Combining subdivided lots
by L Davis
Visitor Question: I am considering purchasing a 16 acre piece of property. It has already been divided into smaller lots. Can some of the lots be put back together to create larger lots? Can all the lots be restored to the original 16? Thank you.
Editors Reply The answer all depends on the subdivision regulations that your local jurisdiction has enacted. So you will need to inquire at the city hall, town hall, or county court house where this land is located.
Sometimes subdivision regulations allow for combining or merger of legally subdivided lots when both lots are owned by the same individual.
More commonly though, some kind of administrative permission is required. This may amount to pleading your case to a building commissioner, planning director, public works director, or staff member, who might have the power to approve or deny what you want to do.
Most common of all, combining or merging lots is allowed only by going through the same procedure as the city, town, or village requires for approving a subdivision in the first place.
At a minimum, this would mean obtaining approval through a planning commission, but often it requires both a planning commission recommendation and a city council approval. A public hearing may or may not be required.
The most enlightened places realize that state law is usually interpreted by courts to mean that subdivisions must be approved if the requirements of the regulation are met.
In our experience there aren't many good reasons for denying a lot combination or merger, as long as it isn't haphazard. In your example, if you wanted to combine two adjacent lots, then skip over one existing lot and then combine the next three, that would be what we would call haphazard.
Also beware of any reasons that your local jurisdiction would want the maximum density or intensity of land use. For instance, they could have a comprehensive plan policy of wanting to promote higher density (more dwellings or people per acre) in some locations.
If you were trying to make the 16 lots into one big lot so you could build yourself a house in the middle, but your location wants to see higher density, that could be a reason that they would deny your request.
Since all of our answers are by necessity hypothetical, it's time to head over to your village hall/city hall to see what the local laws really say.
Good luck to you.
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