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How to Navigate Site Issues in Commercial Development

From local development requirements to subsurface problems, no site comes without its inherent risks.

Assessing those risk areas is what ultimately determines a project’s feasibility.

While navigating site issues is challenging and time-consuming, it's an inevitable part of the commercial development process. If you can successfully deal with them you set a foundation for a successful project. Let’s take a look at a few ways to do just that.  


Talk to planning and zoning officials

When assessing commercial land, it’s important to understand permit processes for drainage, access, utilities, signage, and much more. Getting a better understanding of the local requirements and restrictions allows the potential buyer/developer to adequately address site specifics.

Meet with the building inspector and zoning officials to review the plans and determine if there are any issues or problems, verifying that regulations are going to be met.

Questions to ask might include:

  • Will the development require on-site retention? What are the erosion control standards for the municipality?

  • Will the proposed points of access be allowed and are there other governing authorities that must grant approval?

  • Are there any problems with the site plan such as setbacks, number of parking spaces, loading area, signage area, and drainage requirements?


Talk to local architects and civil engineers

While talking with planning and zoning officials will help you understand the requirements you need to meet, talking with local architects and civil engineers will help you understand the specific site elements.

Getting as much information as you can from architects and engineers helps you better understand area-specific elements such as soil compositions, water tables, sewer and utility availabilities. This also likely means talking with the utility companies to get more information on availabilities, locations, etc.

Using the expert knowledge of architects and engineers can help ensure no issues are overlooked and the site investigation process is managed effectively.


Perform thorough due diligence

Hand-in-hand with speaking with local authorities and consultants is the process of thoroughly performing proper due diligence. This should bring to light the qualitative and quantitative measures of site characteristics allowing you to see the specifics of what you’re dealing with.

An effective due diligence checklist will include items such as title policy; topography map; geotechnical and soils report; phase 1 environmental report; zoning verification; utility verification and fee schedules; development impact fees; and compliance with local codes.

This process brings to light the specifics of what environmental or regulatory issues may be present, or may become an issue. Surprises such as soil contamination and hidden utility lines can be costly if discovered after construction commences.


Speaking with experts in the area and being thorough in the site investigation process helps land buyers and developers navigate any and almost all inevitable site issues. Doing so will provide momentum for continued project success down the road.

Tags: Site Selection Site Investigation

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