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Have you ever noticed an undeveloped parcel of ground that seemed to have potential to build upon? Some might think they found a diamond in the rough and wonder, “why has no one purchased this yet?” There is usually a reason.

There are several limitations and constraints that could burden a property that are not often obvious at first sight. Land developers and homeowners take on risks in purchasing a property and sometimes never see the constraints on the land until after the purchase. One of the main questions you should ask before purchasing a property is, “what is the net lot area?”

“Net lot area” refers to the total area of land available for development, not necessarily the total area of a property itself. This definition is slightly different between each township but usually excludes the following portions of land for calculating this area …

  • Street rights-of-way
  • Easements
  • Flood hazard areas
  • Steep slopes
  • Riparian buffers
  • Wetland areas/wetland buffers

Just like the amount between your gross annual income versus your net, the numbers can be significantly different.

Recently Howell Kline was contacted to perform a land survey for a client who owned a 10-acre parcel in Chester County. They were looking to do a kitchen addition and hired us to prepare a survey and depict the area and bulk zoning requirements on the plan. Unfortunately, the property contained most of the above restrictions, effectively cutting their lot area by over half. This reduced the net lot area and increased the impervious coverage percentage until it exceeded the current zoning requirements.

Below are images showing the lot area calculations before and after applying each restriction.

As you can see, owning a large property does not always mean you have limitless options for improvements. Even for a project as small as a kitchen addition, it takes a land survey to get the complete picture of the property and how it can be improved, by right.

Howell Kline Surveying leans on our local know how to prepare survey plans like this regularly. We can help you in due diligence feasibility or with your next building project.