What are Wetlands in Massachusetts?
I was asked this question recently while showing a home with a lot that had thick, grown-in brush covering most of the back lot. The owners had taken the time when they bought the property to clear out the trees to begin to create an open space but had not quite finished the job.
The result was an overgrowth which begged the question, "Could this be wetlands?"
In Massachusetts there are laws that protect designated wetlands. One of the rules is that you cannot do anything to disturb it. That would include chopping down any existing vegetation on the land. The existence of the unkempt brush was exactly what prompted the query in this case.
The definition of wetlands:
Wetland is a term for land that is sometimes submerged by water. This could include inland marshes, creeks, rivers, ponds, meadows, swamps, brooks, intermittent streams and drainage ditches. It can also indicate land which may become wet only seasonally.
What are the restrictions governing wetlands?
The Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act is intended to protect the actual wetlands, the surrounding environment, our water supply as well as fish and wildlife. If an area is designated as wetlands, you cannot do anything to disrupt the existing growth in any way. This would include any trees, brush or anything growing on that part of the property.
In a situation where the wetland is very close to the home you would not be able to expand in that area by building a deck, for example. Installing a pool on that part of the lot would also be prohibited.
How can you tell if an area is designated as wetlands?
Each town has a Conservation Commission which is usually located in the town hall or town offices. The commission will have maps from the Department of Environmental Protection's Wetlands Conservancy Program. Personnel there will consult these maps to make a determination about the property you are interested in.
Thorough due diligence, including checking on these types of issues, is part of the service that I provide to buyer clients. However, if you are home shopping on your own, please contact your town hall and check with the conservation department regarding any questions about potential wetlands. It could greatly effect what you can and cannot do with the lot of your new home.
This post was written by
Claudette Millette, Broker, Owner, The Buyers' Counsel - (508) 881-6230
An Exclusive Buyer Brokerage serving the Greater Metrowest area