• Port Access
Depending on your company’s location and business model, access to a port, whether coastal or river-based, may be an important access consideration for your new location. The lease or acquisition of land in immediate proximity to a port or port facilities will often require negotiating with the port authority, and often requires a long-term agreement addressing tariffs and minimum payments in accordance with the port authority’s wharfage requirements. These negotiations can be time consuming, and should include substantial lead-time prior to the date the property will be put into active use.
How much land is enough?
A basic question for your siting checklist should be a determination of the amount of land needed for the new location. When calculating the amount of land needed, it is essential to factor in: (1) the amount of land needed for the current intended use of the property, including specialty access needs; (2) the amount of land that might be required for future expansion of a location; (3) if there is any land that could be lost to future expansion of adjacent roadways by a local governing authority or the highway department (this is especially important in any area that is expected to see significant growth or commercialization in coming years); and (4) the quantity of land required to comply with local zoning regulations, which is usually determined by the size of existing, or approximate size of proposed, improvements to the property. Ultimately, the amount of land needed must be weighed against the cost and availability of property in the desired area.
Are there benefits to a property located within a municipality as opposed to a county?
Depending on your company’s particular circumstances, it may be more beneficial to purchase a property located within city (municipal) limits, rather than strictly in the county (in an unincorporated area). Property located within a municipality carries the added benefit of city services, such as water, sewer and fire protection, being made available to your property.
While there are of course costs, in the form of higher taxes, associated with the provision of such services, their availability may result in unexpected benefits to your bottom line. For example, many insurance carriers offer discounted premiums for properties located within an established fire protection district. Similarly, your capital costs may decrease if water services from a nearby main can be extended to the property, as opposed to expenses associated with obtaining water rights and drilling for well water. Not surprisingly, ease of access to water, sewer (or installation of necessary septic facilities, including sufficient land for an appropriately sized leach field) and utilities are themselves key considerations in choosing a new location.
By comparison, having property that sits outside of city limits may be the right choice for your new location. Rural counties often do not have strict zoning codes by which the property use must abide. Without the requirement to meet specific zoning setbacks, for example, you may be able to purchase a smaller plot of land. The impact of zoning regulations on a prospective new location is discussed in more detail below.
How do concerns related to zoning factor into siting a new location?
In every circumstance, the zoning of the property should be a primary consideration in choosing a new location. As mentioned above, at times there will be no applicable zoning regulations. Still, an inquiry into a property’s current zoning designation should always be at the top of your siting checklist, because it is zoning that will permit or prohibit your intended use. If there are zoning laws that apply, your legal and business team should review the uses permitted within that zoning designation. A zoning letter from the appropriate governing body (often available at no charge from the local planning department) will indicate the current zoning designation and permitted uses of the property.
Some uses within a zoning designation may be “by right,” requiring no additional approval to undertake such a use of the property. Other uses may be only “conditional” and could require specific approval of the zoning authority before you are permitted to take such actions on the property. With that in mind, a property should not be automatically discounted from your search simply because the current zoning designation does not fit your needs.
If the property your company is considering does not meet your zoning needs, it may be possible to revise the zoning or receive a zoning variance. A zoning variance does not change the designation granted to your property, but does permit your use to deviate from the standard.