To:                              Members, Board of Supervisors                                

From:                          Amelia McCulley, Zoning Administrator

Date:                           December 13, 2007

Subject:                      Rural Area Subdivisions




At a recent meeting, the Board asked staff to provide information about current Ordinance provisions that allow property to be subdivided without road standards and/or with minimal frontage requirements.  These subdivisions are typically approved administratively.  As a result of this information, the Board may wish to have a future work session to discuss these provisions and related policy issues. 


The current Ordinances (Zoning and Subdivision) allow the following to occur:


  1. Subdivisions can be platted in several steps (two or more separately approved and recorded plats) to avoid the requirement of building a road which would be required to meet public road standards or be approved with a private road waiver.  Each of these separate subdivision plats qualifies for administrative approval (if there are no required waivers), require no notice to the neighbors, and no Planning Commission approval.


This type of development creates more individual entrances onto the public roads, therefore additional conflict points and opportunities for accidents.  In addition, it results in more two-lot shared driveways which have no road construction requirements.  Some of these driveways may not provide adequate access for emergency vehicles, thereby detrimentally impacting the provision of police, fire and rescue services to those residents.


    1. What commonly occurs in the first step is an administrative Rural Division creating a lot which meets minimal public road frontage (250 feet) and acreage (5 acres or more).  (See Attachment page 1)  This step can create one or several new lots (shown as Parcels A and B). 
    2. The next step is a subdivision plat that establishes a shared driveway to serve two lots (A1 and A2, B1 and B2), creating one new lot from each of the Rural Division lots created in the first step.  These lots are either divided side-by-side or front-and-back (see #2 for discussion of the latter).  The Subdivision Ordinance does not have a specific construction standard for a shared driveway. It only requires a “travelway passable by ordinary passenger vehicles in all but temporary extreme weather conditions.”  Confirmation that this road standard is met is typically provided by a note on the plat.   


  1. Zoning Ordinance Section 4.6.1 (b)(2)  facilitates a front-and-back subdivision layout by reducing the road frontage required for a lot at the end of an access easement.  It allows a lot (parcel A on page 2 of Attachment A) to reduce its frontage requirement from 150 feet to the width of the access easement.  This provision allows the subdivision of property which has limited existing public road frontage.  If Section 4.6.1(b)(2) were eliminated,  however, staff is concerned that it could result in some extended and perhaps unnecessary roads (to provide the 150 feet of frontage to the back parcel A) without an improved result. 


Subdivisions utilizing Section 4.6.1(b)(2) can result in an undesirable pattern of development with a house (on the lot at the end of the easement) almost immediately behind another house (on the front lot).  Unless it is planned otherwise, the house in the rear lot may face directly into the back of the house on the front lot.


Two Subdivision Ordinance Amendments that could eliminate the Rural Division tactic to avoid road standards and address staff concerns regarding eliminating the Section 4.6.1(b)(2) road frontage reduction are: 


1.      Require all lots created from an existing parcel to share the same entrance and therefore the same road.  This will minimize the number of entrances on existing public roads, thereby reducing conflict points.  This will better meet planning and transportation goals.  It will also preclude the multi-step subdivision resulting in lots on separate shared driveways without a road standard requirement described in #1. 

2.      Establish / increase a road standard for a (shared driveway) private street serving two lots.  The existing minimum road standard for 3-5 lots could be expanded to include 2-5 lots.  This change could arguably improve emergency access by establishing a road construction standard.  If this increased standard is not approved, repealing the Section 4.6.1(b)(2) frontage provision may not reduce the number of subdivisions creating two lots on a driveway without an applicable road standard.



Either or both of these potential Subdivision Ordinance amendments can be further discussed with the Board.  Alternatively, the Board could pass a resolution of intent to amend the Subdivision Ordinance and staff can proceed with these amendments.  There are impacts on the process, applicants and staff that would need to be considered as with any Ordinance amendment. 





A – Rural Area Subdivision Illustrations

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