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Land Use Frequently Asked Questions

Accessory Dwellings

What is an accessory dwelling?

An accessory dwelling, also known as an in-law apartment or granny flat, is a dwelling unit that is located within or attached to the principal dwelling on a property. An accessory dwelling may also be located in a separate building on the property. The dwelling has its own kitchen and bathroom and is physically separated from the living area of the main house. The accessory dwelling is also billed separately for utilities.

Who may live in an accessory dwelling?

Anyone may live in an accessory dwelling and you don’t have to be related to the property owner, however, the property owner must live in either the main house or the accessory dwelling.

How large can an accessory dwelling be?

An accessory dwelling can have no more than 30% of the square footage of the main house, whether it is located within the main structure or in a detached structure. There is no minimum floor area.

Are there any other rules?

1. The lot must meet the minimum lot area requirement of the zoning district in which it is located. If the accessory dwelling is detached, the lot must also meet the shape and frontage requirements of the district and be on the same lot as the main house.
2. Only one accessory dwelling is permitted on a lot and it can’t be part of a multi-family house or development.
3. An attached accessory dwelling must be accessible to the main house by means of an operable door along a common wall.
4. No dwelling can be located in a basement unless at least 25% of the perimeter of the unit opens to grade and the ceiling is more than five feet above grade.
5. An attached accessory dwelling must maintain the exterior style and appearance of a single family house.
6. Attached units must comply with the building code and health and safety regulations. Detached units must have approvals from the Farmington Valley Health District, Water Pollution Control Authority and/or water company to assure the adequate provision of water supply and sewage disposal.


How do I get an accessory dwelling approved?

Attached accessory dwellings require a zoning permit and a building permit. You, your architect, or contractor must submit plans to the Building Department. These plans should be drawn to scale and show where the structure will be built on the property and any other features that are present, including existing buildings, driveways, well and septic system and any stream or wetland that may exist.

The Building Official and ZEO will review your plans for compliance with the building code and zoning regulations. The ZEO will also visit your property to assure that it complies with the regulations. You should stake or spray paint on the ground where the corners of the structure will be in order to assist the ZEO in determining compliance.

If the plans comply with both the building code and the zoning regulations, the building and zoning permits will be signed and you can begin work. This process usually takes a few days depending on the backlog of applications that are awaiting review. During and after construction, you can expect the building official and ZEO to make periodic visits to ensure that the construction is consistent with the approved plans.

What about public hearings?

If you are proposing a detached dwelling or the attached dwelling you are proposing doesn’t meet the requirements for an attached dwelling, then you must get a special permit from the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z). P&Z will hold a public hearing within 65 days of receiving your application. Your application with plans must be submitted to the Land Use Office at least ten days before the meeting at which it will be received.

The public hearing will be advertised in the newspaper by the Land Use staff and you will post a sign on your property indicating that there will be a public hearing. You will also notify all property owners within 100 feet of your property.

At the hearing, P&Z will accept testimony from you or your representative (architect, contractor, attorney, etc.) and anyone else who may want to testify, including neighbors. Once the hearing is closed, P&Z will consider whether your plans are appropriate for your property and neighborhood, is consistent with the Plan of Conservation and Development, its impact on the environment. P&Z may also attach reasonable conditions to your approval if they are necessary to lessen the dwelling’s impact on surrounding properties.

If P&Z approves a special permit, you may submit your plans to the Land Use Office for building and zoning permits.

 

Building An Addition, Garage, Shed, Deck or Pool

What do I need to do to put an addition onto my house, install a pool, shed, deck or garage?

You will need a building permit and a zoning permit to build or install these improvements to your property. You, your architect, or contractor must submit plans to the Building Department. These plans should be drawn to scale and show where the structure will be built on the property and any other features that are present, including existing buildings, driveways, well and septic system and any stream or wetland that may exist.

Where can I get such a plan?

If you don’t have a plot plan in your records you may be able to get one from the Building Department which has a file on every address in town that has a building on it, especially if it was built in the last 30 years. You can draw to scale where your improvement will be built. An architect or surveyor can also prepare these.

For a simple project like a shed, deck, or pool, a scale drawing showing the improvement in relation to the house, street and property lines may be sufficient. But if the structure is close to the property lines, a formal plan may be required.

What are the zoning requirements for my lot?

Each property is located in a zoning district that sets standards for setbacks from property lines, building height and the percentage of the lot that can be covered by buildings and impervious surfaces. Setbacks determine the distance from your front, rear, and side property lines that must be kept clear from construction. An impervious surface is a surface like pavement or a roof that doesn’t absorb water.

