Building Update – Subdividing Land

The process to subdivide our land began over a year ago.  We were very optimistic in the beginning of this process, that we would go to a meeting or two with our town’s Planning Board, and have our subdivision approved.  We couldn’t be more wrong.  Over a year later, and many meetings and revisions to our original plans, we have satisfied the town’s requirements, but still have some things to resolve with the county.


As I have mentioned before, we have family members who bought around 30 acres of land between a neighborhood and some farmland.  They decided to subdivide the land into three lots, and give us one to build on.  In order to subdivide the land and to get three separate deeds, we had to hire an engineer.  He drew a map of the subdivision with the proposed house sites and septic systems for the three lots.

Pre-Application Discussion

Our engineer recommended that we meet with the Planning Board before formally submitting our map for the proposed subdivision. At this meeting, members of the board recommended meeting with the Highway Superintendent to discuss the proposed common driveway that would access the three lots.  After this meeting, we began the discussion with the Highway Department, and got all of our paperwork in order to submit the formal application with the Planning Board.

A Quick Recap of the Meetings

Two months after the first meeting we attended, we were back on the agenda to go over our application.  Unfortunately, the planner (an engineer contracted by the town) had been sick and did not have a chance to review our application.  The board members asked questions about the surrounding farmland and brought up the issue of sharing a turnaround with the Highway Department.

Two more months went by before we were able to meet with the board again. At this next meeting, the board discussed writing up an easement to allow the town to use the turnaround.  They also questioned how close the house site was to the surrounding farmland.

At the next meeting, the board members brought up the issue with the setback from the agricultural land again.  A separate issue came up about a small piece of the lot not being represented on one of the (three!) different maps that were filed with the town/county. In addition, they had some concerns about the drainage from the driveway.

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings.

At the following meeting, we discussed the proximity to the farmland again. We reached a compromise with the board by moving the house another 100 feet away from the farm in question.  This seemed to satisfy everyone, so we scheduled the public hearing to hopefully get approval at the next meeting.

The date of the next meeting arrived, and we were unable to have our public hearing because there were not enough board members present to have a quorum.

Another two months passed before we were able to get on the agenda again. We resolved the outstanding issues (including where our water would come from and the easement with the town), and had our public hearing.  There were no members of the public present to comment on the project.  That night we were granted conditional approval for the subdivision, as long as we figured out the easement with the town, and worked with the Health Department to resolve the water issue.

Lessons Learned

When we first met with the Planning Board, we thought that our project would be approved, no problem.  In fact, we were planning on moving into our house about eight months after that first meeting.

Due to delays with our engineer, and the many issues that kept being brought up at these meetings, this timeline was no longer realistic.  Since we began this process, we have extended our lease twice (once for six months and again for three more months).

We have learned the following lessons:

  • other people do not work on your timeline
  • bureaucracy is a VERY SLOW process
  • when everything seems fine, there will certainly be issues (and more issues)

We have also learned to look for the silver lining.  With all these delays, we were able to save a lot more money for our down payment.

Next Steps

Since getting our subdivision approved, we have been working on getting our Board of Health approval.  We have started clearing the land, and will be digging the well next. Our new timeframe is to be done building by the end of the summer, but if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s not to be disappointed if we can’t keep to this schedule.

Have you ever had a project delayed by unforeseen circumstances?





Do you know what it takes to subdivide land?  Click through to learn about the process of dealing with the local Planning Board. subdividing land | building | new construction

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