Asking the Right Questions

When a client comes to me with a property they want to buy, sell, or redevelop, several questions come to mind. These questions generally fall into the categories of development, environmental, and regulatory. Over the years, I’ve compiled a standard list of questions, the answers to which help shape my strategy for assisting my client.  These questions also help focus my client’s attention on myriad issues they may want to consider. Getting on the same page early about the scope and desired outcome of a project can foster a smooth and productive relationship.


    • What are the client’s goals and objectives for the property: sell, buy, short-term hold, or long-term hold?
    • Will the client redevelop the property or will the property remain status quo?
    • Will the client self-finance the purchase of the property or need financing from a lender?
    • What is the due diligence period for the purchase and sale of the property?
    • What is the land use of the property currently and into the future?
    • Will the buyer or seller pay for the investigation and cleanup of the property, if required?
    • What are the development plans for the property, slab on grade of subgrade parking, etc.?
    • Is there insurance money for a cleanup?
    • What is the client’s risk tolerance?
    • Is the client working with an environmental attorney?


    • Is there a current Phase 1 Environmental Assessment (ESA) for the property?
    • Did the Phase 1 ESA identify environmental conditions at the property or adjacent to the property?
    • What is the history of the property?
    • Are there environmental and geotechnical reports prepared by others for the property?
    • Is there an immediate threat to human health and the environment from chemicals of concern at the property?
    • Is there potential for third-party liabilities associated with contamination originating at the property or from an adjacent property?
    • Is the contamination confined to one media of concern or several?
    • Is there residual contamination in soil and groundwater from a previous cleanup action?
    • Was a vapor barrier installed under the existing structure or structures?
    • Is there an offshore component to the property?
    • Will construction dewatering be required for development?


    • Will the client conduct an independent investigation and cleanup or require a regulatory closure for the property?
    • When should we bring a regulator into the process?
    • Does the client need protection from regulatory enforcement action or third-party liabilities afforded to them in an Agreed Order or Consent Decree?
    • What is the client’s timeline for regulatory closure relative to the purchase and sale of the property and development schedule?
    • Will the client accept an environmental covenant on the property, if necessary?
    • Is there any correspondence with a regulator regarding the property?
    • Is there a regulator-approved cleanup action plan for the property?
    • What regulatory agency is managing the project: Ecology, EPA, PLIA, etc.?

So the next time we get together and talk about your next project, let me help you cull the answers to these questions so that we can develop a strategy for success. As with all things, one question usually leads to another, but we’ll cross those bridges when we get to them.

Author: Tom Cammarata

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