First exemption to large-parcel rules moves ahead


January 12, 2023

The county commissioners enjoyed their first opportunity at last week’s regular meeting to try out the exemption process for the new regulations governing large-acre subdivisions, which came into effect at the end of last year.

Garry Davis was the first to come before the commission to ask for an exemption, regarding land he has owned with his business partner since 1998. The two are aiming to split the land into almost equal portions and would like it grandfathered in before they do so.

Davis initially made his request in December. However, at the time the plat was created for the land, back in 2008, there was no requirement for it to be recorded prior to selling tracts. Davis was asked to provide legal descriptions of the land in order for the commission to make an informed decision on the exemption.

He returned last week to continue the hearing. While the commission was still unable to make a final determination, the process did successfully move forward and a decision is expected at the next regular meeting.

Making Exceptions

While current and future developments that are over 35 acres in size will be required to follow the county’s new rules, the commissioners decided to allow current landowners to request exemptions for a limited number of reasons.

For example, an exemption may be granted if the land is greater than 140 acres in size, the applicant is only requesting a boundary adjustment or the land has not been changed since 2008.

An application for an exemption must be approved by the county commissioners. It’s up to the person who submits the petition to prove why they qualify for a particular exemption.

First Request

At the continued hearing on Tuesday, Davis provided more information about the land, explaining that some of the lots have already been sold. Some parcels are currently for sale, he said, but, due to a fire that came through six years ago, have not yet sold and may never sell.

If they do, however, Davis wants them to be grandfathered in such that they need only meet the rules that applied to subdivisions at the time they were first conceived. He noted that, “the roads are not up to the county’s new standards [though] we do have the right-of-way of 60 feet.”

In the new portion of the subdivision, he said, there is no problem designing according to the latest county standards. However, the original part was built before those standards and would be difficult to change or upgrade.

If the exemption is granted, anything inside of the overall land area will be considered grandfathered in under the overall parcel.

“Anything that’s less than 140 acres in its existing form will be part of this,” said County Attorney Joe Baron.

However, if any parcel is further subdivided in the future, it will be considered new development and will no longer be exempt. Baron pointed out that granting the exemption will essentially lock the land into its current legal state in terms of such things as tract boundaries.

Once the exemption is recorded, the map cannot be changed again without rendering that exemption void.

“He has to follow the recorded survey from this point forward. You can’t do any more amendments to your tract line,” said Planning Administrator Tim Lyons.

Lyons also noted that every deed for every parcel will need to contain a reference to the exemption order. This must be attached for the sake of anyone handling business to do with the land in the future, he said, such as employees of the county and elected officials.

A record is necessary because those new people will not remember what happened on the day the exemption was granted, Lyons said.

“You’ve got to think about this in my shoes as staff as I’m reviewing these,” he said.

“If I don’t see something that references an order that says you got exempted, you’re not exempt and I’m gonna send you a letter.”

Final Steps

The process could not be finished without a legal description of the land, which Davis did not have with him for the meeting. Baron requested that this be recorded with the county prior to the February meeting of the commission.

In the meantime, Baron asked the commissioners if they will be in favor of granting an exemption for the land once all paperwork is complete. All three were generally supportive of doing so.

Commissioner Kelly Dennis commented that grandfathering in a development that was considered up to standard at the time is exactly why the exemption process exists.

“If it’s stuff that was done prior, and was good prior, that’s the reason for this,” he said.

Davis was asked to bring the documents needed to “fill in the blanks” for next month’s meeting, at which point Baron said he would have the order prepared for a final decision.


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