A common dream for people in our area is to build a brand-new house in the country. Bringing this dream to a reality is much more difficult than most people think. The following items comprise a typical checklist just to create a new building lot.
Once a willing buyer finds a landowner willing to sell something less than an entire farm field, an initial minimum acreage for that county and township must be identified. At the same time, it is necessary to determine whether the acreage from which the lot is to be removed can actually be legally subdivided, based upon the local planning commission rules and the property’s historical parcel splits.
Then, the buyer needs to purchase a soil analysis from a company approved by the county’s health department to determine, based upon soil type, how many acres of land may be required.
Then, that minimum may increase once the buyer identifies the contractor who will build the home and the designs of the home. Yes, to know whether the acreage of a lot is sufficient for a new home, the home’s layout and placement on the lot may dictate more acreage. This is because the necessary acreage must be sufficient to house up to two sewage systems (one initially and one eventual backup system), and each of those systems must be able to be located on the lot in spots where there are minimum distances from each road, driveway, building, well and property line. Upon completion of this process, the buyer is positioned to get a “preliminary” but non-binding approval from the county health department.
If the buyer considers it even remotely possible that the buyer will ever own farmland anywhere in the United States or may ever become a farmer or partner in a farming operation, the buyer has an additional step. The buyer must contact the local Farm Service Agency, a division of the USDA, to request confirmation that the property to be converted into a building lot is not a wetland under federal law. Even land that can appear to be a desert can be found to be a wetland under the federal hydrologic identification rules, so this is a necessary prerequisite regardless of the property’s appearance.
At this point, the surveyor can be contacted to create the new lot boundaries. Some people will secure the survey first, but that can be inefficient if the lot size or configuration has to change in order to accommodate any of the requirements set forth above.
Notably, the survey of a single lot from any land typically now requires that the rest of the parcel from which the lot is removed to be surveyed as well. Thus, a simple survey of a small lot can trigger the need for a larger survey of remaining farmland, which can cost several thousand dollars. If any resulting lot includes a geography of less than five acres, at least four local government offices must then approve the survey before the property can be transferred.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.