Land Use - Subdivisions
Procedure for Subdividing Property in the Town of Highlands
Definition and Exemptions
According to the Town of Highlands Subdivision Ordinance and the N. C. General Statutes, a "subdivision" means any division of a tract of land into two or more lots. The following categories, however, are exempt from the Ordinance per State Statute:
- The combination or recombination of portions of previously platted lots, where the total number of lots is not increased and the resultant lots equal or exceed current standards;
- The division of land into parcels greater than ten (10) acres where no street rightofway dedication is involved;
- The public acquisition by purchase of strips of land for the widening or opening of streets;
- The division of a tract of land in single ownership whose entire area is no greater than two acres into not more than three lots, where no street rightofway dedication is involved, and where the resultant lots equal or exceed current standards.
All other subdivisions of land must be approved by the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners before they can be recorded by the Register of Deeds, or any lots can be sold.
The Planning Board is responsible for the initial review and approval of subdivision plats. The Planning Board, composed of lay persons appointed by the Board of Commissioners, meets in the Conference Room of the Town Hall at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Monday of every month. Application for a subdivision must be made through the office of the Zoning Administrator on the proper form "Checklist for Review of Subdivision Plats" one week prior to the meeting (i.e., by the third Monday of the month), accompanied by the application fee; applications made after that deadline will only be considered by a majority vote of the Board at the meeting. Approval of a subdivision is a three part process:
- Preliminary Plat: A Preliminary Plat must be prepared by a Registered Land Surveyor, indicating all of the information in Section 303. The Planning Board reviews the Preliminary Plat and makes a recommendation to the Town Board of Commissioners (failure to make a recommendation within the prescribed period has the same effect as a recommendation of approval). The Town Board may in turn approve, approve conditionally, or disapprove the plat. A Preliminary Plat is valid for one year.
- Improvements Installation or Guarantee: Upon approval of the Preliminary Plat, the subdivider may proceed with the installation of streets, utilities, and any other required improvements. These improvements must be reviewed by the Board of Commissioners or their authorized representative (such as the Town Engineer or Public Works Director). Building permits may also be issued, contingent on final approval being granted. But prior to approval of the Final Plat or the sale of any lot in the subdivision, the subdivider must have installed all of the improvements required by the Ordinance, or guaranteed their installation as approved by Resolution of the Town Board (See Sections 304 and 305)
- Final Plat: Once a subdivider has installed all of the improvements required, or has guaranteed their approval, a final plat is prepared; it, too, must be prepared by a Registered Land Surveyor, indicating all of the information required by Section 306. As with the Preliminary Plat, the Planning Board reviews the Final Plat and makes a recommendation to the Town Board; the Town Board may approve or disapprove the plat. When submitting a Final Plat for approval, the subdivider certifies that streets, utilities, and other required improvements have been installed in an acceptable manner and according to required specifications and standards; he then signs and notarizes a label of certification to that effect on the plat itself. The Mayor then certifies approval by the Town by signing and sealing the plat. Final approval does not constitute acceptance by the Town, however, of the dedication of any street, unless explicitly agreed to by the Board of Commissioners by separate resolution (See Section 205). Only paved streets meeting Town specifications will be accepted for maintenance. The Final Plat is then recorded by the Town with the Macon County Register of Deeds.
In the case of small subdivisions, or where no improvements are required, the Planning Board may approve the Preliminary Plat and the Final Plat at a single meeting.
Lot Size Exceptions
The minimum lot size in a subdivision is governed by the Town's Zoning Ordinance. However, under Section 409.2 of the Subdivision Ordinance, property may be subdivided without respect to the minimum lot size in order to increase the size of previously platted or recorded lots, provided the following conditions are met:
- Any lot which currently complies with the minimum lot size required by the Zoning Ordinance and has been used as a building site may not thereby be reduced in size below the minimum lot size;
- Any nonconforming lot which has been used as a building site may not thereby be reduced in size; and
- Any unimproved lot which is thereby reduced in size below the current minimum lot size shall either be replatted to reflect its combination with other previously platted or recorded lots or, if it is not so combined, shall be designated "NonConforming Partial Lot" on the plat and, if applicable, in any deed of conveyance.
For subdivisions of this type, a plat is prepared and submitted to the Planning Board for approval; if approved, an abbreviated label of certification is signed by the Chairman of the Planning Board, and the plat is simply recorded with the Macon County Register of Deeds.
A lot size exception is also permitted in order to cluster development (See Section 409.3). Under this procedure, property may be subdivided without respect to the minimum lot size required by the Zoning Ordinance if the development is "clustered" in order to provide more open space, tree cover, recreation areas, and scenic vistas; the overall total of the lots in the subdivision must meet the zoning density.
For Further Information
Copies of the Subdivision Ordinance are available at the Town Office at a nominal charge. Applications are also available at the Town Office. The application fee is set from time to time by the Board of Commissioners; as of March 4, 1992, that fee is $250.00. For more information, call Josh Ward, Planning & Development Planning & Development Director, at (828) 526-5266 or 526-2118.
Effective July 1, 2012