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County slows subdividing of family lots

by Tom Chillemi

The Middlesex Board of Supervisors has attempted to tighten the family exemption “loophole” that could have been used to circumvent the county subdivision ordinance in the past.

The family exemption ordinance allows a family member to give or sell a family member a parcel of land. The idea is for the family member to build or live on it.

However, the family exemption could be used to create new parcels that would not be permitted if not for the family exemption.

At its June 16 meeting, supervisors approved a change that will require property owners to have title to the land for at least 5 years before using the family exemption process to subdivide.

When the county planning commission considered the change on June 11, members noted that the family member who receives the land under the exemption can sell it immediately.

Planning director Matt Walker said it is “very difficult” to enforce a holding period for the person who receives the property.

John England noted the ordinance change will mean a property owner cannot subdivide to family members for at least 5 years after acquiring the property. However, the property owner can still sell the land immediately as a single parcel.

Walker said land speculators do not want to hold property for 5 years. Walker said the number of times a parcel can be split under family exemptions is “infinite,” and the state code permits family exemptions.

Under the ordinance, family members are defined as “offspring, spouse, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, or parent of the owner.”

The ordinance change also allows a family parcel to be created without a drainfield, if a dwelling is not to be built. This gives landowners the flexibility to create parcels not intended for residential use, said Walker.

posted 06.24.2009

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