Call Us: (508) 228-4407

Construction on Nantucket Part 1: Finding the Right Property to Build

You have decided you want to build a home on Nantucket, congratulations! It’s taken a lot of thought to get here, so now let’s get started on some basics. Land on Nantucket is becoming scarce and since we’re not making any more of it, supply-and-demand says don’t ponder too long. The conservation groups on island control more than 50% of the open space – and more than half of what’s left is already developed, leaving little empty land to build on – so when you are considering building a new home on Nantucket, 20140325_122322don’t limit your search to just land. It is wise to also consider property with existing homes that you might move away, demolish or retrofit to your needs.

We have a complicated zoning code here on Nantucket. While it can be daunting at first, once you spend a little time doing your research it becomes more manageable. There are many zones – some residential and some commercial, and some that allow both uses. Here is a PDF download (below) of the Nantucket zoning map where you can zoom in on any lot on Nantucket to learn what zone it falls under.

Download (PDF, 3.89MB)

In your mind’s eye, you probably already know how big of a home you want so let’s see where it will fit. Each zone on the island restricts footprint, which is defined as enclosed spaces. For example, the space inside of the four walls of a house count but an un-screened porch does not (unless it has living space above it). Pools, tennis courts, patios and decks also do not count as footprint.

Above in the PDF map, you will find a chart of percentages of ground cover for each zone, but first allow me to give you a couple quick examples. On an In-Town lot with a minimum size of 5000 sq. ft., you can cover 50% (or 2500 sq. ft. of footprint); a half-acre residential R2 lot allows 12.5% (or the same 2500 sq. ft.); a one-acre lot LUG1 allows for 7% (or 2800 sq. ft.); and a 3 acre lot in LUG3 zoning allows 3% (or 3600 sq. ft. of footprint). You can use this maximum footprint allowance across multiple structures if you like. Many properties on Nantucket are allowed to have a main house and a guesthouse; however, they must have a footprint differential of 20% making it obvious which is the dominant structure. You can also use footprint for garages and recently approved “tiny houses.”

I could go on because, as I said, zoning is complicated and there is a lot to cover, but let’s take it on one blog post at a time. Feel free to reach out with questions or help, that is why we are here at Fisher Real Estate, to be a resource to you.


Brian Sullivan

Originally hailing from Weston, Massachusetts, Brian came to Nantucket in 1996 intending to stay for just the summer. As often happens, he found himself being drawn in by the Island’s allure and immediately set about building a dynamic career spanning over 20 years in Nantucket real estate. Brian loves the puzzle and challenge of matching people to property, and believes that there is something for everyone here on Nantucket if you look hard enough. As one of the top brokers on the Island, to date he has participated in hundreds of millions in transactions and has been quoted by CNNMoney and Barron’s.

Brian truly embodies the Nantucket lifestyle, taking advantage of all the unique outdoor opportunities the Island offers and throwing himself into the local community. Seemingly squeezing 48 hours worth of work and activities into 24, Brian sits on numerous Boards and Committees, including the Maria Mitchell Association, and was appointed by the Nantucket Board of Selectmen to the Affordable Housing Trust. He lives on the Island year round with his wife, Tess, owner of The Hub Nantucket, and their son, Fisher.