A quick reference sheet is attached to this FAQ. The zoning regulations can also be found on the Town website: www.townofcantonct.org. Click “Departments”, then “Land Use”, and scroll down to the link for “Zoning Regulations”. You may also call the Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO) for assistance at (860) 693-7892.

What happens after I submit my plans?

The Building Official and ZEO will review your plans for compliance with the building code and zoning regulations. The ZEO will also visit your property to assure that it complies with the regulations. You should stake or spray paint on the ground where the corners of the structure will be in order to assist the ZEO in determining compliance.

If the plans comply with both the building code and the zoning regulations, the building and zoning permits will be signed and you can begin work. This process usually takes a few days depending on the backlog of applications that are awaiting review. During and after construction, you can expect the building official and ZEO to make periodic visits to ensure that the construction is consistent with the approved plans.

What if my plans don’t comply with the zoning regulations?

While you should make every effort to comply with the standards, there may be something about your property that prevents compliance. Your lot may be oddly shaped, or have extreme topographic conditions like a steep slope or some other characteristic. In such a case, you may apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance. The Board will conduct a public hearing to determine whether a valid hardship exists that prevents you from utilizing your property.

What is a hardship?

A hardship is something unique about your property that constrains your use of it. It must be related to the land such as topography or odd dimensions. The hardship can’t be financially related, for example, saving money by building in a way that doesn’t comply with the regulations wouldn’t be considered a valid hardship. The hardship also can’t be self-imposed. If, for example, you sold part of your property to your neighbor and now you can’t comply, it would be considered a self-imposed situation.

What other regulations should I be aware of?

There may be wetlands or watercourses on your property. If you plan to build within 100 feet of such a resource, you will need to apply for a wetlands permit. The Authorized Agent will be able to assist you in those situations at (860) 693-7892.

If you have a well and septic system you should contact the Farmington Valley Health District at (860) 352-2333 to make sure that your plans don’t conflict with the proper operation of those facilities.

Animals

What sort of animals may I keep on my property?

If you have a farm, that is, a parcel of land of at least five acres used primarily for the raising of crops, livestock, and/or poultry, there is no limit to the type or number of animals you may have.

What are the limitations if I don’t have a farm?

There are no limitations on common domestic pets unless they are poultry or hoofed animals such as horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and cattle. For such animals you will need a lot of at least two acres for the first such animal and an additional acre for each additional animal.

For other hoofed animals, such as llamas, alpacas, sheep, swine, or other similar animals you’ll need at least a lot of at least one acre for the first animal and 20,000 square feet for each additional animal.

For poultry, you must have a lot of at least half an acre and there shall be no more than ten (10) fowl per every one-half (1/2) acre.

Am I allowed to keep my animals in a separate building?

You may house your animals, equipment, and manure, in a separate building provided that the building is at least 100 feet away from any property line, wetlands or watercourse.

Home Based Businesses

May I have a business in my home?

Under certain conditions you may operate a home based business on your residentially zoned property.

What sort of conditions do I need to meet?

The most important condition is that your business doesn’t impair the residential character of your property. Your business must be conducted in such a way that a neighbor or passer-by wouldn’t be able to tell that you’re conducting a business there.

What other restrictions will there be on my business?

If you have a minor home based business, you must live in the house where the business is located and you can’t have more than one non-resident employed on the premises. The area devoted to the business can’t exceed 30% of the area of the main dwelling. The use and storage of any equipment, hazardous materials or production of noise or electrical interference can’t be beyond what is normal for a single family home. More than routine mail or package delivery is also not allowed.

If you have trailer associated with the business, it must be stored in a side or rear yard, observing the setback requirements of your zoning districts and generally not be visible from the street. You can park one commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of up to 14,000 pounds on the property. A sign of up to two square feet is also permitted.

Minor home businesses are permitted by right do not require a zoning permit.

A major home based business requires the approval of a special permit by the Planning and Zoning Commission. In addition to the requirements for a minor home based business can have no more than three non-residents on the premises. The business must be in a conforming structure on a conforming lot. The site plan must show parking, loading and landscaped areas and evidence of adequate sewer and water service must be shown. No more than one commercial vehicle may be parked on any R1 or R2 zoned lot.


Can I operate a bed and breakfast?

