Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is the best way to get questions about developing or improving my property answered by Town staff?
Emails are the most efficient way to get your questions answered, because 1) staff can secure essential information, 2) most issues relate to more than one department and your question can be more easily circulated and responses better coordinated for you and 3) written communication enables more accuracy and specificity. The Department responds to all emails within 24 hours. Emails can be sent to Emily O'Neill.
- How can I find information on my property?
The Planning and Community Development Department webpage includes Map Geo, an interactive Geographic Information System (GIS) which you can use to look up information for any property in Cumberland.
By double clicking on a lot, a property card will appear on the left side of your screen. Information there includes: owner, plat and lot number, date last purchased and sale price, acreage area, land use, and land evidence record book and page.
If you click on “property record card” at the upper left, you can access the information from the Tax Assessor’s office, including: Town appraised value, year built, living area, and structural specifications.
By clicking on “themes” tab on the upper right you can access aerial photos, unofficial zoning (including local historic districts), potential wetlands, areas under water resource protection, natural hazard areas, areas subject to inundation during a hurricane event, land that is under conservation, and voting districts.
If you click on “mark up” and then click on “measure” you can measure linear distances by clicking on “line” or areas by clicking on “polygon."
- How do I determine the location of my property line? Who can I hire to survey my property?
The only way to accurately determine where your property line is to have access to a survey performed by a RI Registered land surveyor. The Planning Department maintains a list of surveyors who frequently work in Cumberland.
- How do I move my property line?
Moving the property line between two existing lots or parcels is called anAdministrative Subdivision. Administrative Subdivisions require application to the Planning Department and are reviewed and approved by the Administrative Officer of the Planning Board.
- How do I merge lots together?
Lot mergers are considered Administrative Subdivisions. Administrative Subdivisions require application to the Planning Department and are reviewed and approved by the Administrative Officer of the Planning Board.
- What Town entity governs the subdivision and development of land?
Rhode Island General Laws place municipal land use authority in the Town Planning Board. Dimensional or use variances may be granted by the Town Zoning Board, provided that the relief is based on special circumstances beyond the property owner’s control.
The Planning Department, in coordination with the Town Engineer and Town Building Official, administers the subdivision and development process
- Do I have a buildable lot? What can I build on my property?
The Cumberland Zoning Code Article 5 “Dimensional Regulations” includes tables which show the minimum dimensions (area, housing density, width, frontage, front, rear and side yard setbacks, lot coverage) for lots located in various zones. The minimum requirements are affected by whether the lot has Town water or sewer service.
Vacant lots that do not meet the minimum standard may be buildable if they were in existence prior to the Town’s enacting its first zoning ordinance in May, 1952.
The table found in “B Attachment 1” of the Cumberland Zoning Code shows what land uses are allowed on a lot within a specific zoning district.
- How do I develop or subdivide my property? What is the review process for my development project?
There are three types of subdivisions. Each type of review requires a completed application, a site survey by a registered land surveyor, application fee, and completed checklist.
- An Administrative Subdivision either moves lot lines and/or merges more than one lot without creating additional lots. This process is done without going to the Planning Board. Minor and Major land development projects or subdivisions must be approved by the Planning Board.
- A Minor Subdivision is the division of a lot or adjacent lots that result in no more than five lots and no creation or extension of public streets and requires no waivers or variances (relief from zoning standards). The Planning Board must approve this application. Minor subdivision applications are frequently subject to just one Planning Board meeting. Final Plan is approved administratively.
- A Major Subdivision results in more than 5 lots and/or the creation of a new public street. All subdivisions require application to the Planning Department, and the review process is dependent on the type of subdivision requested. The Planning Board must approve a Master Plan and then a more detailed Preliminary Plan. Final Plan is approved administratively. The Planning Board meets the last Wednesday of the month (except December). Applications are due by the first of each month.
See the Land Development and Subdivision Regulations for more information.
- When does the Planning Board meet?
The Planning Board has regularly scheduled meetings on the last Thursday of every month (except December). Applications are due six weeks before the meeting and must be certified complete. Meetings are open to the public
- How do I know if I live in a Historic District?
Cumberland has ten local historic districts comprised of more than 200 properties. Historic Districts include: Arnold Mills, Ashton Village, Town Hall, Lonsdale Village, Tower Hill Road, Old West Wrentham Road, Upper Scott Road, Diamond Hill Road, and the Lewis Tower House. To see if your property is within a local historic district, get on Map Geo, and click on Themes and then Zoning, lots within a local historic district will be covered with a pattern of red lines.
- I live in a Historic District. What approvals I must apply for if I want to change the exterior of my house?
Within a Historic District, for any demolition, new construction or exterior alterations one must apply for a “certificate of appropriateness” from the Historic District Commission (HDC). They usually meet the second Tuesday of every month. The Cumberland historic district Property Owner’s Guide provides guidance for improving your property in a way that is consistent with historic preservation best practices. See the Historic District Commission page for to the Guidelines.