Building a House in Truro

A practical guide for anyone wishing to build a new single-family residence.

  1. Either you already own some land or you are in the midst of buying some.
  2. Determine the full size, shape and extent of the building (including decks and any overhangs or cantilevered parts) so its full “foot-print” can be properly located and drawn onto a plot plan.
  3. Now find a well-driller and a septic engineer and meet with them on-site to establish locations for the house and also the well and septic system.  Your well must be 100’ away from your septic or any abutter’s septic system, and your septic system must be 100’ away from your well and any abutter’s well.
  4. The septic engineer will now draw all this information onto a septic system plan and conduct a “percolation-test” to determine the porosity of the soil at the proposed location of the septic system.
  5. Check to see if your project needs MESA review by seeing if your property falls in their jurisdiction.  To do that, go to the following website here. If you have any questions, please call them at 508-389-6364.
  6. Back at the site, the well-driller drills a well, pumps off enough water to obtain a clear sample, and sends a small bottle of your water to a Massachusetts DEP Certified lab for analysis.
  7. The septic installer should now bring: 1) A filled out “Application for Disposal System Construction”; 2) the water test results from your well; 3) three copies of the septic plans as drawn by your septic engineer; and 4) a complete set of house plans to the Health Agent who will review the application. If the Health Agent feels it needs Board of Health review, the engineer on record says it needs variance, or the Health Agent made a determination you/your engineer do not agree with and you would disagree with it, then it will go before the Board of Health.
  8. After your septic plans have been approved and the application signed off, (or you can submit the septic application & the building permit at the same time, but the building permit will not be fully reviewed until the septic application is officially signed off on), bring your building permit application, a complete set of house plans with smoke detector locations, and any other requirements stated on the front of the Building Permit, to the Building Department. If your project conforms to the Massachusetts Building Code, Truro’s Zoning Bylaw, State Wetland protective legislation administered by the Conservation Commission, and it does not involve former railroad property subject to approval by the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, and you have met all other various rules and regulations, you will be issued a building permit.

Stretch Code

Truro is Stretch Code Community, therefore all new builds require a HERS rater sign off.


Truro’s Zoning Bylaw regulates several aspects which affect new home construction.  

A copy of the Zoning Bylaw is available at Town Hall for $7.00 and is highly recommended as important background information.  You may also get the Zoning Bylaws on this website.

Zoning Board of Appeals

To build additions onto any non-conforming structure or to build any structure which is not in compliance with zoning regulations, you must have the review and approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The ZBA meets on the third Monday of each month.  To appear before them, you must have applied by or before their previous hearing. Generally, an applicant will be told the result of their appeal at the end of the hearing and after the secretary of the ZBA files the result with the Town Clerk.  A 20-day challenge period must elapse before the variance or Special Permit can be recorded at the Barnstable Registry of Deeds at which point a building permit can be issued.  This process can take as long as three months, so plan ahead!


Truro’s Conservation Commission administers Massachusetts regulations which protect wetlands.  If the lot you own or are considering buying includes any wet lowland, you should have a surveyor determine the edge of the wetland which in turn determines the location of the parallel 100’ “buffer-zone.” Construction and installation of septic systems within the buffer zone are permitted only at the discretion of the Conservation Commission.  Application for a hearing involves publication and site visits as well as review by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and should also be considered as a two to three month time frame, so plan ahead.


The use of former railroad land is subject to Chapter 20, § 54A of the Massachusetts General Laws which requires review and approval by the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction prior to the issuance of building permits.  If the land you own or are considering buying includes any part of the former railroad right-of-way, speak with the Building Commissioner about how to approach the E.O.T.C.  It’s a process that again takes a couple of months, so, again, plan ahead. 

Note: This is just a GUIDE, all projects are reviewed individually for compliance with all pertinent laws, rules & regulations.