A bed and breakfast is considered a major home based business and requires approval of a special permit by the Zoning Commission. The owner of the lot and the business must live on the premises. All rented rooms must be accessed from the interior of the house and there can be no cooking facilities in any of the rented rooms. The structure must meet the minimum area and dimensional requirements of the zoning district in which it is located.


Can I have day care in my home?

A family day care home (up to 6 clients) operated by the resident must be licensed under the provisions of the Connecticut General Statutes.

A group day care home (more than 6 clients) licensed by the General Statutes requires a zoning permit issued by staff. There must be at least 10,000 contiguous square feet of land area available on the lot. No recreation areas or playground equipment can be located within the required setbacks for the lot and a buffer has to be provided between the recreation area and adjacent residential properties. You must also provide one parking space for every four clients and one space per employee or caregiver.

What happens after I submit my application for a major home occupation?

Your application will be placed on the Zoning Commission’s monthly agenda and a public hearing will be scheduled. If the Commission approves the special permit, it may place reasonable restrictions concerning lighting, hours of operation and other conditions that would lessen the business’ impact on surrounding properties. This process may take about two months.

 

How do I modify a boundary line/ record a lot line adjustment?

Major boundary adjustments that modify property lines shown on an approved, recorded subdivision map are also subject to staff review to insure conformance to the Town’s zoning regulations, and if they modify the property/ lot lines of a lot created by subdivision approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, the proposed boundary adjustment (lot line revision) must be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.

 

Is this lot Buildable? Do I have a second Building Lot?

In order to evaluate a parcel/ lot as a potential building lot, follow these steps:

1. Go to the Town Assessor’s Office
a. Obtain a copy of the parcels boundary from the Town Assessor’s Map
b. Obtain a copy of the parcels “Street Card” from the Assessor’s records
c. On the Map and Street Card, note the Map/Lot number (sometimes listed as the Assesor ID#) of the parcel, Deed Book reference numbers (sometimes listed as Volume# and Page#), and parcel zoning;

2. Go to Town Clerk’s Office
a. Obtain a copy of the Deed Book and page numbers referenced on the Street Card.
b. Identify whether or not the parcel was recorded before July 3, 1957, (to determine that a lot can be considered a lawful building lot, it must be demonstrated that the lot has been duly recorded by deed or included in a subdivision approved by the Commission prior to this date (the adoption of Zoning/ Subdivision regulations)) and or whether the parcel has been increased, diminished, or merged since that time. (Following Deed Book and Page number references listed on a deed will sometimes identify cuts, splits or mergers. You should also check the Land Use Office Map of approved subdivisions.) .

c. Research the Title to determine if there are any easements or restrictions that would interfere with construction of a building;

3. Go to the Land Use Office
a. Verify the location and zoning of the parcel using the Town Zoning Maps (located in the Land Use Office).
b. Research the effective Zoning Regulations for zone in which parcel is located. Each zone will have specific lot and yard requirements and intended uses permitted and uses allowed through special permit.
c. Create a site plan of the parcel with the dimensions along the property lines. (In lieu of a site plan, a rough sketch may be used at this point as a guide. In no way can a sketch be submitted as a site plan for approval.)
d. Calculate the lot area and the lot width
e. Measure the lot frontage
f. Draw the minimum front, side, and rear yards along the property lines
g. Draw the location of the proposed building on the parcel, including the driveway, parking area, and sidewalks
h. Calculated the approximate percent of impervious building coverage (area of rooflines) and impervious surface coverage (area of rooflines, pavement, and other structures that water can not physically pass through)
i. Determine the availability of utilities

4. Go to the Land Use Office
a. Present the parcel site plan to the Town Planner, or Assistant Planner/ Zoning Enforcement Officer. Depending on the results, they may be able to give you a general indication of whether or not a building lot exists, whether variances from Zoning Regulations may be needed, or if an additional building lot could be created, depending on the proposal.

5. Employee a professional surveyor licensed in the State of Connecticut to create a feasibility plan of the proposed building lot.

 

Wetlands and Watercourses

What are wetlands and watercourses?

Watercourses are open bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. They can also be intermittent, at times dry but with flowing water that lasts longer than a particular storm. Wetlands are lands that are characterized by poorly drained and often saturated soils. Wetlands may also be submerged at times.

Why should I care about wetlands?

Wetlands perform some very important functions in the environment, among them, flood storage, groundwater recharge and purification, erosion control, and wildlife habitat. This is important to the many Canton residents who rely on wells for drinkable water.

How do I know if there are wetlands on my property?

