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Thread: Parcel gaps w/ no zoning designation

  1. #1
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Parcel gaps w/ no zoning designation

    I've never run into this problem anywhere else I've worked, but where I work now there seems to be an awful lot of gaps between parcels. These are areas that never got legally described as anyone's property. They technically have no owner and no attribute data. On our zoning map they just end up shown as being zoned whatever the surrounding area is zoned. But now I'm running into a problem. To make a long story short, all the "gaps" in the county ended up being shown as excluded areas on our agricultural preservation plan (a state mandated plan, that awards farmland owners tax credits). But most of them are shown as Exclusive Agriculture on the zoning maps. This inconsistency could screw up the certifiability of the zoning maps, according to the state.

    So, my question is... Has anyone ever seen a zoning map that had a seperate designation, such as "undefined" or "none" on a zoning map? I think that would be the only way to fix this problem, but I've never heard of anyone doing that before.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Uggghhh....

    Sounds like your first problem is to determine how those gaps got on the map?
    Was it a case of survey's not closing boundary limits correctly? or maybe just digitizing errors? Scanning errors? Since zoning district boundaries tend to follow property line boundaries, that is where the problem most likely needs to be corrected. Does your zoning map get updated using survey data and legal descriptions? or some other way?? How are your zoning maps created? GIS? AUTOCad? Manual reproductions ....if this is it...I feel your pain....

    Most codes that I've worked with have a provision that zoning districts extend to the midpoint of right-of-ways or other gaps that may appear on a map when a disputed area is identified. There may be case law on this topic depending on your state.

    The best way to determine if a gap area is zoned a certain way, is to go back to the adjacent rezoning approvals and determine the 1. intent and 2. effect of the legal description or ordinance adoption document.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I used to work with an ordinance that referenced "exclusions to real property and gaps in ownership", but I cant find a copy of it. In short, the area was a no-build void until such time as title work and courts established ownership.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    How big of gaps are we talking here? Are they buildable areas? Is someone paying taxes on them?
    (thinking of picking up some real estate in southern Wisconsin )

  5. #5
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    They are usually just 5 to 10 feet wide. Not buildable, and no one is paying taxes on them, cause no one technically owns them (although someone maintains them and probably assumes they own them). Makes me wonder how much tax revenue it would add up to if they were all surveyed as someone's property, properly.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I worked in a jurisdiction where we would sometimes run into these issues. It was generally not a problem since 1) we had no GIS and there was no accurate mapping which might even show these areas. They were often never discovered until a property would be surveyed. 2) zoning districts were not created by assembling parcels, but by creating an overlay.

    So if these properties exist and they are not owned by private individuals, who does own them. Is it the city? the state? Are they owned by the original subdivder? It would be interesting to try to clear up the mess.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    We have a couple of ways we can address that: one is that if it appears that a zoning line is supposed to follow a parcel line, creek, road centerline, etc., then it is assumed that it does.

    Also, we have this for split parcels: "Where a Zoning District boundary line divides a lot, the location of the line shall be the scaled distance from the lot lines. In this situation, the requirements of the Zoning District in which the greater portion of the lot lies shall apply to the balance of the lot except that such extension shall not include any part of the lot that lies more than 50 feet beyond the Zoning District boundary line."

    Basically, if the majority of a lot is zoned a particular way, it gives us a 50 foot "interpretation zone" to move things around a bit.

    So between the two, we could probably handle most of those situations.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I used to work at a place that had just never gotten around to zoning large areas of the County. Because zoning was state mandated they just adopted a zoning designation of "unclassified" and perty much just put a bunch of allowed use types in there.

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