How Big Could A Planned Development Be?

On the Listserv, a neighbor asked…

If someone bought up a 10 acre parcel, could they put up 75 or 100 2-3 bedroom condos? … or a 300 room hotel?

The simple answer is No. A big condo or hotel would require an enormous parcel (something like 165 acres) due to Lyme’s strict lot coverage and gross floor area regulations for the Rural District (calculations below).

This, coupled with the lack of municipal water and sewer and the already-conserved properties along Route 10, means there is no way to acquire the land or finance such a project.

But what could be built? If the opponents of the article really think about how restrictive and exclusive the Lyme zoning ordinance is, they will agree with the following statement:

Under the proposed amendment, that 10-acre parcel could support either a small business with at least one residence, or a handful of homes. The total impact – the land covered, and the total permitted size of the buildings – would be about twice that used by the Lyme Country Store.

Here are the details. (Please bear with me: the language of our ordinance is really complicated.)

  1. Lyme Zoning requires the Lot Size within 1,000 feet of Route 10 to be at least three acres. If the lot extends even one foot over the 1,000 foot line, it must be five acres.
  2. Lyme Zoning also computes the Lot Size after subtracting conservation overlays: agricultural soils, wetlands, wetland buffers, and steep slopes. Typical land along Route 10 subtracts half the area. The rest of this analysis assumes a 10-acre parcel that would yield a Lot Size that only has 5 “buildable acres”.
  3. Lyme Zoning permits lot coverage (buildings, parking lots, etc.) of 12% of the Lot Size, or a maximum of 26,000sf. Twelve percent of a 5 acre Lot Size (217,800 sf) is slightly larger than the 26,000 sf, so that is the limit. The entire Lyme Country Store (LCS) lot is 0.31 acres, or 13,054 sf. So twice their parking lot is the entire lot coverage permitted on any single parcel.
  4. Lyme Zoning permits the maximum building footprint to be 2% of the Lot Size, or a maximum of 7,000sf. Two percent of five acres is 4,356 sf. The Lyme Country Store (LCS) footprint is about 2,688 sf – so the proposed building footprint could be about half-again as large.
  5. Lyme Zoning also permits the Gross Floor Area (the sum of all the floors of a building) of 14,000sf in the Rural District. The LCS Floor Area is 8,257 sf. Again, the proposed buildings could be about half-again as large.

How much space would a 100-unit development require?

The Lyme Zoning Ordinance permits large parcels to be subdivided to provide more Gross Floor Area, Lot Coverage, Footprint, etc. for a development. But the ordinance requires development to be spread out, so getting a large number of units requires a large amount of land. Actual subdivisions also require significant additional space to account for subdivision roads, setbacks, and other requirements. That might add another 50% to the size of the parent parcel. (As I said, it’s complicated.) Nonetheless, here’s a simple analysis:

Let’s assume 100 two-bedroom condos at 1,200 sf. The project requires 20% additional space for “circulation” (hallways, stairways, etc.) This would require (100 x 1,200 x 120%) sf or 144,000 sf of floor area. Since the maximum Gross Floor Area per lot is 14,000 sf, the condo buildings would require at least 11 “five acre” buildable lots. Given the typical conservation overlays plus the extra space for subdivision roads, setbacks, etc. a builder would need eleven 15-acre lots or 165 acres.

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board, Budget Committee, or Trustees of the Trust Funds where I volunteer. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at

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