Log in Newsletter

Board to consider moratorium on zero lot line development


The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners on Monday will consider a proposal to eliminate zero lot line development in the county.

 Zero lot line development allows builders to build structures almost on property lines, foregoing setback requirements.

The board will make its decision after a public hearing taking place during the regularly scheduled 9 a.m. meeting at the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse. The public hearing will be in room 118 on the main floor of the courthouse.

The board at its regular meeting on May 16 unanimously voted to move forward to establish a moratorium on zero lot line subdivision development in the county. Both a moratorium to cease approval of zero lot line development, and amending the county's subdivision ordinance to eliminate zero lot line development, require a legislative hearing. Legislative hearings, unlike public hearings, require speakers to be sworn in by the board's clerk.

After the hearing, the board can either ask the Cumberland County Planning Board to take up the matter and make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners, or the Board of Commissioners can enact county legislation eliminating zero lot line subdivisions from its subdivision ordinance.

 In a memo to the board, the county attorney advises “that if the board members are convinced it is in the best public interest to eliminate zero lot line development, there is no reason to implement a moratorium to receive planning board recommendations but, instead, adopt the amendments to eliminate zero lot line subdivision” from the county’s subdivision ordinance.

Cumberland County’s Subdivision Ordinance currently allows the subdivision of land for certain group developments as a zero lot line subdivision. In that development, the minimum lot size and setbacks for the zoning district are waived, as long as the total number of lots created by the subdivision does not exceed the density allowed in the zoning district.

Zero lot line development is intended to maintain open space for the common use of property owners in the subdivision. However, in rural areas, this form of development results in lots that may be much smaller than the minimum lot size in the zoning district with the separation between the buildings being 10 feet. 

According to proposed resolutions drawn up by the county attorney for the board to consider, zero lot line development has caused the following problems or conditions:

  • Despite the intent of the zero lot line development, the current ordinance does not require the creation of a common area; therefore, a parcel can be subdivided into many small lots and a single large lot without any common area benefiting the development’s property owners. 
  • Zero lot line development is often used to develop smaller lots around wetlands or lands with soils often or seasonally saturated by water, resulting in increased flooding or standing ground water on those parcels in an amount exceeding what the zoning density allows.  
  • The construction of zero lot line homes in small developments is "not consistent with the long-range plans for which community input was obtained before adoption." Furthermore, the developments are out of place in rural communities, and have “become the source of growing complaints from residents in the rural communities.” 

Both a resolution to impose a 90-day moratorium and send the issue to the Planning Board, and a resolution for county commissioners to vote to eliminate zero lot line development give the same three reasons. 

Cumberland County, Board of Commissioners, moratorium, zero lot line development