Remodel & Renovate in 02478>Question Details

Mahousing, Home Buyer in 02478

Can you convert a two-family into a three-family in Belmont, MA?

Asked by Mahousing, 02478 Tue Sep 20, 2011

It is hard to determine (for the lay-person) which zoning regulations apply from the town website and how to get approval. Any advice is welcome.

Thank you!

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Mikel DeFrancesco’s answer
MA -

Go see your local building and zoning dept.... you will find them very helpful. With the proper approvals ( or variance if needed ) in hand and making the building safe and conforming for it's new use... Yes you can.

Good Luck!

Success! Real Estate – Mikel DeFrancesco
Real Estate in Massachusetts
direct: 617-755-8272
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 25, 2011
Yes, Shawn, in some municipalities, it may seem that any conversions can be done if the right approvals are obtained. Cities do have a bit more latitude than towns to provide for increased density given special permits and other exceptions. And sadly, sometimes these permits are revoked when challenged in the courts. Permits as well as local zoning laws need to adhere to legitimate zoning purposes. And the law does need to be applied uniformly to similarly situated structures in a district -- in other words, if only two families and not three families are allowed in a district, allowing an exception for particular property in that district may be considered illegal as "spot zoning."

There have been a series of major court cases in Massachusetts recently, revoking permits that were "approved" by city officials, but ultimately invalidated by the courts. For example, there is reportedly a $10 million dollar, 8000 sq foot home on Cape Cod, in the town of Truro, that has been deemed by the courts as contrary to the zoning ordinance despite completing construction based on issued permits.. Ironically, this is a house right next to Edward Hopper's home -- the famous American painter. Now, the battle is ongoing as to whether it therefore needs to be torn down. There is another house in Marblehead, right next to the ocean, worth close to a million dollars, that has been ordered to be removed. Again, the developer/owner reportedly had received permits originally from the town to build.

Probably, the best move is to check with an attorney with expertise in zoning for Massachusetts and Belmont itself. Sadly, even if a permit is issued, and the work completed, there are legal actions that are permitted in Massachusetts up to six years out, to enforce a zoning violation and possibly have the offending structure removed. And, even beyond that years later if a dispute occurs, and the property is involved in litigation is deemed not legal by zoning, the property owner may have lesser rights to make certain alterations, such as additions.

Perhaps New Jersey is more liberal in its zoning rules, but Massachusetts clearly has certain legal requirements that need to be met, beyond municipal permit approvals.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 8, 2011
you can convert anywhere with proper municipal approvals.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 8, 2011
Zoning Bylaws can be tricky to understand.

Belmont does delineate the allowed uses for the various districts, under the table of uses section in the code. This includes single family, two family, other apartment, and mixed use listings for the various districts.

Is the building in the AH district? Or is it in a zone that would allow for mixed use under a special permit(such as two family and a first floor that is a business use)?

Checking with a real estate attorney may be helpful, to see if there are any special situation that could be applied to the property, to allow its use to be expanded.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 7, 2011

Simple answer is that if you are in a zoning district that allows for three family dwellings and you meet the zoning and buidling code requirements (or get a special permit) then you can make it into a 3 family dwelling. if you are not in the proper zone you have a better chance of hitting Powerball.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 20, 2011
Most likely the town will not allow that - you could convert a three-family into a two-family ....but you can not convert a two-family into a three family.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 20, 2011
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