Tips on Lake Side Zoning Regulations

Most lakes and ponds are considered “wetlands” and therefore fall under the Wetlands Protection Act. Each town has its own interpretation of this Law in their zoning regulations, therefore you (or your buyer’s agent) need to find out the particulars of the property you are considering purchasing. Here are some general guidelines (applicable to many states but not all):

  • The Conservation Commission (or regulating body) will want to know of ANYTHING you are doing on your lakefront property that is within 100 feet of the water. This includes building a structure or pulling a weed out of the ground. Some communities can go up to 200 or 300 feet. This is usually measured from the “high water line” delineated by a qualified surveyor.
  • All local town zoning restrictions and setbacks will apply and you can get copies of these at the town building department. Often, a variance will be needed to build anything outside of these restrictions. This is always a roll of the dice. It is suggested that you make “approval” of any immediate plans a contingency on the Offer.
  • Remember that septic systems are sized based on # of bedrooms. So if you plan to add bedrooms to your property, it will require modifications to the septic.
  • Many communities have strict “no touch” rules that apply to areas immediately bordering the lake (usually 25-30 feet). This means no building, clearing, tree trimming, planting, etc. They are trying to maintain a natural buffer zone…which is a great idea. But keep in mind; it could impact your plans with the lot.
  • Also, be aware that there are severe fines for disregarding the rules when it comes to wetland protection. A recent lakefront homeowner in Southeastern MA cut down a huge pine tree 15 feet from the water without permission and was fined $150,000.
  • Many communities will not allow a home’s footprint to be expanded beyond its current one. There can also be height restrictions and unique setback requirements. Understand these prior to making an offer.

Key Point: Work together with your local building department and zoning boards to understand all the potential issues with building and/or remodeling your particular home. In fact make your offer contingent on these learnings.

We use a 37-point checklist to make sure your rights are protected when making an offer. E-mail us for a copy!

Posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”

Leave a Reply