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WL Port-Land Systems, Inc. Report
MAY 2018
 
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Some Thoughts On: Site selection and development
spacer Rich Pongratz
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Rich Pongratz

Bryan Smith has an excellent article below about site selection and development in response to a frequently asked question. For some of you who have experienced selecting new sites, this is familiar territory for you. For many who have not been involved in selecting, purchasing and developing property, Bryan’s article will give you an overview of some key critical items for this endeavor. You do not have to do this alone, as we can and do help with this process. Even though it is just the first step in the construction of your new facility, it is a very important first step. If you have any questions regarding Bryan’s article or need assistance, please feel free to contact us.


Tim Lease
Richard K. Pongratz, Director of Business Development
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Ask the Expert
Site selection and site development
Send your question to our team of experts.
QWe are considering the purchase of property for a new feed mill. Can you provide us with some recommendations for site selection and site development?
– A.C.
AWhen considering a site for purchase/development, a proper and thorough evaluation of the property is the key first step. This process is often referred to as the due diligence and is used to identify the significant details and potential issues that should be assessed before purchasing the property or beginning construction. Conducting a proper due diligence evaluation will help determine the site’s potential for development and reduce the risk of added costs and schedule delays resulting from unforeseen issues. Some of the most common and critical due diligence items and issues to consider are:
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
Phase I ESA (Environmental Site Assessment) – This is typically the first step in the environmental review and covers an investigation of the current and past history and uses of the property for potential sources of contamination. Work is performed by a qualified “environmental professional” and is conducted in accordance with EPA and ASTM standards. Normally there is no sampling or testing performed during a Phase I ESA, and it is limited to visual inspection and documentation review only inclusive of historical records and photos, governmental records, interviews with current and past property owners, and a visual site inspection. If items of concern are identified during this initial review or if the site is considered contaminated, a Phase II ESA is required. This involves a more detailed investigation with sampling, monitoring, and testing for contamination.
Wetlands Delineation – Conducted by a certified professional or in coordination with local jurisdictional agency, a wetlands delineation identifies the presence of soils, vegetation, and hydrology consistent with wetlands as defined by the Army Corps of Engineers and Section 404 of the EPA’s Clean Water Act.  If wetlands are identified and determined to be jurisdictional (subject to federal control), additional permitting and mitigation may be required.  This can be a lengthy and costly process which should be factored into the project budget and schedule.  The first consideration should always be avoidance or minimization of the wetlands impacts, which can greatly affect the areas of the proposed site that can be developed.  If the impacts are unavoidable, options to pay into established public or privately controlled mitigation and conservation banks may be available.  These banks offer the purchase of credits to offset the ecological losses and/or adverse impacts to endangered species and their habitats.
PLANNING AND ZONING REQUIREMENTS
Zoning – Is the site correctly zoned to accommodate your proposed development? If not, rezoning or a conditional use permit may be required to allow use of the property in a way not otherwise permitted within the current zoning district. In addition to adding time and costs, this rezoning or permitting effort can open the project up to public comment and/or approval.
Site Plan Review and Permitting – Some local jurisdictions require an additional site plan review and approval for medium to larger site development projects. Typically, this involves a review of the project to ensure compliance with applicable standards. This can be a private review through the local planning and zoning departments or open to public review and comment. Variances may also be required for any conditions that cannot meet local requirements. It’s recommended to start discussions with local jurisdictional agencies as early as possible and to obtain a complete understanding of the development approval and permitting processes. Several layers of local, state, and federal permits and approvals may be required with time frames ranging from several months to several years.
SITE CONDITIONS
Boundary and Topographic Surveys – In addition to establishing the legal description of the property, boundary surveys identify locations of improvements including any existing structures, utilities, roads, etc. and the locations of any easements or designated rights-of ways. If a title insurance company and/or lender will be involved with the purchase, typically a more detailed ALTA survey is required. This is similar to a boundary survey but performed to standards specified by the American Land Tile Association (ALTA). ALTA surveys help reveal any problems with encroachments and/or boundary issues that may not be apparent in review of public records. Additional topographic survey information is used to identify and locate the existing contours and features on the site including hills, ditches, streams, ponds, buildings, roads and other existing improvements. This information is then used in the design phase for establishing grading plans and locating buildings other improvements on the site.
Geotechnical Investigation – One of the biggest risks associated with site development are the unknowns associated with the subsurface conditions. A geotechnical investigation consisting of soil borings, laboratory testing and analysis, and a report of the findings in key areas under proposed structures, pavements, and other improved areas can help reduce these risks and determine how the soil conditions will respond to the proposed changes. As we’ve discussed in detail in previous issues of this newsletter, this information is also critical in determining a sound, safe, and economical foundation design for the various mill structures, soils improvements for pavements, and additional grading requirements.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Some other items that contribute to the site development costs and should be evaluated as part of your due diligence process include:

