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3 common challenges to developing wetlands worth considering

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2023 | Real Estate Law |

Property development, particularly in rural areas, often tends to result in some degree of pushback. Local communities, neighbors and even regulatory authorities may take issue with the decision to develop a specific piece of land.

Wetland properties are among the most challenging to develop. Some of those challenges are practical. Businesses need to address water levels and plan structures very carefully to account for the local micro-climate. Some of the challenges are legal and environmental. For example, there might be endangered waterfowl that nest nearby, which could have a direct negative impact on the likelihood of successfully developing a plot of land. There could also be disputes brought by abutters who own neighboring properties or those concerned about preserving the character of the community.

The three challenges below are among the most pressing for property developers and the most likely to delay or completely derail a proposed development project.

Getting a permit

If a developer intends to build within 100 feet of seasonal wetlands or 200 feet of a stream, they will need to obtain a special wetlands permit from the state. Those in eastern Massachusetts, in particular, may find that process to be particularly challenging. The laws governing wetlands development date all the way back to 1866 and can be difficult for developers to understand without proper guidance. Small mistakes regarding the research and planning stages or the paperwork submitted to the state may ultimately result in a denied permit and a much longer and more costly development process.

Securing the support of neighbors

Abutters or those who own the property near a proposed wetland development will often take issue with any significant change to the landscape. Perhaps they enjoy having a wild space and a view that includes migratory birds throughout the year. Abutters can potentially slow down the development process or push back against someone’s permit in a way that will make developments prohibitively complex. Both those seeking to build a residential property and those hoping to develop commercial spaces on existing wetlands will often find that nearby owners are not very open to change. Discussing the plans with those individuals and adjusting development so that it minimizes the impact on existing abutters can make a big difference.

Fighting an appeal

Simply securing a permit isn’t the end of the battle in many cases. Abutters have the option of appealing to the state based on claims that the development will impact their property value or affect local ecosystems. Appeals can drastically increase the timeline for wetland development and can make the process far more expensive as well. It can be a real challenge to overcome the objections of others with an ownership interest nearby.

With all of this said, seeking legal guidance throughout a wetland development project can help businesses streamline the process and focus on what they do best instead of legal technicalities.


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