While ponds and streams are easy to see, wetlands aren’t necessarily so. The building file in the Building Department may have a plot plan that shows where wetlands have been found. The GIS maps on the Town’s website (www.townofcantonct.org) allows you to see where wetlands may be located in your neighborhood. Click “Departments”, then “Assessor & GIS” and scroll down to the link “GIS Maps”. These are large scale maps provided by the State and may not show small wetland areas.

If you have ferns on your lot and skunk cabbage sprouts in the spring, you may have a wetland. But since wetlands are determined by soil type, you may have to employ a soil scientist to survey your property. Go to http://ssssne.org and click “Registry”.

What can I do in a wetland?

Wetlands and watercourses are protected resources. The Town regulates activities that may be conducted in those areas as well as the “upland review area” within 100 feet of a wetland or watercourse. While the presence of such areas may limit your use of them, you may conduct a regulated activity after obtaining a wetlands permit from the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency (IWWA).

A regulated activity is any activity that involves the deposit or removal of material, obstruction, alteration or pollution of the resource. Clearing, filling, grading, excavating, and construction within the wetland, watercourse or its upland review are included and requires a permit. If you anticipate conducting a regulated activity, call the Authorized Agent at (860-693-7892 for guidance. Permit applications are available inn the Land Use Office and on the Town website. Click “Departments”, then “Land Use”, and scroll to the application links.

What happens after I submit my plans?

The Authorized Agent will review your plans for completeness and put you on and put you on the next available IWWA agenda. IWWA may schedule a site walk after it receives your application at its monthly meeting. Typically, IWWA will require you to install erosion controls and take other measures to protect the resource during and after construction. The process may take about two months. Once construction begins, the Authorized Agent will inspect the property to ensure that the activity adheres to the conditions of the permit.

Minor projects in the upland review area that don’t involve extensive filling or excavation, may qualify for a streamlined review by the Authorized Agent won’t require an appearance before the IWWA. Applications for this type of activity are also available in the Land Use Office.


What is a Free Cut?

The Connecticut General Statutes define a “subdivision” as the division of a tract or parcel of land into three (3) or more parts or lots made subsequent to the adoption of subdivision regulations.

The Town of Canton subdivision regulations were adopted on July 3, 1957. Any parcel of land that has not been divided since this date and which can be divided in a manner that results in a lot that otherwise complies with the Town’s Zoning requirements may be eligible for a “free cut”. A “free cut” is the ability to create a lot without the need for a formal application and approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Before a “free cut” can be created/ recorded, the Town requires that any proposed free split must be reviewed by Town Staff in order to insure compliance with the town’s regulations. A Zoning Compliance Review requires a fee of $50.00.


How do I confirm I can make a “free cut”?

All requests for the determination of eligibility for a free cut without subdivision (or resubdivision) approval must be submitted to the Land Use Office for review with the following information:

1. A completed application form for a zoning permit.

2. The required review fee of $50.00 check made payable to the Town of Canton.

3. An affidavit prepared by an Attorney or professional surveyor licensed in the State of Connecticut) that sets forth the legal rationale as to the specific circumstances which allow either the free cut or the eligibility of the property as a building lot including the deed history of the subject property from 1957 to the present.

4. Two (2) paper prints drawn to a class A-2 Survey standards and which include all of the information necessary to demonstrate compliance with the Town of Canton zoning regulations.

5. Upon the review of the above referenced information, the Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO) may either: deny the request, request that the plans are revised/modified, or approve the proposed plans. The ZEO, in making a determination, may, in his sole discretion, seek the advice and consultation of individuals including, but not limited to, the Town Attorney, Town Planner, and/or other appropriate Town Staff.

6. In the case of a denial of a request, that applicant may have the right to appeal the decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals for further consideration. (See ZBA Information)

7. In the case where the ZEO requests the submission of modified plans, the applicant shall submit a revised set of two (2) paper prints drawn to a class A-2 Survey standards that address the concerns raised by the ZEO and consulting Town Staff to the Land Use Office for an additional review.
8. When the plans are approved the Land Use Office will contact the property owner to request that one (1) mylar plan and two (2) paper plans are prepared for submission.

9. The applicant is required to file the approved A-2 survey mylar and a legal description of the property on the Land Records.

10. The Town will keep one (1) of the paper plans for recording in the file.

 

FAQ General Disclaimer

The information contained herein is provided as guidance to assist the general public to address frequently asked questions. The information is not intended in any way to be an approval process or certification.