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Consider lot coverage when designing your new home

Your dream vacation or retirement home is near the ocean and perhaps in a town that has a shore land or similar zone that restricts the amount of developed square footage on your property. The developed square footage limits of these zones often include the building footprint, including overhangs, utilities such as generators and air conditioners, driveways, patios and walkways, which will effect the design for your new home landscape. The percentage of allowable lot coverage varies by town and by zone within a town. A common percentage is 20%.

If your house architect or builder designs a house that uses all of your allowable lot coverage, you may not have any available square footage remaining for hardscape such as patios, walkways, fire pits or garden shed buildings. Your driveway square footage may also be affected depending on the driveway material that you select. Some towns require driveway space for parking of two vehicles.

A meeting with your landscape designer, early on in the house design process, will help you address the lot coverage issue. This landscape oriented meeting will also assist in evaluating your functional spaces, such as locations of walkways and patios, which may impact the location of doorways.

The landscape designer can also advise if a survey should be performed. Town approvals for building permits do not always require a survey. A surveyor will establish existing conditions in terms of square footage of the landscape, hardscape, driveway space. The surveyor will provide the exact total lot size in square feet, as well as total square footage of all areas that contribute to the lot coverage. By dividing these numbers, the lot coverage percentage is determined. It can happen that the survey may well establish an existing lot coverage that may be greater than the limit in your town. In these cases, a town may “grandfather” the lot coverage in existence, allowing a higher percentage than the town limit. This “grandfather” lot coverage is important when considering your available square footage for your landscape design.

Finally, when designing your new home, consider consulting your landscape design professional to ensure that your home satisfies both your interior and exterior living spaces.