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Thread: What is the purpose Preliminary Plat approval by PC?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    What is the purpose Preliminary Plat approval by PC?

    So... my new county is a little crazy about making procedures as overly complicated as possible. And the county I left tried to make every process as simple as possible. For example, we didn't require PC to review site plans... this county requires site plans to be done for SUPs/Rezonings and then requires applicants to bring back site plans once the approval for that has gone through for the final site plan to be approved by the PC. If there's no rezoning, the PC still has to approve site plans.

    What I'm more confused about is the process of reviewing/approving plats. For subdivisions that require PC approval, there is a process listed both for preliminary subdivision approval (with a determination by the PC required within 60 days) and for a final subdivision approval (also with a determination by the PC required within 60 days). Here's my question: what does approval of a preliminary subdivision actually accomplish if the applicants still have to turn around and submit a final plat that has to be approved by the PC?

    I'm used to doing one review of plats, and that's it. I don't have an issue doing a preliminary review, but I'm not sure what purpose that actually serves in addition to the review of the final plat...

  2. #2
    Cyburbian AG74683's avatar
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    For us, the preliminary plat is really the main approval. The final plat approval (also done by the Planning Board) is only to close out the subdivision when all utilities have been installed. Basically we won't approve a final plat for conveyance until all utilities are in the ground.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I've always looked at it in terms of phasing and subdivision size. When you have just a few lots combined the two and get it over with, but it better be fully designed. When you have a section of ground being developed with 2,000 houses you do a preliminary plat that lays out the road pattern, easements, and all the basic design stuff. You abuse the hell out of the developer at this stage to get what you want - connectivity, school lots, parks, etc.
    The final plat comes in stages. They might build just 100 acres at a time or something. We would check to make sure the development met the basic safety requirements and engineering checked on the actual design of roads and utilities - not just a preliminary design. Our safety check was things like - you need to build that second entrance right away, we want the park built at phase 2, etc. That way if the development died in the middle it's still a mostly feasible community.

    County wise, I wish I could just combine everything as one shot since I'm handling maybe 60 lots with no requirement for parks and things. It depends on what your local laws allow.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Hmmm... I don't think either of these cases apply here. They really don't have huge subdivisions, and the requirements of utilities in the ground are not a factor. They'll have to post bonds for roads and stormwater/E&S (or develop them fully), but that's all overseen by the various approval agents.

    I'll have to think about this a little more. There are a lot of issues where the procedures are overly complicated here. I just need to figure out what, if any, purpose they serve and try to work with the PC and Board to simplify them where possible.

  5. #5
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AG74683 View post
    For us, the preliminary plat is really the main approval. The final plat approval (also done by the Planning Board) is only to close out the subdivision when all utilities have been installed. Basically we won't approve a final plat for conveyance until all utilities are in the ground.
    That is how we are, though we allow for posting fiscal surety to accelerate the final plat.

    I like preliminary plans because they give everyone assurance that the fundamental layouts & utility designs work. It is a check before the real money sinks into a project.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

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  6. #6
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    If your plats are anything like mine then there isn't a need for final plats except like SR said, to get approvals before sinking in more money. We don't do utilities around here. Local electric just uses whatever easement they're given and the same for local water district. There is no sewer or cable, but there's an easement ready to share (I make them add an 8' easement to the front of each property). Subdivision roads are built to a county standard by the developer and then maintained by the HOA. We don't do county road improvements often so you better build along a paved road. We don't even bother with bonding most times. We just force the developer to build everything before we issue the first permit. If it wasn't for state and local regulations that say I must do a pre and final plat for anything over a couple lots I'd skip it if I could, provided the developer was okay with skipping it.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  7. #7
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    Preliminary Plat is a sort of trial balloon where the developer gets, for relatively low cost, the opportunity to ask the Planning Commission if a proposed subdivision can get approval. Here, it is also the Public Hearing that is properly noticed and advocates and opponents have the opportunity to be heard. Opponents have 30 days to appeal an approval if one is granted.

    If the Preliminary Plat is approved, the developer has 18 months to get Secondary Plat approval, which requires the full civil engineering plans, bonds or letters of credit, utility agreements, etc. Secondary review is not a public hearing, so the public can watch, but not participate.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Preliminary Plat is a sort of trial balloon where the developer gets, for relatively low cost, the opportunity to ask the Planning Commission if a proposed subdivision can get approval. Here, it is also the Public Hearing that is properly noticed and advocates and opponents have the opportunity to be heard. Opponents have 30 days to appeal an approval if one is granted.

