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Sat, Aug. 24

County considers new controls over lot splits

Thousands of people who split land parcels every year would have to prove they meet basic standards if Yavapai County officials approve a new ordinance.

The minor land division ordinance would require everyone who creates new land parcels in unincorporated areas to prove to the county that the lots meet zoning requirements, and that they have legal and physical access. The county then would issue an affidavit that the seller would have to file at the county Recorder's Office.

Most lot splits in this county take place in unincorporated areas. The county estimates landowners created approximately 2,900 new parcels by splitting lots last year alone.

The planning commission and Board of Supervisors also will consider another ordinance amendment to give the minor land division ordinance some teeth.

The teeth would be a building permit. No one could get a county building permit without the affidavit.

When supervisors met with their planning commission Wednesday, several officials said illegal lot splits are getting out of control, and this is one way to stop them. It also offers an easier way for the county to track the number of lot splits and the sellers.

State law allows land owners to split one parcel into as many as five parcels without county government approval. But the law forbids them from "acting in concert" with the next level of owners, by profiting from the next level of splits. Owners of most unincorporated land in Yavapai County can split lots down to two acres in size.

If the ordinance and amendment reduce the number of illegal lot splits, people will be more apt to seek county approval for a planned subdivision, since subdivisions don't have the five-parcel limit, county officials said Wednesday.

Another benefit would be a potential reduction in the number of people who buy a lot with a below-standard private access and think it's a county road. These people often call county officials to complain when rain or snow makes the road impassable, Supervisor Gheral Brownlow said.

That's a major reason why the Board of Supervisors has a general preference for subdivisions over individual lot splits.

Deputy County Attorney Randy Schurr will draft the ordinance and amendment, then submit them to the planning commission for consideration.

County officials also discussed other ways Wednesday to encourage landowners to create subdivisions instead of just splitting a parcel into five.

"We make it so hard for them, we encourage lot splits," Supervisor Chip Davis said.

The Development Services Department will come up with ideas to streamline the subdivision approval process, Director Ken Spedding said. For example, subdivision developers now must submit four plats to four different county government divisions for approvals.

Spedding also suggested the supervisors may want to revise their Resolution #1036, which lays out strict requirements for costly road improvements in subdivisions.

If all that doesn't help, the department will look at creating a tiered subdivision approval process that would put fewer requirements on smaller subdivisions, Spedding said.

"The idea is dust control and some kind of safe access," for minimum improvements, Board of Supervisors Chair Lorna Street said.

She and Supervisor Gheral Brownlow said all lot splits aren't bad; Street, in fact, has split her property into more lots herself.

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