it useful? I bought a vehicle from a family friend once and while the exterior was nearly flawless one of the first things I noticed on the drive home was the need for realignment. As I drove further, I noticed the cruise control mechanism was broken, drive a little further, the right rear blinker was out. As my rage began to boil over, I realized this was my mistake. I should have done more due diligence.

The example is one that we aspire to locally when we seek to market available properties. Since taking this job a year and half ago I have spent a great deal of time trying to align these same studies on some of our prized sites in the county. It has been an arduous task to say the least. I have been met with confusion, contempt, and sometimes outright avoided. I understand. Letting someone come in and do an environmental study could reveal something you didn’t anticipate. It’s a risk. A risk for you to know, but I can assure you if you intend on selling the property that unknown risk will keep a legitimate buyer from ever signing.

So as we proceed further down the road of having shovel ready sites for development in the county, understand that these elements are as critical as utility presence, price, and proximity to transportation. It really is a beauty contest and if you don’t have every portion of your portion, the judges notice and you won’t get a second look.