Wetlands are useful for environmental purposes, purifying polluted water, replenishing aquifers and providing a habitat for wildlife. But even though most landowners know these benefits, they can’t help but feel worried when finding out that a potential property or recently purchased parcel has wetlands present.
Can you build? Or will you be relegated to watching the wildlife from the lot you had planned to build a dream home on?
Wetlands can be an asset to landowners. With tighter building regulations, they provide a large degree of privacy. And since wetlands act as a sponge, absorbing and helping control flooding around the area, this is helpful as well. But if you know there are wetlands, what should you do next?
Here are a few quick tips when buying a property with wetlands:
When in doubt, delay taking action. Search the Internet and you will find many tales of homeowners who didn’t heed this advice. Maybe they didn’t know a wetland was present, or they figured it wouldn’t affect their building plans. Regardless, the end result was the same. The landowner faced serious fines and, in some cases, the responsibility of restoring the wetland to its pre-existing condition — an expensive and time-consuming task.
Even if the previous owner of the property does not disclose the wetlands, get expert advice before taking action, which brings us to our next point.
Reveal the boundaries. In some cases, the town map may be readily accessible and sometimes available online. When looking at this document, you may find that it discloses no wetlands on your property. Or it may identify wetlands and provide boundaries. However, this information isn’t always accurate or up to date. So before taking any action, always consult a soil scientist to determine whether any wetlands are present and to better understand the boundaries.
Understand that wetlands may not be a deal breaker. When getting the news that a wetland exists on a property, some new landowners are disappointed. They think, “Gosh, I have this large, beautiful parcel of land, and now I can’t do anything.” Sometimes this is true, but in many cases it isn’t. Depending on the lot size and local regulations, you may be able to apply for building permits outside of specific boundaries.