The Law of Merger
November 10, 2014 - Front Section
In New York, many municipalities have adopted zoning provisions which provide that adjacent nonconforming lots held in common ownership must be treated as a single lot for zoning purposes. When buying in these jurisdictions, a title search should be conducted to investigate the ownership, past and present, of adjacent parcels, to ensure that no merger has occurred.
It is crucial that title to adjacent lots be held in different names at all times to prevent a merger from occurring. Even if the lots are currently conforming, if the regulations are changed and the lots are rendered substandard in any way, those lots will be deemed merged. If, however, a code change renders two adjoining, but separately-owned, lots undersized, the two properties will not be affected. Each lot will continue to be lawful, non-conforming lots.
It is essential that experienced zoning counsel be consulted on the purchase of vacant or adjacent lots to ensure that an unwanted merger has not already occurred and will not be likely to occur.
Kathleen Deegan Dickson, Esq. is a partner at Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana, LLP, Uniondale, N.Y.