Over the last 30 years, town, state, and federal regulation have increased at an exponential rate. If you are considering buying a lot for building a new home, there are some things you should know before buying. It is possible that a non-buildable lot can be listed and sold as a “buildable lot”. Do not let this happen to you.
First, a new home will need a septic system or municipal sewage connection. Even if sewer is present in front of the property, it is still possible that town/city can have a sewer moratorium. This is especially true lately because sewage treatment plants have come under strict new regulations. The alternative to sewer is a septic system. A septic system cannot just be built anywhere. It has to be 100′ minimum to your future well and all the neighboring wells. It cant be built in an area with ledge, or even in an area with ledge within about 6′ of the surface. It cannot be built within 50′ of a wetland. It cannot be built in very tight poorly draining soils with percolation rates over 60 mpi. The system has offsets that need to be met to the property lines and to the foundation of the home. Also, note some towns/cities have adopted additional restrictive laws that further complicate this issue. Some examples are 100′ offset to wetlands, percolation rates under 20 mpi, increased sizing of systems, increased offsets to property lines, and many others.
Second, the town/city may require storm water management to be designed even though single family homes are typically exempt. Drainage design is very similar to septic system design, and for many of the same reasons, it is possible that the lot may be too restrictive to fit the drainage required. Even if it can be fit on the lot, the drainage could add significantly to the cost. Note steep slopes can make septic systems, drainage designs, driveways, and house site work expensive if not impossible.
Third, the lot will need a town water connection or a well. There are many laws regarding wells and it is possible to drill and find the water is contaminated.
Fourth, wetlands, wetlands, wetlands. Wetlands, and especially rivers, can have a major impact on whether the lot is buildable. If a river runs across the front of the lot it is nearly impossible to gain approvals to cross. Even if you can cross, the type of crossing may be too expensive to be feasible.
Fifth, the town/city could have changed zoning. The lot may be grandfathered and still buildable, but there are some laws that can be added that make existing lots no longer buildable. A variance from Zoning bylaws can be obtained in some cases, but DO NOT expect variances or waivers from the Conservation Commission or the Board of Health for new construction. Most of these type of waivers are only for repairs.
At Land Planning, Inc. our suggestion is to make any purchase of a “buildable lot” subject to all town state and federal approvals. At a minimum, it is in your interest, to have a reputable company, such as ours, look carefully into the property to assess if it can be built on. We offer a Free Estimates for all of our services.