August 31, 2017

Subdividing Property? Know the Legal Hurdles

Are you considering purchasing property with the intent to develop or subdivide it? Or perhaps you want to subdivide your existing lot. It is important to know if your intentions comply with municipal zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations; the purpose of which is to avoid issues that arise within poorly designed areas and to promote the orderly expansion of a town or city. A new subdivision is not an isolated space, it must be integrated with existing utility lines and roadways to ensure the health and safety of the residents.

Before any piece of land can be lawfully subdivided, the landowner must apply for approval from the municipality where it is located, usually through the Planning Board. One of the more frequent roadblocks that landowners encounter is minimum lot area requirements. For example, a town’s regulations may require a minimum lot area of at least two acres to allow for subdivision. Property A and Property B are directly across the street from each other in a residential neighborhood and both consist of 2.5 acres of undeveloped land. They both have the same amount of road frontage. The owner of Property A applies and receives subdivision approval. The owner of Property is denied.

The reason for differing outcomes in this case is that some municipalities define “minimum lot area” as “minimum buildable lot area”. Property B contained at least .6 acres of unbuildable wetlands, bringing the buildable lot area below the threshold requirement. The example underscores how seemingly identical properties can have varying potential for development.

Buildable area is not the only characteristic Planning Boards will consider. Other factors include, but are not limited to, the impact on traffic flow, existence of open “green” space and effect on wildlife habitat. It is crucial to know what will or will not be permitted on a piece of property before you invest in it. Attorneys Rod Dyer, Ed Hibbard, Paul Fitzgerald and Brett Allard have the experience and knowledge to guide you through your future development.

August 31, 2017

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