Subdividing a Property

On , In Business, Insights, Land Development, Real Estate

In recent years our little city has undergone some huge changes by way of infill housing and densification.  If you are a person sitting on a larger sized lot or considering getting into the business of buying and developing homes on a smaller scale, this article is for you.  We won’t cover EVERYTHING you need to do to subdivide and develop a property, but we will cover some items to consider before heading down the development path.

The first consideration should be to the property zoning and official community plan (“OCP”) designation, if your municipality has an OCP.  By zoning I’m referring to designation or “zone” assigned to your property by the local municipality.  You can find out the zoning of your property by contacting the municipality or searching the municipal website in their GIS mapping services and municipalities post their zoning bylaws and OCP’s online for easy reference. 

Some important questions to ask may be:

  • Does the zoning for your property allow for the property size to be reduced from its current size?
  • Would the size and current zoning of the newly subdivided lot support your future plans?
  • Does your future plan fit within the city’s future land use plan and community growth vision?
  • How would utility services or access to the new lot be achieved?

If your plan for the property does not work within the current zoning you may still have an avenue to move forward through a rezoning application, which is a separate preliminary application which would go through Council to determine whether a change in the zoning would be permitted for the property.     

You are ready to move forward and want to make an application to subdivide the property – awesome.  On to step 2.  Some municipalities like to have pre-application meetings with the applicants to hear what you want to do and give you an idea whether your plan is feasible and/or point out any additional considerations.  These considerations may be in regards to hillside terrain which requires a geotechnical report to confirm suitability for development or aquatic zones where you may encounter areas of the property that do not support any construction, to name a few.  Your municipality will have options available to you should you encounter any of these additional considerations – this may be though registration of covenants or through separate variance applications.   

The subdivision application for most municipalities will require close to the same items but it is best to check with your municipality for the official list of items required when you apply.  Some of the items may be the following:

  • Title Search or State of Title Certificate (current within a specific number of days)
  • Explanation of what you plan to do and how it meets the standards in the zoning bylaw and OCP, if applicable
  • Drawings which may include side grading for sloped areas, drainage plan, property access points, proposed buildings, septic fields, etc.
  • You may be required at this stage to have a survey plan drawn up by a qualified surveyor which denotes all dimensions of the proposed subdivision.  Having a qualified surveyor involved in the process is inevitable as you will require them to draw up the legal plan for the new property(ies) before anything can be finalized or registered
  • The subdivision application fee

Your application is accepted by the municipality – now what?  The municipality will begin to circulate the application between other agencies for comment, concern and/or approval.  These agencies are typically BC Hydro and/or Fortis, the health authority, Ministry of Transportation, the school district, water servicing authority, etc.  These agencies may return to the municipality with their own requirements for approval which would be communicated to you and which you would need to fulfill for approval.  This could mean plan amendments or registration of new servicing agreements on the property title to name a few.

You’ve made it this far and the end is near.  You may be required to hire professional engineers to design the works and services required for approval.  Maybe this is a new waterline connection or a requirement to install a sidewalk.  At this stage its hard to guess at what all you may need to do to meet the requirements requested by the municipality or external agencies.  Be prepared for the expense of what may be requested of you.

Done all the things and ready to move on to the final stages.  This sometimes means one final approval application which comes with another checklist which may include the following:

  • Title Search or State of Title Certificate (current within a specific number of days)
  • Property Tax Certificate confirming all taxes are paid
  • Engagement with a legal professional to register the subdivision plan (application to deposit plan) and any of the covenants, statutory right of ways or easements required by the municipality or external agency and copies of the proposed registration documents
  • Any professional reports requested by the municipality (ex. geotechnical report, environmental report, etc.)
  • Confirmation from the utility providers that approval requirements have been met
  • Development Cost Charges, School Site Charges, proof of payment of any fees to external agencies
  • Additional plans if a requirement from the Ministry of Transportation

If the municipality and all external agencies are satisfied they will sign off on the registration documentation which would be the application to deposit plan, covenants, right of ways, easements, or anything else required.  Signatures may also be required from the utility providers, Ministry of Transportation, health authority or any other agency at their request.

Once signed, the lawyer will file all pertinent documentation against the title to the property (which title will be now known as the “parent property”).  Once the registrations are submitted to the Land Title Office we wait for final registration and the raising of the new titles which can take anywhere from two to three + weeks.  This will create new titles each with their new PID number and legal description and effectively separates the property legally in the land titles system.  There are generally a few post registration reporting requirements to be fulfilled, but at this stage the subdivision is essentially completed. 

Are you still with me?  I know this is not a short read and I promise this is about as bite size as I can make this process.  The takeaway is that the process is not a short one and can have its ups and downs depending on how prepared you are with your documentation, how well you know the requirements of your municipality and how comfortable you are with the property.  I could go on all day regarding the need for due diligence before you undertake any new venture and this is no exception. 

We, at Acorn, love a challenge are happy to assist at any stage in the process – whether it be right at initial due diligence and/or purchase of the property you wish to develop or right at the end when the time comes for Land Title Office registrations.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Author: Tracy Lerfold, Designated Paralegal to Jennette Vopicka and Danielle (Dani) Brito

This information is general in nature only and should not be considered as legal advice. The above content does not create a lawyer-client relationship and is not an invitation to send us unsolicited confidential information. You should consult a lawyer before acting on any of this information. To learn more about your legal needs, please contact our office at (778) 940-3768 or any of our top-notch lawyers:

Danielle (Dani) Brito: [email protected]

Jennette Vopicka: [email protected]

(Designated Paralegal) Tracy Lerfold: [email protected]

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