How To Subdivide Land

By: Paul Sunndin

Land subdivision is a very time consuming and challenging process. Regulations can vary by government jurisdiction and the process can take months (or even years) to complete.

I would define land subdivision as "any parcel of land that is divided into parcels or lots that exceed a pre-described amount." However, this definition is often insufficient. There are many locational variations between cities, counties and states in the requirements for land subdivision that must be considered. Accordingly, knowledge of local practices and relevant governmental requirements are essential to the correct understanding of land subdivision.

The following discussion of the land subdivision process is meant only as a guide. Not only are there variations in rules and regulations depending on the government jurisdiction, there are often many exceptions that can be very complicated, so make sure that you verify the requirements with your state and local governments.

Preparation

Careful consideration is required during the preparation process. The developer prepares a plat map and any other documentation that may be required by the various governmental agencies involved. These requirements are often included in an application for a subdivision public report.

These documents are then submitted to a variety of agencies for their approval. Often these governmental agencies establish specific requirements for the entire subdivision, and may also specify certain requirements for all (or any given number) of the individual lots within a subdivision.

Depending on the project and the legal and regulatory environment surrounding the land subdivision, a developer will need approval from many different government departments and agencies.

In addition, there are a substantial number of independent professionals that must be involved in the land subdivision process. Because of the time constraints and costs involved, the developer needs to carefully monitor the project and hire the required professionals.

Approval Process

Upon agency and department approval, the plat map is usually recorded with the County Recorder. The Tax Assessor is then provided with the necessary legal authority to demand maps, drawings and workpapers pertinent to the property.

When sufficient information is submitted, the Assessor prepares a map to accurately reflect the new land subdivision, assigns each parcel a parcel number, and establishes a county subdivision file.

Often the State Department of Real Estate reviews the submitted data and performs an inspection of the land subdivision. If the application submitted is complete and acceptable, a public report on the subdivision will be issued and the developer may proceed with any sales activities associated with the subdivided parcels.

Summary

The land subdivision process can be very complex and time consuming. It is often very risky and usually requires a significant financial investment. The process can be as short as several months but can be as lengthy as several years in some of the difficult regulatory markets.

I would recommend educating yourself on the process as early as possible. In addition, always plan for surprises as they are almost sure to take place.

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