Lincoln ordinance would force merging of substandard lots

Lincoln ordinance would force merging of substandard lots

LINCOLN – Town officials are considering implementing a new ordinance requiring property owners to merge “substandard” lots if they border another lot under the same ownership.

A property is considered substandard if it does not conform to the town’s dimensional or area requirements.

Under the so-called lot merger ordinance, substandard lots that share one or more common boundaries with another lot under the same ownership would be combined to form a lot of the required minimum dimensions and area for its zoning district, or to decrease the degree of nonconformity where the required dimensions and area cannot be achieved.

The ordinance was introduced by Town Councilor Arthur Russo and referred to the Planning Board on Nov. 19 for a recommendation.

Since construction on the Lincoln Crossing development began several years ago off Cobble Hill Road, Russo said residents have been concerned with the increase in development across town.

In some neighborhoods including his own, Russo said residents were seeing small homes pop up in formerly vacant lots. He pointed to Mount Avenue as another example, where a number of small houses have been built.

Russo said if someone purchases a property with two separate lots – one with a house and one with a detached garage – they may decide to build a house on the second lot because it’s considered a lot of record.

“Some small lots have been recently built on that no one really knew existed before,” he said. “This ordinance will hopefully help prevent a developer from squeezing in a house that doesn’t conform to the neighborhood or the town’s regulations.

As it stands, property owners can build on a substandard lot of record without going through the Planning Board. If this ordinance passes, Russo said an owner could still build on a substandard lot, but that they’d need Zoning Board permission first.

The intent of the ordinance is to discourage property owners from building on substandard abutting lots without going before any board.

If approved, the merger requirement as it is currently written would apply to all adjacent lots under the same ownership, whether improved or unimproved, except where both lots contain principal structures.

“Under the same ownership” would apply to the owner of record and their spouse or parents, children, grandparents or grandchildren, siblings blood or adoptive, a trustee or officer of a trust. It would also apply to corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, firms, businesses or entities of which the owner has an interest.

Town Administrator Joseph Almond said he expects the ordinance would only impact a handful of residents, but Russo said he thinks it may be more.

Property owners would be able to appeal for a special use permit, to be issued by the Zoning Board of Review, to escape the requirements of the merger provision. The decision to grant a special use permit would depend on whether the lots, if left unmerged, would be “of a size generally in conformance with the size of developed lots in the immediate vicinity.”

The Planning Board will offer a recommendation on the ordinance before it returns to the Town Council for final approval.