If you have ever stumbled across any local municipal land use maps or plans, you probably have seen plans that simply show a bunch of property boundary lines with dimensions and maybe some property owner information. These plans were most likely subdivision plats.
A subdivision plat is a map or plan that is created as the result of the subdivision of a piece of land into smaller parcels of property.
Each of these smaller parcels of land can be either individual lots with the intent that they will eventually be owned by individual owners, right-of-way areas owned by local municipalities or a state department of transportation, or open space areas (or conservation areas) owned by a government agency.
What is a Recorded Plat?
The reason subdivision plats are created is to have an official document (the plan itself) after a land has been subdivided and the designed plan showing the subdivision has been reviewed and approved by the local municipality.
After the plan has been drafted, reviewed, and shown to meet certain requirements, the plan will most likely have to be officially recorded in a local recording office.
Recording a plan means simply filing that plan with an official office that makes the plan accessible to the public so that the general public can (after doing some research) find out about the subdivision and what the most current layout of property boundaries looks like for that particular area. The local government office where the recording takes place is usually called a Recorder of Deeds.
When you hear the words “recorded plat”, what is most likely being referred to is the recorded plan of an approved subdivision plan.
When Subdivision Plats Are Created
A subdivision plat is created when the owners of a property decide that they want to separate their land into smaller areas of land called lots or parcels. Some reasons for the creation of these new lots include selling them for a profit, planning for possible future land development, and donating them.
The property owners could already have a house on the land to be subdivided and they decide to subdivide the property to earn some extra money or to create a new lot for a family member to be able to build a house on.
The property owner of a large parcel of land could be a land development company looking to create many new lots as part of a major residential land development project.
Whether a subdivision involves a simple 2-lot subdivision that with one acre of land or a more complex 30-lot subdivision with 70 acres of land, the preparation and recording of a subdivision plat will most likely be required.
Related: 5 Common Reasons Why You Might Want to Subdivide Land
How to Read a Subdivision Plat
The main information shown in a subdivision plat is the new layout of lots that have been created from the original single lot along with boundary distances and orientations as well as areas and new lot numbers to designate the new parcels.
The main part of the plan would also include any new right-of-way lines and utility easements. Existing conditions information included on this kind of plan would include the names of existing streets and general property information for adjoining property owners.
The following information along the sides of a subdivision plat plan would also be helpful to the user.
1) Title Block – This information usually includes the name of the project, the name of the company who prepared the plan, and the date the plan was created.
2) Graphic Scale Bar – This will tell you the scale of the plan and allow you to take measurements from the plan.
3) North Arrow – This symbol allows you to know the orientation of the plan relative to the direction of north.
4) Legend – In this area of the plan you will see what the various symbols and lines in the plan mean.
The Professionals Who Create Subdivision Plats
When someone wants to subdivide a piece of land into smaller sections, a land surveying company or a civil engineering company that specializes in land development would have to be hired to prepare the required subdivision plat.
These kinds of businesses would have the professionals (with the appropriate licenses and expertise) and the appropriate equipment and supplies to properly design and create subdivision plats.
The People Who Use These Plats
After a subdivision plat has been created and recorded, there are different people (or groups) that would have in interest in using these plans.
1) The original property owners who had the plat created would refer to the plat during the selling of the individual lots.
2) A civil engineering company who is hired to prepare a land development plan for the new lots would have to use the original plan as a starting point and as a part of the base plan.
3) A surveying company would have to use the original plat information to create individual survey plans and legal descriptions as each lot is sold and developed.
4) A local government official in charge of managing the local GIS (Geographical Information System) might use this subdivision plat plan to add the new information to the system.
The Costs of Creating a Subdivision Plat
The costs involved with the creation of a subdivision plan can vary greatly depending on many factors. The two main factors are the size of the project and the municipality within which the site of the subdivision is located.
The larger the site, the more work that would be involved with creating the plat because of the extra survey and engineering work that would be required. A site within a municipality with more stringent regulations would also require work to create a plat.
The extra work involved would mean more time spent by the surveyors and civil engineers involved with preparing the plat plan. More time means more money charged to the land owner.
Other expenses to consider are the administrative fees that would be involved with the recording of the plan.
Subdivision Plats Are Required for Land Planning
Subdivision plat plans are a common instrument for keeping track of the changes in land use within a community. They are an important part of the records of a municipality and its land planning.
Related: What Is Land Subdivision and When Could It Be a Good Idea?
Related: 5 Common Terms Used in Land Subdivision
Related: The Land Subdivision Process (In 9 Steps)