What is a Subdivision Ordinance ?
When a piece of land is divided into two or more lots, the land is considered to have been subdivided. In Charlotte and Mecklenburg County this type of land division is regulated by subdivision ordinances. These ordinances specify certain minimum requirements and standards that all land divisions must include. The ultimate aim of the ordinances is to assure that when land is divided, each resulting lot will be provided with minimum services such as public streets, sewer and water systems, and storm drains.
Generally the ordinances specify:
- requirements for designing street and lot layouts;
- standards for public improvements such as streets, sidewalks, storm drains, water and sewer
- requirements related to the use of land on which flood plains have been located.
How is a Subdivision Plan Approved?
In Charlotte and Mecklenburg County a proposal to subdivide land must be approved by the Planning Department before the actual dividing of land and constructing of improvements can begin.
Since the City and County governments are separate governing bodies, two almost identical subdivision ordinances are used: the City of Charlotte Subdivision Ordinance and the Mecklenburg County Subdivision Ordinance.
The Planning Department coordinates the use of these ordinances in the review and approval of all subdivision proposals. Generally the approval process is completed in two phases: the preliminary plan phase and the record map phase.
Preliminary Plan Phase
Step 1. Sketch Plan - First, the Planning Department staff suggests that an informal sketch plan be submitted for review before the actual preliminary plan is formally submitted.
Step 2. A preliminary plan is submitted to the Planning Department by the applicant. The plan shows details of street construction, lot layout, storm drains, creeks, and adjacent properties. The plan should be prepared by a registered landscape architect, engineer, or land surveyor.
Step 3. Planning Department reviews the plan for conformance and forwards the plan to the Environmental Health Department and the City or County Engineering Departments for approval. Other departments may also be included in the review, depending on the plan.
Step 4. Reviewing departments each approve the plan and return it to the Planning Department staff.
Step 5. The staff grants official preliminary plan approval. Applicants are notified of the results. Construction of streets and storm drainage may begin at this time.
Record Map Phase
Step 1. A record map (final plat) is submitted by the applicant to the Planning Department staff. The map shows exact lot dimensions, street and sewer right-of-way locations, public storm drainage easements and specific information used in deed and title work.
Step 2. Planning Department staff forwards the record map to the City or County Engineering Department for approval.
Step 3. The Engineering Department approves the record map and returns it to the Planning Department staff.
Step 4. The Planning Department staff grants official approval to record the map and notifies the applicant.
Step 5. If the property lies within the City limits, the applicant takes the map to the Register of Deeds office, where the approved map is recorded. When the property falls under County jurisdiction, the applicant takes the map to the local N.C. Department of Transportation district engineering office for approval. Then the map is brought to the Register of Deeds office to be recorded.
At this point the lots in question are considered to be in accordance with the applicable subdivision ordinance. Building permits may be issued at this point.
Types of Residential Development
Single family development
Traditionally, single family detached houses were the dominant land use in residential subdivisions. However, with land and construction costs escalating, several new types of residential development can be seen in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.
These new housing types include Mixed Use (MX) development and cluster development.
Mixed Use development
Mixed Use development (MX) is a planned residential development of 10 acres or more with these characteristics:
- a variety of housing types such as single family detached, townhouses, patio homes, condominiums, and apartments within the same project
- common open space provided in return for higher density of the entire development
- a mandatory homeowners' association
- in some instances, compatible nonresidential uses that provide goods, services and employment primarily to serve the residents of the planned community
Cluster development is a planned residential development of 10 acres or more with these characteristics:
- single family detached residential use
- smaller lot sizes
- common open space
- reduced yard sizes, especially for side and rear yards
- a mandatory homeowners' association
Due to the complexity of MX and cluster developments, a detailed plan must be submitted by the developer which shows the following information:
- a general phasing for development
- the location of all common open space
- how a homeowners' association will be established
- how the land and buildings will be used
Planned Multi-Family Development:
Planned multi-family development is established on a single tract of land having an approved plan with these characteristics:
- two or more multi-family buildings, or three or more duplexes
- service and parking areas
- review of the plan by governmental agencies such as the fire, sanitation, traffic, and engineering departments