Choosing your site is the most important aspect of developing your project. There are several criteria that need to be carefully evaluated before proceeding with a purchase:
Each county or city has zoning ordinances that cover all locations within the jurisdiction (a visit to your local office will yield site specific information). It is important that your prospective site have the proper zoning for your intended use. Rezoning can be an option but it usually adds six to twelve months to the development process. Each jurisdiction also has requirements that are tied to the zoning - such as landscaping, setbacks, covenants and the allowable floor-to-area ratio (FAR).
The local utility agencies can advise you whether or not power, natural gas, water, sanitary sewer and telephone service are currently available at the proposed site. Even if utilities are available, service costs can sometimes be prohibitive for development. There are several areas in northern Virginia and suburban Maryland that are still served with well water and septic fields. If the site under evaluation is in one of these areas then it is critical to test the site for proper percolation and to determine if the volume of water is adequate.
Soil testing is a necessity before finalizing a site purchase. Poor soils can require extensive remediation operations that are extremely costly. Consult your local jurisdictional office for approved geotechnical firms in the area that can provide soils testing. This procedure is relatively inexpensive.
Environmental problems are of major concern and generally financing cannot be obtained until remediation operations are completed. Decades old petroleum leaks from buried tanks - either on your property or on an adjoining site - must be identified and corrected and these abatement procedures are very expensive. Naturally occurring asbestos in the soil is found occasionally in this area and is also a concern. If you are purchasing a site that requires building demolition, you must first test for asbestos in the building materials and remove those materials, if encountered.