The Subdivision Process in Property Development

As the city grows, subdivisions can spread in every direction, providing residential living areas within a short distance from the downtown without being directly in it. The subdivision process in property development begins with the developer applying for a zoning permit in the area. City approval is based on whether or not the particular land can be developed and how it may be zoned.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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The definition of subdivision is a division of land with smaller parcels. Its purpose is to split a large tract of land into smaller ones that are easier to develop and can be developed independently of one another to increase growth and maximize the use of space. This is common for residential plots, especially in cities with limited housing. This tool speeds up the zoning process and selling off of the land, resulting in a fully completed area, though one that is divided into various smaller areas.

A single piece of land could be purchased by a developer and split into 20 or more plots depending on the original size. Public streets would then be built throughout the subdivision to accommodate new property owners.

How is a subdivision created?

Creating a subdivision usually begins with the developer applying for a zoning permit in the area. City approval and issuance of a permit is based on whether or not the particular land can be developed and how it may be zoned. Zoning is either for single or multi-family residences, depending on the needs of the area and the request of the developer. Once the permit is obtained, the area will be built up, often at a rapid speed. Subdivision of land typically surrounds a city center most often zoned for business and commercial use. As cities grow, subdivisions can spread in every direction, providing residential living areas that are within a short distance from the downtown without being directly in it. Many rural areas quickly get swallowed up into subdivision developments as the city expands, and the local authority often attempts to keep this type of growth from changing the local area in ways they don’t like. However, in most cases the development of a subdivision for purposes of cheap, fast housing occurs at a rapid pace. Thus, subdivision growth is often considered an unfortunate side effect of the growth of communities.

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What Are the Most Important Considerations in Subdivision Development?

Whether you’re buying or developing subdivision land, things like average plot size and building permits may be the first thing to come to mind. Depending on the area and selling price, you might also see issues surrounding a private road or other privacy issues.

Governmental entities may also have a lot to say about how you do business. While builders expand housing, they don’t always account for things like the school district. Is the current school system built to accommodate significant population growth, or would the current borders need to be reassigned and new schools built? Are there proper storm drains in the neighborhoods? While this may seem small, it could have serious impacts if not done properly in some areas. Governmental functions often take longer than residents would like to play out. It’s up to the developers and eventually the residents to deal with these factors.

A private planning commission may be formed to work in tandem with a regional planning commission. They plan things like the business district and residential zones. Even in a small subdivision, there are many moving parts that all have to come together.

If you own parcels of land and wish to sell it more easily, you may be interested in the process of subdividing that land. If such is the case, it is advisable to consult an attorney to help you obtain the proper permissions from your municipality and zoning board to subdivide and sell the land.

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