The term parcel map refers to the
process of dividing property into four or fewer parcels (with
some exceptions) for purposes of "sale, lease, or finance." The
most common application is that an individual wishes to divide
their property for sale.
The parcel map process has become
complex over the years. An early evaluation by our firm is highly
recommended. A review begins by checking the City or County zoning
to make sure that a land division is theoretically possible.
In addition to the basic zoning defining the minimum parcel size
and frontage requirements, every City and County has a laundry
list of additional application requirements and land division
After reviewing zoning, we typically
make a field review of the property to look for practical or
known regulatory problems based on past experience. Many parcel
maps require that the applicant make road improvements along
the frontage of the property, or even off-site improvements.
Sometimes the cost of road improvements makes the land division
prohibitive. If the property is not located on a City or County
maintained public road, it is essential that the property also
have deeded access easements of sufficient width to fully contain
the access roadways. This means that the cut and fill slopes
must also fit in the easement.
If the land division looks feasible
after a field review, we typically begin systematically obtaining
any technical studies needed to make a formal application for
the tentative parcel map. In rural areas, septic system feasibility
testing ( percolation and soil mantle) is often the next step.
In Nevada County and in some other jurisdictions, an archaeological
inventory and biological inventory are needed prior to making
application. These studies might identify resource constraints
that have to be protected and avoided during development. Once
any resources are identified, we can usually design resulting
parcels around them.
The formal application also requires
submittal of a current preliminary title report that discloses
ownership, financing, and easements affecting the property. If
there is financing on the property, the lender(s) will probably
have to ultimately consent to the filing of the final parcel
map. All of the study information is placed on a tentative parcel
map that is submitted to the City or County for formal consideration.
The tentative map shows the manner in which we propose to divide
Typically, the City or County conducts
its own environmental review of the proposed land division and
additional studies or information might be requested. The City
or County typically provides copies of the proposal to its internal
departments, the fire agency, and State agencies like the Department
of Fish and Game and Caltrans. All parties are invited to comment,
express any concerns, and suggest approval conditions. Often,
unforseen issues arise and we will hope to respond to them in
a way that maintains the feasibility of the land division.
The City or County staff then develops
a list of mitigation measures and conditions of approval that
they suggest applying to the approval of the tentative parcel
map. Finally, a public hearing is held, after placing a legal
notice in the newspaper and mailing a notice to other property
owners within 300-500 feet of the subject property. At the public
hearing, usually conducted by the Planning Commission or Zoning
Administrator, the City or County considers the testimony and
objections of any interested persons. Sometimes, additional approval
conditions are crafted at the hearing to address public concerns.
Some applicants invest the time to talk to their neighbors before
applying for a land division. Other applicants feel that it would
only give neighbors more time to organize opposition.
In considering a parcel map application,
it is important to remember that approving the tentative map
is a discretionary action. In other words, the City or County
is not compelled by law to approve the application. However,
we find that most applications are successful, if they are well
thought out and meet all prevailing development standards.
Once the tentative parcel map is approved,
the City or County issues an approval letter stating the conditions
that must be met prior to recording of the final parcel map.
An approval is usually valid for two years, and additional extensions
of time can be pursued. Typical conditions include the requirement
for a field survey and map, setting monuments at the new lot
corners, installing water storage or hydrants for fire protection,
making road improvements, paying mitigation fees, and pre-paying
taxes. Most road or other improvements must be designed by a
civil engineer and design must be approved by the City or County,
prior to actual construction.
The conditions might require that
public water or public sewer be extended to the property if it
is available nearby. In many jurisdictions, it is not mandatory
that electrical and telephone service be extended, at the applicants
expense, to four lots or less.
Most counties require that property
taxes be paid a year or more in advance to avoid problems that
might be associated with delinquent taxes on all or a portion
of the land being subdivided. This is not technically a land
division cost, but it is a serious cash flow consideration, so
we usually place an allowance for taxes in our budgets.
Our firm will assist in satisfying
the conditions of approval and we of course, prepare the survey
and map, as well as any engineered plans. After preparing plans
and maps, we usher the plans through agency map and plan checks,
and help obtain clearances from all affected departments and
Overall, the tentative map stage of
an application takes at least three or four months, and the final
parcel map stage takes at least an additional three to four months.
If construction is required, the processing sometimes takes longer
because the work must be done during the dry time of the year.
Once all of the conditions are met
and the final parcel map is recorded, the individual parcels
may be sold separately or used for individual financing. If you
have questions about the land division process, please contact Andy
Cassano of our firm. We have years of experience with this
type of application and look forward to the possibility of assisting