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Thread: Do platted undeveloped subdivisions expire?

  1. #1
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    Do platted undeveloped subdivisions expire?

    Most of my work is on the environmental/conservation side of the planning world. Can anyone tell me if approved, platted, undeveloped subdivisions expire? I'm curious how communities deal with approved, platted subdivisions that are 10, 20, 30 or more years old but have not yet been developed. Do communities place a time limit on how long the approval is valid?

    If there is not a deadline by which development must occur, how does a community plan for the future given the possibility that these platted undeveloped subdivisions, approved so many years ago may one day unexpectedly rear their head, so to speak?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    The answer probably varies by state. In Florida, once they are platted they are in place without time limits (unless the developer chooses to vacate the plat). While a government could theoretically put a development deadline on them, it's doubtful they'd be successful in court (Bert Harris claim). We have more of a problem with unrecorded subdivisions, and haven't been able to successfully expire those either. Now we're a bit more sophisticated and require bonds so that at least we get the infrastructure in place (although the lots may not be occupied).

    As far as how to handle these old, undeveloped subdivisions, you've found one of the problems with concurrency in Florida. These ghost trips are a constant problem for transportation, as well as for other concurrency analyses as they can really skew the numbers.

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    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    I remember Marion County, FL having a huge number of unbuilt subdivisions, most far away from any roads or other infrastructure, and many having been platted in the 1970's or before.

    There was an unbuilt subdivision in Springfield, MA that was platted about 100 years ago. Some lots sold to individuals, others were owned in large groups, and paper streets connect them all. A few years ago someone decided to start buying and developing the lots. The neighbors objected because they had been living in a pleasant forested area and didn't want that all to change. However, every strategy they tried to stop the development failed, because the land was legally subdivided.

    Neighbors finally stopped the builder from developing the lots by convincing a large neighboring institutional landowner not to allow the necessary sewer lines to cross their property, and then the economy tanked. So for now, the lots remain unbuilt. But when circumstances change, I'm sure someone will make it work.

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    Cyburbian
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    I think, though, if nothing at all is built - no infrastructure that is - the expiration of any given concurrency certificate, capacity availability statement or similarly named grant of traffic concurrency removes the development rights (concurrency) associated with the project. Also, I'm pretty sure every jurisdiction sets a time limit on construction plan validity, so when the plans expire, often so does concurrency ...

  5. #5
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gatrgal93 View post
    I think, though, if nothing at all is built - no infrastructure that is - the expiration of any given concurrency certificate, capacity availability statement or similarly named grant of traffic concurrency removes the development rights (concurrency) associated with the project. Also, I'm pretty sure every jurisdiction sets a time limit on construction plan validity, so when the plans expire, often so does concurrency ...
    I guess the question might hinge on whether or not any of the platted lots were sold. In all of the examples I can think of, at least some of the lots were sold to buyers, even though nothing was built in the subdivision (not even streets). Once there are property rights involved, I think everyone is stuck with the subdivision as platted.

    However, if a developer platted a subdivision but never sold any of the lots, it may be easier to control the development of the platted area. However, this probably doesn't matter, as the plat was still likely approved and filed, meaning that legally the land is now multiple lots no matter who owns them.

    Of course, if a plat is never finalized, or the final plat is not filed or otherwise made official, most land use regulations will have some sort of expiration date (maybe a year or two). But, it sounds like this isn't the case in this instance.

    There was a thread on vacating plats, which is probably what the OP really wants to happen. However, I assume that the property owner has to initiate this process:

    Vacation of part of plat

    EDIT: And as for my initial reason for quoting Gatrgal93, once the lots are in existence wouldn't they have a vested right under transportation concurrency to build a single-family home? In the counties I worked in in FL, no-one could stop you from building a single unit on your lot even if the street it was on had a failing LOS (as long as you paid your imapct fees, of course).
    Last edited by JimPlans; 14 Jan 2010 at 3:40 PM.

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I agree with JimPlans on this issue. KS statutes allow a city to void plats after five years. But if a lot or two are in separate ownship, it gets real sticky if not impossible. I have wondered if one could void a portion of a plat, say a third is developed, with two thirds totally unimproved. My last gig had an area ripe for dense residential, unimproved for over a decade; but the home owners ass. rules for the entire subdivision says no.

    I do not think a plat can just "expire". Being a recorded document, some action should be taken to get it off the books.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    In Wisconsin, if it is approved and not recorded, it will typically expire (local home rule jurisdictions can set the terms). If it is approved and is recorded, it can only be taken off the books by (1) replatting, or (B) motion in circuit court to vacate.

    In 20 years, I have seen 1 case of each.

  8. #8
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Where I am (northwest suburbs of Chicago), a plat of subdivision is valid unless there was some conditions regarding invalidation in the ordinance approving the subdivision regarding construction within a certain period of time.

    We were a suburb that had alot of undeveloped or underdeveloped subdivision from the Great Depression and it was apparently an issue in the 1950s to pay for the construction of infrastructure 20 years after the fact.

    We do still have one subdivision that is not completely developed (as in some undeveloped public ROW segments) but engineering has requirements for completion of the adjacent ROW if you want to build on the adjacent platted lot.

    But we are essentially built out with no room to annex, so we don't really have this issue anymore.

    On a related note: we don't allow just any platted lot to be buildability under the regs of the zoning code - in our typical SF district we have an absolute minimum for a buildable lot. This has not been challenged in court (that I am aware of) in the last 50 years.

    I couldn't imagine working somewhere with the OP's kind of issues. Good luck.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  9. #9
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    In NH, we'd use the Revocation of Recorded Approval process from the statutes (see link below)

    http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/...76/676-4-a.htm
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    And as for my initial reason for quoting Gatrgal93, once the lots are in existence wouldn't they have a vested right under transportation concurrency to build a single-family home? In the counties I worked in in FL, no-one could stop you from building a single unit on your lot even if the street it was on had a failing LOS (as long as you paid your imapct fees, of course).
    I think as soon as an individual property owner becomes involved - i.e. someone buys a lot in the subdivision - you do have the situation where that owner has the right to build his/her SFR on the lot regardless of concurrency.

    I think what I was referring to are situations where absolutely nothing in the subdivision has been built - no roads, no w/s lines, no SWMF, etc. There wouldn't be a legal access point until you had a final plat. The preliminary wouldn't be recorded, I don't think. So really I can't imagine a buyer would ever end up in a situation where they are buying a lot at all, until the final plat is recorded.

    I think I was also thinking that final platting doesn't really happen until the infrastructure is built ... or maybe I'm wrong about that.

    Anyway, sorry ... I hope I didn't create confusion.

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