Services: Subdivision Feasibility & Design

image of subdivision planDepending on a property’s terrain, natural resources, and location, the maximum number of lots that can be created for a property can range quite significantly. Local, state, and federal regulations pertaining to zoning, inland wetlands and watercourses, health, and traffic can greatly influence the amount of development that can take place on a property and subsequently limit the number of lots that can be created through the subdivision process for a parcel of land. In order for the subdivision of a property to take place, it must first be approved by the municipality where it is proposed. Typically, subdivisions are regulated by a municipality’s planning commission, however, there are instances when subdivisions are handled by another department within the municipality.

Subdivision Layout Considerations

Whether you are interested in splitting off a piece of land from your current property for a loved one to build a house or dividing up a large piece of land into multiple lots to sell, there are a number of issues to consider before moving forward with a subdivision. The planning, civil engineering, land surveying, and environmental services staff of Arthur H. Howland & Associates, P.C. can help you identify the various factors associated with a parcel of land that may limit development. After these factors are identified, we can then work with you to plan and design a subdivision that complies with local, state, and federal land use regulations and guidelines.

Lot Size & Layout

Each municipality is split into land use zones where the different types of land uses allowed within a zone are defined. The zoning regulations of a town set minimum area and dimensional requirements required for lots within a particular zone. During the subdivision process the zone in which a property is located greatly influences the degree to which a property can be divided. Zoning requirements such as minimum lot area, lot frontage along a road, building setbacks from property lines, and provision of minimum lot rectangles all impact the manner in which a subdivision ultimately gets developed. For example, a residential property in an R-40 zone that requires a minimum lot size of 40,000 square feet potentially offers twice the number of lots as a residential property of the same size in an R-80 zone that requires a minimum size of 80,000 square foot.

Wetlands, Watercourses, & Other Natural Resources

The location of wetlands, watercourses, floodplain, vernal pools, steep slopes, scenic vistas, and other environmentally sensitive areas on or in relation to a property affects the ability of a property to be subdivided. In order to protect these sensitive areas, development near these areas is regulated by local, state, and federal land use agencies. In order to protect wetlands and watercourses, most municipalities in the State of Connecticut have established regulated areas within certain distances of a wetland or watercourse where all development is regulated by the local Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission. In order for development to be allowed within a regulated area, the applicant must prove to the commission that a subject wetland or watercourse will not be detrimentally impacted by the development proposed. Sometimes projects that are completely outside of a wetland or wetland regulated area may also be regulated by the local Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission due to its location upgradient of a wetland or watercourse or its drainage connectivity to the watercourse.

Typically development within a watercourse floodplain is not allowed. In the rare cases where development or filling of a floodplain is allowed, compensation must be made by the developer, as part of the site development plan process, in order to provide additional floodplain storage to make up for any floodplain storage volume lost by development. Any proposed construction or disturbance within a floodplain must ultimately be approved by the United States Army Corps or Engineers.

Some municipalities may limit the type of land which can count toward the provision of the minimum lot area for each proposed lot. Areas of steep slopes, wetlands, floodplain, exposed ledge, and other natural features may be limited or excluded in counting toward the minimum lot area for a lot. Other municipalities use a soil based approach in determining the maximum number of lots that can be created from a property. This soil-based method, which is founded on mapping and soil surveys published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), requires that each proposed lot meets the minimum soil criteria set forth. This involved method discounts soils that are poorly draining or that present development challenges when being used to meet the minimum lot area requirements for a subdivision.

Open Space Subdivisions

Most municipalities require that a certain percentage of a parcel being subdivided be set aside as open space for conservation or green space in order to preserve wetlands, endangered wildlife habitat, or scenic vistas. Some municipalities allow Cluster Subdivisions where zoning setbacks and other requirements are reduced when development is concentrated in a particular area of a site in order to set aside a particular environmentally sensitive area for preservation or conservation.

