Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Criteria for Selecting Properties
If you drive around the Bryan and College Station areas, you will no doubt see lots of “For Sale” signs. In addition, there are other properties that are also for sale on listing sites for Realtors and commercial buyers. Unlike buying a home for your family, there is a finite number of properties that are large enough to allow construction of a church and parking lot which also fall within our budget and other criteria for a new home for our church.
This has turned into a multi-year pursuit with numerous disappointments along the way. There is no commercial property that will be perfect and meet every member’s ideal. UUCBV serves a broad geographic area. The search committee has found that the tracts closest to the center of population for our membership are also some of the most expensive in the area and are limited in availability as well.
Types of Properties Considered
The team kept an open mind regarding properties we would consider. We did not restrict our search to College Station or to Bryan and even looked at real estate not too far outside the city limits, weighing the costs and benefits of acquiring various city utilities and services. The properties that were within our size and budget constraints tended to fall into three categories:
Vacant land outside the developed parts of town
Vacant in-fill tracts in already developed parts of Bryan and College Station
Buildings which might be repurposed to meet our requirements or else demolished for the value of the land underneath
In recent months, the Board approved an additional category, prime locations priced above our original budget that would require a partial loan for the actual building.
Stages of Consideration
Sorting through the hundreds of properties in the MLS and other listing services, as well as locations we found driving around town or heard about through the grapevine was not easy. There were several steps along the way to our decision to recommend to the Board that an earnest money contract be placed on a particular tract.
Level One: The vast majority of the listings were obviously out of the question. They were too big, too small, too expensive, in an industrial area, next to a railroad track, in a floodplain, very narrow or had an unusable shape or topography, or had some other disqualifier.
Level Two: If it was the right size and within our budget, it received closer inspection on the city plats, satellite view, and a drive by. Many of those had obvious problems, such as power lines across the middle, a large flood easement, a big ditch or some other insurmountable problem to construction. This was especially the case with single properties in already developed areas.
Level Three: If the property looked promising, members of the Sacred Space Team made a site visit and filled out an evaluation form. Often, there would be several properties at a time that got these visits. Those with the most positive responses were looked at even more closely, a sort of preliminary form of due diligence. In the case of highly ranked properties, we scheduled a meeting with the city planning and zoning board to discover any restrictions on the use of the property such as utility access or easements, planned roadway construction, fire department requirements, or rainwater runoff issues.
Level Four: The team then either recommended a property that a strong majority felt met our needs and sent it to the Board for approval to proceed with an earnest money contract, or else continued the search.
Level Five: If approved by the Board to proceed, the property received intense due diligence working with professionals. During this phase, several properties proved to have insurmountable problems.
Level Six: If a property passes all inspections and proves to be viable as our new church home location, the property is presented to the congregation for a vote to approve the purchase. The purchase must be approved by a two-thirds vote by the entire membership of the congregation; a two-week notice for this special congregational meeting is required. Prior to voting, informational meetings are scheduled and members are encouraged to visit the site.
The Devil is in the Details
The most crucial part of the process was a site visit and evaluation by members of the Sacred Space Team. Each member who was able to visit a prospective site filled out an evaluation form (See Appendix A). Some of the criteria involved are as follows:
Budget: We limited the search to properties priced under $1 million, about the maximum that we could spend and still build a 7,500 square foot building and parking lot.
Size: We needed right at two buildable acres for the building and the parking, preferably a bit more to include a memorial garden and playground.
Utilities and Services: Availability or sources to insure adequate: electricity, water, police, fire, fire hydrants, Internet, sewage, garbage collection and recycling, etc.
Topography, drainage: Too much slope? Trees, water feature or gully? Will it require a large retention or detention pond? Is it in a floodplain? What cost would be added to site preparation?
Ease of Ingress to and Egress from the Property onto the Street.
Noise and Traffic: Too much or on the other hand, is the property too remote and hidden away?
Immediate Neighbors. Are there pipelines under the property?
Is there a building on site? Is it suitable with remodeling or a teardown?
Legal considerations: Has the tract been platted? Any title concerns? Does it convey with mineral rights?
Overall Attractiveness of the Property: obviously a subjective assessment but still very valuable.
Is this a suitable property for our future UUCBV home overall?