Public roads, traffic, and transportation including existing roadway conditions, roadway improvements required to accommodate additional traffic associated with the development, site distances of proposed driveways onto public roads, and traffic impact analysis requirements.
Sanitary sewer service availability, service capacity, and discharge requirements. If public sewers are not available, additional investigation may be required to determine the suitability of existing soils for surface discharge or on-site treatment requirements. With projects involving boilers, separate treatment, storage, or processing may also be required.
Storm sewer availability and discharge requirements. If the site is currently undeveloped, onsite retention or detention will most likely be required to handle runoff from the added impervious surface areas. Generally, provisions to maintain pre-development flow rates and runoff volume during a theoretical design storm event, control of pollutant discharge, and improvement of water quality via soil and filtration must be taken into consideration in the overall storm water management during both construction and for the operating facility.
Water distribution service availability (both domestic and fire), size and location of main, flow rates and pressure, and associated tap fees. If public service is not available, on-site wells may be needed. This could have a significant impact on development costs if pumps and/or storage tanks are required to obtain sufficient water flow and pressure, especially if fire sprinklers are required in portions of the new facility.
Are other basic utilities connected to the site, i.e. electrical, gas, telephone, data? Identify the size and location of existing services and any right-of-way or easement requirements for new services to site. Estimated power and gas service needs should be determined, and local suppliers should be engaged during the due diligence phase to understand the cost responsibility to you as the landowner. Typically, services can be provided to the site, but it could be at a significant upfront expense or factored into the service rates.
These are just a few of the common and most critical items to factor into your decision on the right site for your new facility. Identifying and eliminating as many risks upfront during the due diligence phase is an important process to go through before purchasing a site for development. Failure to address these issues in the early stages can result in unanticipated costs, budget overruns, and schedule delays once the site has been purchased and the project moves into the design and construction phases.

BRYAN A. SMITH, P.E. is a registered professional engineer and project manager. He has over 20 years of experience with site development, engineering and construction project management in various industries.

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NEED HELP WITH PROCUREMENT?
WL Port-Land Systems, Inc., as a Design/Build Engineering and Construction Company servicing multiple industries, has built an extensive vendor base over the years. Once we complete a project and the facility is in operation, many of our customers come back to us for aftermarket parts and equipment. We have the ability to provide end-to-end turnkey solutions for all project-related procurement, expediting and freight services to our existing customer base and, naturally, to prospective customers. As an EPC company, we are well equipped to evaluate, recommend, implement, and manage all of a customer’s procurement needs, including vendor sourcing, inquiry, technical review and commercial evaluation, vendor selection, order placement, expediting and delivery. WL Port-Land Systems, Inc. Procurement and Logistics offers the most flexible, cost-effective outsourcing solutions. Our team has worked closely with many of our vendors worldwide and is here to meet your challenges.

E-mail or call us -- at 412-344-1408 -- we welcome the opportunity to provide these services.

What do you have to lose?
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Did You Know?
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…that the Leaning Tower of Pisa prompted a more scientific approach to the science o of geotechnical engineering in the 12th century?

The first applications of altering the behavior of earth materials can be traced back to 2000 B.C.E. and were related to controlling irrigation and flooding. In early 1700 to early 1900, the fundamental scientific ideas of soil mechanics and water flow through soil were developed. Today, geotechnical engineers study the physical properties of sub-surface rock and soil beneath any type of man-made construction, including building foundations, roadways, tunnels, levees, and wharves. If you're interested in learning more, take a look at this ISSMGE video.
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Featured Project
featured project
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Work continues on the Superior Ag Resources’ new slip formed concrete feed mill in Dale, IN. When completed, this facility will include grain storage silos, receiving, grinding, batching, bagging and bulk load out systems.
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About WL Port-Land Systems, Inc.
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