    If the Preliminary Plat is approved, the developer has 18 months to get Secondary Plat approval, which requires the full civil engineering plans, bonds or letters of credit, utility agreements, etc. Secondary review is not a public hearing, so the public can watch, but not participate.
    Interesting. Plats regardless are not public hearings here. And basically, the Planning Commission doesn't have a lot of say in what the subdivision can look like. If it meets the technical requirements, they have to approve it. I do need to read the state laws again, but I think they just allow it and don't require it.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AG74683 View post
    For us, the preliminary plat is really the main approval. The final plat approval (also done by the Planning Board) is only to close out the subdivision when all utilities have been installed. Basically we won't approve a final plat for conveyance until all utilities are in the ground.
    That is similar to the process here with the California Subdivision Map Act. The Tentative Map, or preliminary plat, is the discretionary project. It is when the environmental review is required, when the public hearing process is completed, and when Staff and the Commission review the layout for conformance with code and to determine if it meets 'good planning practices." The Final Map is more or less related to the technical side; does the descriptions work, are there sureties, bonds, or infrastructure in place, etc, for recordation. It does involve a public hearing as well, but is more or less a formality to have the map actually be recorded.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

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    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gtpeach View post
    Interesting. Plats regardless are not public hearings here. And basically, the Planning Commission doesn't have a lot of say in what the subdivision can look like. If it meets the technical requirements, they have to approve it. I do need to read the state laws again, but I think they just allow it and don't require it.
    Here, if a Planning Commission denies a Preliminary Plat, the PC is required to address in detail where the Plat fails to meet the Subdivision Control Ordinance. Like, "lot 3 does not have the required 50' frontage; lots 4, 6, and 8 do not have the required 100' lot depth; and, 6'-0" sidewalks are required throughout but plans only call for a 4' -0" sidewalk on X street".
    Not valid without corporate seal

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Here, if a Planning Commission denies a Preliminary Plat, the PC is required to address in detail where the Plat fails to meet the Subdivision Control Ordinance. Like, "lot 3 does not have the required 50' frontage; lots 4, 6, and 8 do not have the required 100' lot depth; and, 6'-0" sidewalks are required throughout but plans only call for a 4' -0" sidewalk on X street".
    That's basically the case here, but I just don't know if the Planning Commission knows that or not. But it sounds like maybe what I need to do is create a reference sheet for them so when they review plats, they have the information they need right in front of them.

  12. #12
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    gtpeach, does your planning commission actually review each plat to make sure it meets requirements? Our process is similar to some of those above, in that the main layout, etc., is established through the preliminary plat (although detailed engineering is done for final plat) and then we file the final plat after the improvements are installed. We (the staff) have a checklist we use for reviewing plats, when we take plats to the planning commission, we just let them know whether the plat does or does not meet requirements. Would it be possible to give your planning commission a list of the requirements that should be met generally without getting into a fine level of detail? In other words, could you say in your staff briefing "we check for correct lot size and dimensions, easements in the locations and the right size, roadway of such-and-such"? Or do they actually need a detailed checklist in your case?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by rae.rae View post
    gtpeach, does your planning commission actually review each plat to make sure it meets requirements? Our process is similar to some of those above, in that the main layout, etc., is established through the preliminary plat (although detailed engineering is done for final plat) and then we file the final plat after the improvements are installed. We (the staff) have a checklist we use for reviewing plats, when we take plats to the planning commission, we just let them know whether the plat does or does not meet requirements. Would it be possible to give your planning commission a list of the requirements that should be met generally without getting into a fine level of detail? In other words, could you say in your staff briefing "we check for correct lot size and dimensions, easements in the locations and the right size, roadway of such-and-such"? Or do they actually need a detailed checklist in your case?
    I don't know. I haven't met with them yet, but I've been given information that at least some of them tend to get into an inappropriate level of detail (as in, trying to require things that aren't in the code). This is further confused by a section in our code that states that if a proposed subdivision would constitute a nuisance, danger to public health, safety, or general welfare, approval can be denied. So... technically, they could deny a plat that meets all of the technical requirements if they can justify it with one of those reasons.

    Regardless, I am going to put together some sort of reference sheet/checklist. I am hoping that will keep them on task by allowing them to get into as much detail as they want on the issues that are covered in the ordinance.

    Also, after the final approval of the subdivision, the plat THEN has to go to the site plan review committee for additional comments. This is the most convoluted process I can think of to get these plats approved. Keep in mind, this is for any subdivision more than 11 lots. Anything less than 11, I can approve administratively.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Most every place has a plat check-off sheet. (At one gig it was 27 pages long.) Ask you counterparts in your state. Also double check the code requirements with the state statutes to see if there are any "issues".

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