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How to Subdivide or Consolidate Land – What You Need to Know

Want to subdivide or consolidate land?

Subdividing land is the process of dividing a single property into two or more lots.

Subdivisions typically occur when a developer plans to build multiple homes on a large tract. They are also common when an individual property owner looks to sell excess land for a profit.

While subdividing off a section of your property may seem simple, it’s not always that clear and does take some time. A subdivision requires a thorough process to evaluate the land and municipal requirements, and legally identify the properties as separate assets.

As you would imagine, consolidating lots also requires you to follow a similar process.

If you’re considering a subdivision or consolidation, here’s what you can expect:

What is the subdivision and consolidation process in PA?

  • First, you want to get a copy of the title report for each property. The last thing you want is to meet all the subdivision/lot consolidation requirements, only to find out later there is an easement or restriction that renders the subdivided or consolidated property unbuildable or undevelopable. This step alone can save money and avoid wasted time.
  • Next, a conversation should occur between the landowner and the surveyor as well as a land planning professional who is familiar with local municipal ordinances.

While it is common for land surveyors to complete subdivisions, Nave Newell’s subdivision process has a distinct advantage. Our land planners, who have an intimate understanding of local municipal zoning and land development ordinances, lead the process. They work closely with our surveyors and civil engineering department – to bring clients a thorough and expert analysis of their property and options.

  • Initially, planners and surveyors rely on published materials – resource mapping, ordinances, and the title report. They use those to identify existing conditions and regulations that may affect the property and plans to subdivide/consolidate.
  • A planner who thoroughly understands the municipal zoning/subdivision ordinances and how it affects the property will then vet the plan to determine its feasibility. At this point, they’re still working at a high level (not spending a lot of money); they develop a feasibility sketch, to determine if the property owner can achieve their program goals as originally envisioned. This is where they identify if the goals and programming need to be changed or if special use approvals or relief is required.
  • Depending on the complexity or number of issues, this is where they determine if the program in our opinion is viable and if the property owner wants to move forward.
  • Assuming yes, they go to the next level with a land survey and an existing features plan prepared by a Professional Land Surveyor.
  • If the property owner decides to move forward after obtaining the survey, a Subdivision Sketch plan is then prepared. This is then followed by a formal Subdivision or Consolidation Plan and Application to the Municipality.

What may prohibit you from subdividing or consolidating your land?

Of course, before you get too far into the process, you want to know what issues may ultimately prohibit your plan.

Depending on what you want to do with the property, roadblocks may include:

  • Zoning restrictions include minimum lot size, green space, and street frontage requirements
  • Easements/covenants that restrict future development
  • Parking and circulation restrictions
  • Public or on-lot services for water and sewer limitations
  • Unique land development requirements
  • Unique environmental/site features such as wetlands, riparian buffers, steep slopes, woodlands

A qualified land planning professional can identify or determine if these limitations exist and if there is relief or the ability to work around them based on the proposed programming.

How long does it take to subdivide or consolidate land?

The PA Municipal Planning Code allows for a 90-day review if for each preliminary and final (if required) plan submission. Our hope is always to beat the 90 days, but this is what’s afforded to the municipality. If preliminary and final plan submissions can be combined that will reduce the timeline.

It’s important to note, that there are situations when it may take longer. Depending on the site and municipality, you may need time for sewer planning and site testing.

In general, you’re most likely looking at a 6-month timeline. However, there may be opportunities to expedite with the right expertise. A simple subdivision/consolidation may just be a lot line change with no zoning issues, and can occur much quicker. If zoning is required, you can count on adding another 90-120 days to the process.

Want to know more about how to subdivide or consolidate your property? Let’s start a conversation.

Contact us our land planners and surveyors.

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