Planning Department

Town Hall, 6 Main Street

Pelham, New Hampshire 03076


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 For Potential Land and Home Buyers in Pelham


This FAQ is intended to assist a person conducting due diligence prior to purchasing land, or purchasing a new or existing home.  This is a list of the most frequent topics addressed when considering a real estate transaction.  This FAQ is provided as a courtesy by the Pelham Planning Department with respect to our area of jurisdiction, and should not be construed as a complete list specific to your situation.  Let the buyer beware! …and well informed!                                                             

                                                                                                                                                .- Pelham Planning Department


Private Water System (Wells)

Virtually all of Pelham is serviced by private water systems, or individual wells located on each parcel.  It is YOUR responsibility to understand the quality and quantity of the water, and YOUR responsibility to determine if any action will be taken if problems do exist.  For existing homes, it cannot be stressed enough that a potential home owner should (1) have the water tested by the buyer or designated buyer agent, (2) draw the sample from a source before filtration systems, and (3) develop a contingency plan in the event of problems prior to closing.  One must consider the following questions:  Is the water quality acceptable?  Is the flow rate going to meet your needs for showers, dishwashers and lawn sprinklers?  If necessary, what remediation can be done prior to closing? If a significant water problem is uncovered from the testing, what action will you take?  For new homes, Pelham does require a mandatory well test prior to issuing a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  While this water test is mandatory, the results are only advisory.  It is YOUR responsibility to understand the results of the test, and to determine what action you will take if the results are unsatisfactory.  More information about well water quality and testing programs can be obtained on the NH Department Of Environmental Services (DES) website or at the Pelham Planning Department.  It should be noted that most tests take 2-4 weeks to obtain the test results, so plan accordingly.  The best time to take the sample and have it tested is when you sign the Purchase and Sales agreement.  This usually leaves ample time to obtain the test results, interpret them, and take action PRIOR to closing.


Pelham’s Well Ordinance

The Pelham Board of Health has implemented at a mandatory well testing ordinance for new homes.  While the test is mandatory, the results are only advisory.  It is YOUR responsibility to understand the results of the test, and to determine what action you will take if the results are unsatisfactory.  A copy of this ordinance can be obtained from the Board of Selectman Office or at the Planning Department.  In summary, the well water is sampled, tested, and the results provided when the Certificate of Occupancy is picked up from the Planning Department.  Make every effort to work with your builder to obtain the well test results PRIOR to closing, and if necessary, implement your remediation plans with the builder PRIOR to closing.  It should be noted that NO mandatory testing is required for existing home sales, therefore Let the Buyer Beware!


 Private Waste Disposal (Septic) System

Virtually all of Pelham is serviced by private septic systems, or in some cases, a community septic system.   Know and understand where your septic components are with respect to lot location including the (1) septic tank, (2) leaching field, and (3) distribution box and piping.  The leaching field is a non-buildable area for pools, additions, or other major structures.  No septic component may be located within the property setbacks nor 75 foot protective well radius.  Each lot is required to have a backup area designated in the event of septic failure – know and understand where this area is on your lot.



Know and understand the types of property easements frequently found within Pelham that may be imposed on your property.  An easement designates the area as non-buildable and may impose additional restrictions on what you can and cannot do within the easement area.  This may effect your future plans for additions, pools, or other major structures.  Easements are legally binding and are recorded with the Registry of Deeds.  The Town or another holder of interest, such as a utility company, may have access and maintenance rights to your property.   Typical easements in Pelham include:

·         Conservation Easements – to protect sensitive environmental areas

·         Town Future Road Easements – typically a 50 foot easement to extend roads into undeveloped areas

·         Drainage Easements – designated areas that provide drainage for a subdivision

·         Power Line Easement – typically a 300 foot major power line easement

·         Gas Line Easement – typically a 50 foot easement for the gas line

·         Steep Slope Easement – typically found in the Town road right of way, designated on a lot by lot basis

·         Utility Easement – typically found for public water lines, fire hydrants, or other public utilities


Undeveloped Land Adjacent to Your Property

A very common tale told to potential land/home buyers is that an undeveloped adjacent parcel can never be developed because of <insert reason here>.   With increasing pressure on Southern New Hampshire for new homes, it is HIGHLY unlikely that any parcel would ever be left undeveloped forever.  Pelham has taken the long term proactive planning approach to protecting certain areas from development by designating them as Prime Wetlands.  As such, they are protected by State Law.  In recent years, long time farms, apple orchards, Town Forest areas, and areas considered ‘difficult to build’ have all been built upon.  While one owner may choose to not to develop, their heirs or next owners generally do. 


Finding Out Who Owns Adjacent Properties

To find out who owns adjacent properties, contact the Town Tax Accessor at 603-635-3317… and/or the Planning Department at 603-635-7811.  Visit the Planning Department at Town during normal business hours and obtain a copy  (for under $2.00) of the subdivision plan for your property.  The copy of the plan contains detailed information about your property including lot lines, house location, driveway, well location, septic tank location, septic field location, notes any designated easements, and identifies the adjacent lot parcel numbers.  Using the adjacent lot parcel numbers, the Tax Accessor can provide you with a list of current abutting land owners.


Cul-De-Sac and Future Road Continuations

It should be noted that many cul-de-sacs in Pelham are considered temporary in nature and that at some point in the future, the road may be extended into an undeveloped parcel.  What once was a closed ended cul-de-sac, may in the future be a normal roadway with multiple entry/exit ways.  It is recommended that you find out if your cul-de-sac is ‘temporary’ or ‘permanent’ in nature, as it may affect certain lifestyle preferences.  Permanent cul-de-sacs are generally land locked or terminated because of natural topology of the land.  Temporary cul-de-sacs are ones that may contain a 50 foot future road easement leading into an undeveloped parcel.   What lifestyle impact would you experience if a temporary cul-de-sac were extended into an undeveloped parcel?  Lifestyle considerations may include an increase in traffic, children usage of the street for riding bikes, a possible road name change and/or property renumbering and establishing a new shortcut for commuters.


Green Space Buffers and Clearing of Lots

It should be noted that often the only green space buffer between you and adjacent parcels is the green space buffer that you own.  Many lot owners choose to clear cut lots, remove all pine trees, or make changes to their property within your ‘scenic view’, all which is within their rights as a property owner.    


What resources do I have to become more informed on the town?

There is a wealth of information available on the Internet via the WWW.  Start with the Pelham Home Page at and/or at the Planning Department Home page at and review the content there.  Free Internet access is available at the Pelham Public Library.