Zoning is never quite straightforward, and it can often be challenging to understand the ins and outs. Plus, every property is unique, especially on Nantucket! If you are a property owner and there is a potential to subdivide your property, doing so is a great way to increase the value, even if you are not planning to sell anytime soon. Luckily there are very knowledgeable engineers on island, and your Fisher agent is more than happy to help you navigate through this process and work with you to evaluate your options. Provided below are ways to subdivide a property on Nantucket, and while this list is not all-encompassing, it does include the most commonly used methods.
Oversized Lot/Traditional Subdivision
In this case, your property meets all of the zoning requirements of an oversized lot, such as lot size, frontage, regularity, and at least 90% of the lot being upland. If the zoning requirements are met, the process will be considered as an ANR subdivision – “Approval Not Required.” Once you submit all of the proper documentation, assuming there are no issues, the Planning Board will provide an endorsement
If you lack the required frontage, you will have to go through a slightly different process where approval is required by the Planning Board. First, you will need to work with an engineer to see if there is a way to create frontage, which could come with requirements such as road improvements. For example, one way of creating frontage is to use a portion of your oversized lot to create a road at a required width of 40 feet. If your subdivision is not an ANR, then you will go through a public hearing process and seek approval from the Planning Board.
Rear Lot Subdivision
In this scenario, your property must be located in one of the following districts: R5, R10, R20, R40, or LUG-1. You would also need to prove that you have the frontage required for a traditional subdivision or that you can create the frontage (while meeting other zoning requirements noted above). In this situation, the rear lot gets its access through the front lot, and there is a 20-foot frontage requirement for this access point. One of the reasons this type of subdivision has been adopted is to get rid of the unnecessary roadways being created (from above). Two bonuses from this approach: reduced frontage (to 20 feet) and waived regularity requirement (lot shape). This process requires a special permit from the Planning Board.
MA Chapter 41-81L Subdivision
If there are two or more structures on a property that can be proven to pre-date 1955, then the property is most likely eligible for an 81L subdivision, even if the lot sizes are non-conforming. The key to this process is finding the substantiation to prove the age of the structures.
Affordable Covenant Program Secondary Lot Program
Housing on Nantucket for the year-round community is a never-ending challenge, and one way to help ease the burden is by participating in the covenant program. As part of this program, a property owner has the opportunity to subdivide a property that may not otherwise meet the zoning requirements for subdivision. Once subdivided, one parcel will be identified as market rate, while the other becomes a covenant property. Year-round residents who meet the residency requirements do not need to meet the income requirements in order to reside in the covenant property and may choose to sell either the market rate or covenant property. This type of subdivision can be done on virtually any lot on Nantucket, even ones meeting the current minimum zoning requirements for zoning in that zone.
If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to the team at Fisher, and we can help you evaluate your options.