Subdivision Access

Subdivision layouts can vary drastically depending on the size, configuration, and terrain of a site. The means of access to each of the lots created by a subdivision needs to be a consideration from the very start of a subdivision project. For instance, it may be desirable to design and construct a road to service a subdivision in order to maximize the number of building lots. Sometimes, access to the lots of a subdivision may be provided through the use of a common driveway with a maintenance agreement. Still, other times, it may be most effective to provide driveway access from a new lot directly to an existing roadway.

Stormwater Management

On large subdivisions where roads or common driveways are proposed, it may be necessary to design a stormwater management system that services the impervious surfaces associated with the road or driveway that will service a community. Currently, stormwater measures typically include some form of stormwater collection system that leads to a system that provides for offsite peak stormwater flow rate attenuation and stormwater quality enhancement. A typical stormwater collection system may include measures such as pipe, catch basins, manholes, and swales that will collect and direct water to the system that will provide for stormwater quality and flow rate attenuation. Water quality measures usually include some means of prolonged surface water storage, infiltration, filtration, or combination thereof that promotes the removal and settlement of pollutants and sediment from the runoff being directed to them. Peak flow rate attenuation measures typically include the provision of some means of providing temporary stormwater storage in order to prevent an increase in peak flow rates from the site for various design storms. As municipalities and land use regulatory agencies begin to adopt Low Impact Development (LID) regulations and guidelines, stormwater management provisions may shift from large centralized drainage systems to multiple smaller systems located closer to the source of the improvements they are intended to manage.

Stormwater management measure must also be provided for improvements proposed on each individual lot of a subdivision. Runoff from impervious surfaces associated with building roofs, driveways, and parking areas needs to be properly managed in order to ensure that there will be no downgradient impacts to nearby properties and sensitive environmental areas.

Individual Lot Design

In order for a subdivision to be accepted by a municipality, it must be demonstrated that each lot proposed as part of the subdivision is capable of supporting the zoning compliant construction of a proposed building with associated site utilities, an appropriate means of access, stormwater management system, water supply, and wastewater system. Subdivision site development plans are typically generated to demonstrate that each lot of a subdivision can be developed based on the desired use.

Residential Subdivisions: On a typical residential subdivision, this involves the creation of a residential subdivision site development plan that demonstrates that a house can built outside of the property setbacks established within the zone for each lot. In addition, it is necessary to provide a driveway design which meets all applicable design criteria set forth by a municipality’s driveway ordinance or subdivision regulations. A stormwater management system must be developed for each lot in order to adequately attenuate any effect that development could potentially have on downgradient properties, wetlands, watercourses, or other sensitive areas. The means of wastewater disposal (either through septic system or connection to a public sanitary sewer system), water supply (private well or public water supply), and provision for site utilities (such as gas, electric, and telephone) also all must be accounted for on each lot in order for the subdivision as a whole to be approved by the municipality.

Industrial & Commercial Subdivisions: For an industrial or commercial subdivision, a subdivision site development plan would be developed to demonstrate that an industrial or commercial building complying to the zoning regulations can be built on each lot of the subdivision. It must also be demonstrated that adequately sized parking areas, that meet the grading, dimensional, and landscaping requirements set forth in the local zoning regulations, can be feasibly constructed to meet the parking needs of the proposed commercial or industrial building. An on-site stormwater management, which attenuates any impact the proposed improvements may have on neighboring properties or downgradient wetlands or watercourses, must also be provided on the site development plans. In addition, the means for wastewater disposal, water supply, and provision of site utilities must also be included as part of the site development plan to demonstrate that each lot is capable of being adequately developed to support the proposed use.

Proven Experience and Results

The design and permitting process associated with a subdivision can be both an exhausting and rewarding process. The land surveyingplanningcivil engineering, and environmental services staff of Arthur H. Howland & Associates, P.C. has designed and presented numerous subdivision projects which have successfully been approved by various land use commissions and agencies throughout the State of Connecticut. Our established relationships with various local, state, and federal agencies combined with our ability to collaborate with other industry professionals to produce and present attractive, cost-effective designs sets us apart from our competition. If you are interested in subdividing a property, we urge you to contact us at (860) 354-9346 so that we can show you some of our previous projects and get you started on the path to a successful subdivision project.

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