Selecting the right site is a crucial first step in any construction project. After all, no matter how well a structure is built, it’s only as sturdy as the ground it rests on. With residential projects, these considerations might be scenery, easements, and curb appeal. With commercial or industrial projects, you not only have these considerations to bear in mind but also a host of issues that you may not have even thought of.
As President of Dewitt Tilton Group, Chris Tilton has seen all of these issues and more over the course of his career. As the premier industrial and commercial builder for the greater Savannah/Lowcountry region since 2014, Dewitt Tilton Group has helped countless clients select the perfect lot to make their construction dreams come true. Here, Chris Tilton shares his top considerations to keep in mind when choosing a lot.
Zoning: Can You Build What You Want to Build Here?
The first and foremost consideration in buying a lot for a commercial or industrial construction project is zoning.
“Every municipality has different zonings, but they’re all compatible with one another,” said Tilton. “We have so many clients who want a site for a specific use but don’t realize they aren’t zoned for it.”
By way of example, he mentions a client looking to build a retail warehouse, not realizing that the lot they chose was zoned C2, which doesn’t allow for any outdoor storage. Plus, land that is specifically zoned for retail warehouse use, I1, is in short supply.
“There’s simply not enough available industrial land right now,” he said. “There is a lot being developed, but it’s years away.”
Flooding: Are You Safe from the Worst?
Another top consideration is one that requires a frustrating amount of effort – determining if your desired lot is located in a flood zone.
“There’s simply not enough information and knowledge,” said Tilton. “If you’re in a flood zone, you have a difficult task, because for every load of dirt you bring in, you have to bring a load out.”
According to Tilton, he’s seen projects set on a six-acre lot that saw their available space reduced to two-acres after factoring in space for required stormwater mitigation. “In the old days it was easy to mitigate stormwater runoff,” he said. “The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2018 really shook up the construction world.”
Soil: Do You Have the Right Dirt?
So you think you found a great deal on a piece of land? A quick Geotech report may show that your great deal was a bust. This analysis digs deep into your land, upward of 20 feet, to determine the soil content.
“We have Pooler gumbo here. It’s a kind of clay and mud mixture. In our profession it’s called muck,” said Tilton. “You may have to remove as much as two feet of it and replace it, which can have you spending upwards of $100,000.”
Dewitt Tilton applies a complex matrix to the Geotech report, giving you a clear picture of how much “Pooler gumbo” will need to be removed to bring the land up to elevation. That way, you can tell whether or not your land is actually a great deal.
Location, Location, Location
The nicest lot in the world doesn’t mean much if you can’t get to it. Too often, eager buyers will snap up an affordable piece of land for their project without realizing the extra costs they’ll incur just to make it usable.
“If you buy a lot and it doesn’t have a spine road, it will cost you anywhere up to $100,000 to get an access road put on the property,” said Tilton. “You have to make sure the power company has transformers in the area and if you have to connect your own sewer hookup, that’s going to be a huge cost. These things are important.”
As another example, he points to one build where the client began construction only to find out that there wasn’t sufficient water flow to run the landscape irrigation system. Adding a fire pump alone added six figures to the project, an expense the owner could have avoided if they’d planned ahead.
Right now, finding any kind of lot for a commercial or industrial construction project can be challenging, especially with very few C2- or I1-zoned lots to choose from. Even with that low inventory, it’s still important to make sure you’re buying the right lot for your needs.
If you are considering a commercial or industrial construction project in the Coastal Empire or Lowcountry region, give Dewitt Tilton Group a call! From trees to keys, our team lives and breathes the building and design process with a full understanding of the intricacies of industrial and commercial construction. Call us today at 912-777-3404 or visit our website at www.dewitttiltongroup.com.