Investment in Urban Development and Property: What Are The Risks?

Zaragon Place

Zaragon Place

Ann Arbor has been a recipient of numerous high-rise project investments, recently. These investments can be a blessing to the community, as high-rises offer a number of benefits. We like to point out the two following benefits:

  1. High-rises create opportunities for people to live, work, and create in one space, due to an infrastructure built to support them.
  2. They can also help conserve open space in other areas of the community.

Here at Midwestern Consulting we’ve been blessed ourselves to play a role in many of the urban projects in Ann Arbor. Three of the key roles we provide are boundary surveying, base mapping for the land transaction, and project design. The important detail about many of these urban projects is that they allow for zero (0) setbacks to property lines.

Varsity Building

Varsity

Since cost of land and construction are the major factors in development, developers use every square inch of property very masterfully: high-rise buildings are built on the edge—quite literally. High-rise buildings are often built to toe the property line. As long as any surveyor who comes along to survey the adjoining property puts the common property line in that exact same spot, this living-on-the-edge approach is fine.

Land surveyors always agree with one another, don’t they? What could possibly go wrong? Actually, as you may have guessed, surveyors unfortunately don’t always agree with one another when solving property line locations. The location of the common boundary line could vary based on many factors including historical records, and monumentation found during field recognizance. Even if the surveyors had the exact same record information, and have both found the exact same existing monumentation in the field, there’s still room for disagreement on the exact location of the common property lines. This could be due to the surveyor’s own interpretation of the records and monumentation, and how they prioritize which elements are the best evidence to establish the common property line location.

There are some factors that can lead to larger differences between the two surveyor’s boundary line locations. Lack of existing monumention, conflicting monumentation, conflicting records and protracted plats (plats that were never laid out on the ground, just created on paper) are all common examples.

Ideally, the differences the two surveyors have with the location of the common line should be minimal.

Residence Inn Downtown, detail

Residence Inn Downtown 

Residence Inn Downtown

Residence Inn Downtown

We at Midwestern Consulting advise clients building or purchasing urban properties to allow for some of these potential discrepancies. We believe doing so establishes the best situation to avoid risk in the future, should the property line location be challenged.

It’s also good to know if the proposed urban development project is using a common wall agreement approach with the neighboring property owner’s building. If so, the risk to differences in the property line location may not be as critical.

Foundry Lofts

Foundry Lofts

To us, educating our clients is a basic tenant to our consultation and process. We commonly talk to our clients about:

  1. The risks associated with building to the property line
  2. The nuances of property line locations, and that no property line location is absolutely perfect
  3. That the industry standards and common practice do not require the surveyor to be perfect or absolute

If you’d like to talk about any of these topics, or have further questions, we’d be happy to have a dialogue. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or contact Pat Hastings at plh@midwesternconsulting.com.