Site Restrictions That May Affect Your New Home Design

Most building sites have restrictions that dictate where, and even what you can build. Commonly, people who sell land are not familiar with all of these restrictions, which leaves you with some homework. We suggest you tackle this, if at all possible, before you purchase a building site.

Once you’re ready to put an offer on a property, contact us at info@stillwaterdwellings.com and we’ll be happy to provide initial site feasibility feedback. If available, please provide us with the address of the potential site, a site survey, and topographical map. Since each site has its own set of opportunities and challenges, it is impossible to provide a simple checklist to what makes a “good” site overall. That’s why we like to be involved early in the process to help you evaluate all of the criteria, and either recommend or steer you away from the property as a suitable setting for a Stillwater home.

Here are some common types of regulatory restrictions to research:

Zoning Restrictions:
A trip to your local zoning department will enable you to get a copy of the zoning bylaws that affect your site. Those that you should look for are:

  • Setback requirements: how far from the front, side and rear lots lines the structure can be built. Will the remaining building envelope be large enough for what you want to build?
  • Lot coverage restrictions: How much of the site area can be covered with the structure and with impervious (e.g. asphalt drive, tennis courts) surfaces.
  • House size limitations: sometimes local zoning restrictions limit the size or height of houses

Utility Restrictions and Easements:
If your site is serviced by water and sewer services, you simply need to find out where they come on to the site. If, on the other hand, your site will require a septic system or a well, many restrictions may apply. The best thing to do here is to engage the serves of a local site engineer who can walk you through the requirements and handle the administrative work of getting permits and designing your septic system. Here are some considerations that will affect your house design:

  • How far away from each other do the septic system and the well have to be? (this also applies to the distance from neighboring septic systems and wells).
  • Has a percolation test been completed? Is the septic system already designed?
  • For how many bedrooms has the septic system been designed or is there a limitation on bedrooms?

ARB Restrictions:
If you are building within a subdivision, the developer may have published Architectural Review Board (ARB) restrictions that may impose design restrictions on your house. A few items to take into consideration:

  • Is there an approval process for plans? Who is involved in decision-making?
  • How often does the architectural review board meet? This is one process that you and your design professional need to be aware of from the start. Stillwater will present to your design review board.
  • What are the specific restrictions? Common elements include house size, paint color, siding material, roofline, landscaping, fencing, and garage placement.

Other Special Restrictions:
Some communities impose these restrictions, for which your local building department can provide documentation. These may include:

  • Historic district restrictions that affect the architecture that is allowed; the types and shapes of windows that can be used; even the color of the house. It _s best to verify with your local building department that no such restrictions apply to your site.
  • Seismic, special wind load and other special restrictions. Your site may be affected by certain seismic restrictions, or, if it is near the ocean, certain wind loading requirements.
  • Sloped properties. We have experience building on sloped properties, but it’s important to understand the degree of slope and the soil condition before purchasing property.

For more information on this topic or any other aspect of our custom designs, please contact us. We look forward to learning about your home project!