When buying land for a Church, you need to first check the Zoning of the land. Zoning Regulations vary from city to city and regulate land use, building setbacks, building heights, number of parking spaces, buffers, storm water management, erosion and sedimentation control, landscape requirements, etc. The Zoning building setbacks are one factor that reduces the amount of “usable” land. For example, say the land is 2 acres, square and about 295 feet on each side, and the setbacks are 30 feet on the front, and 10 feet on the rear and sides, the “usable” land is now reduced to 1.6 acres. Are there any “wetlands”, flood plains, streams or easements on the property? These reduce the amount of “usable” land.

Is there municipal water and sewer on the property, or will we need to plan for a well or septic system? If you must plan a septic system, the land’s soil must be the type that “perks” or the system will not be allowed by the Health Department. The nitrification field requires a lot of land, depending on the soil type, the number of toilet fixtures planned (and future fixtures), and an equal amount of land must be reserved, so the nitrification field can be re-built, should it fail. A well requires an area of land around it that cannot be used for buildings. These also reduce the amount of “usable” land.

Storm water management retention ponds are required on most sites, to control the amount of runoff onto adjacent land. These reduce the amount of “usable” land.

If the land is on a highway, you will need permission from the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to obtain a driveway permit. If you plan a large parking lot, NCDOT may require you to design and construct a de-acceleration and turn lane on the highway to turn into the property, and an acceleration lane to leave the property and merge into traffic.

Is there enough water at the site for fire hydrants, and enough water to operate a sprinkler system inside the building? Is power available at the site, and is it single-phase or three-phase?

If the site has exposed rock, there may be rock underground that would be expensive to remove. Soil borings could determine the extent of the rock, and would also determine the soil bearing capacity. The soil bearing capacity is the capacity of the soil to support a building. The borings allow the Structural Engineer to size footings to support the building. A steep slope on the site would require more expensive grading cost for cut and fill.

Almost all lenders will require a Phase I ESA before they will make a loan on the property or buildings. A Phase I ESA is an Environmental Site Assessment where an Engineering Firm investigates the site, a lot or records, deeds, regulatory agencies, etc. to try to determine if there are wetlands on the site, and if the site has ever had a use that might be an environmental problem, such as an underground oil tank. An old farmhouse could have had an underground fuel oil tank, which were not regulated or recorded.

Planning a new Church, Family Life Center or Church Addition is a complex and expensive undertaking. We offer our services to meet with your Building Committee at no cost, or obligation, in order to help you get started. Most Building Committees have lots of questions about the design and construction process. Since we have designed a number of Churches, we can answer a lot of your questions.




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