Church land search - Buried treasure or garbage dump?

Unexpected excavation problems

A church we know purchased an adjacent plot of land to expand their facility. During the basement excavation, three workers suddenly became sick from gas poisoning! As it turned out the property was a former gas station and the toxic materials that seeped into the ground had never been properly cleaned up. Eventually the previous owner was forced to clean up the site, but it caused many months of delay to the project schedule.

What’s underground?

As your church considers property for its expansion or relocation project it’s important to find out what the land was previously used for, but it’s not always possible to tell just by looking at the surface.

Remediation can be costly

In urban areas you’ll want to find out if there are any buried toxic materials or loose fill from a previous industrial owner, or if it was used as a garbage dump. Such conditions may require an extensive remediation process to remove the offending materials, which could delay your schedule and dramatically increase costs.

Rural land conditions

In undeveloped areas even raw land may have soil conditions that make building difficult and expensive, such as deep patches of organic material, or unstable sandy soil. These conditions could require extra excavation or a more expensive foundation system. Remember the advice in that old song, the wise man built his house upon the rock.

Get the soil tested

A proper soils test (often called a Geotechnical Investigation) will involve a backhoe or large drilling equipment and can cost up to several thousand dollars.

Is an assessment required?

Your property may also be subject to an Environmental Assessment, which is a government requirement meant to balance economic, social, cultural and natural resources of an ecologically sensitive area. Property adjacent to natural waterways, sensitive ecosystems or greenbelts may need an environmental assessment, which could add more time and expense to your project.

Ask good questions

So before you purchase land do your homework and find out about the property’s history. Ask for a recent soil test or make it a condition of sale, and find out if you’ll need to do an Environmental Assessment.

For help finding out what’s beneath the surface (or to borrow a shovel!) contact David Parker or Kelly Seminoff at Parker Seminoff Architects or leave a comment below.

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