Zoning: How to Divide a Lot

Q. Our house is on five acres of land. We’d like to sell some of it by dividing it into two or three lots. What are the steps I need to take to do this?

A. Ah, a short question with a really long answer. Well, let’s get started.

The first thing you need to do is find out is the zoning classification for your property. You need to determine the minimum lot size requirements and other restrictions for your property. Your city or village hall should be able to assist you in determining the zoning classification and other zoning requirements for your land.

If your property meets all the requirements under the applicable zoning code to enable you to subdivide, you then will need to find out if there are any subdivision ordinances that affect your property.

Frequently, municipalities have subdivision ordinances that guide or restrict property owners from subdividing their land.

Even if the zoning code permits smaller lots and you otherwise could subdivide your land, a subdivision ordinance may make it impossible for you to do so. The ordinance, for example, may require that smaller lots conform to certain minimum size requirements or have a particular amount of frontage onto city streets. In some cases, new streets and utilities would have to be installed prior to the sale of a lot within the new subdivision.

If you qualify to subdivide your lot under both the zoning and subdivision ordinances, there may be other hurdles to jump over before you can subdivide. Some of these requirements might involve how water flows from the property you intend to subdivide to other neighboring properties, along with storm drainage requirements.

If you pass all these tests, the next step you’d have to take, at a minimum, would be to hire a surveyor to create a subdivision plat for the lots you intend to create.

You should probably talk to your local building and zoning department and ask someone to walk you through the process. Then, call a few surveyors (your local building or zoning department may be able to tell you who’s used frequently in your area) to find out the costs.

Finally, you’ll want to talk with a local attorney who handles zoning and land use matters to help you through the process. Good luck.

Q: We live in a rural area of platted lots. The “subdivision” has some covenants attached.

Someone is placing a modular rental unit adjacent to our lot. Modular units are permitted. There is no square footage or rental restrictions, but there are covenants concerning business or commercial ventures, and rules about how lots are divided.

We feel that the value of our home will suffer with this rental nearby. The owner plans to use the modular home on his lot as a rental for his “family.” Is there anything that we can do to prevent them from setting up the modular unit? We want to protect our property’s value.

A: As an owner in a subdivision with certain covenants, you as well as your neighbor are bound by these restrictions. You should probably talk to a real estate attorney to discuss the various restrictions to determine if your neighbor’s particular use violates the covenants.

Commonly, property covenants restrict the use of each lot to one residence per lot. But other covenants permit multiple residences for each lot. If your covenants require only one residence per lot, it would appear that placing a modular home on the property might violate the covenants.

Keep in mind that if the covenants are either ambiguous or were drafted to deal with other issues not related to your issue, you’ll have to find out if your community has any other land use restrictions. Some unincorporated areas have some zoning rules that may be helpful to your situation.

Talk to you county building and zoning departments about whether there are any land use restrictions in place for your rural community.

If there are no restrictions on the land use, it may be difficult for you to stop your neighbor’s use on his property.

You might also want to consult an attorney who specializes in land use and zoning to find out if there are any other options open to you.

Published: June 4, 2004


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