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Sidestepping a Minefield

by Gary L. Black

Gary L. Black offers some sound advice to for those looking to purchase real property.

The sign reads “Commercial Building Site for Sale”. The location on a rural corner looks ideal for your new business building. Great exposure. Lots of traffic. Close to a highway.

But wait!

There are a number of items you’ll have to check, ideally on a first-hand basis. Be prepared to spend a few hours at the local planning department to confirm the zoning and in particular if the specific use you intend for the property is permitted.

While there, check the setback requirements, lot coverage, height restrictions, road access and the like. What are the present municipal site plan requirements? Is there any special protective legislation applicable to the property? You should ascertain if the property falls within a Heritage or Archeological designation. Does the Conservation Authority or Niagara Escarpment Commission have any control?

Find out if any plans are afoot to alter or widen adjacent roadways. Are there any plans to re-route neighbouring highways in a direction that would render this property remote?

Are there any special assessments levied or contemplated to provide for new services or upgrades to existing ones? If services are not readily available now how far away are they in future, in distance and what is their cost?

Once you’ve satisfied yourself on the regulatory requirements you must consider the physical qualities of the property. Is the soil suitable? Most assuredly you’ll need a soil test and an environmental study. What was the use of this property in the past? Will the soil and substrata support the structure you wish to build? Will you need deep footings or will you have to blast?

Walk the entire property. Are there any apparent physical problem signs? Are there any signs of erosion or poor drainage?

If you wish to secure the property first and then see if it is satisfactory it is critical to present a well-crafted offer that covers clearly all these issues and yet gives you a ready escape.

Lancaster Brooks and Welch has been preparing complex offers and advising clients on commercial matters for over 100 years.

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