A common question buyers of land may have is, “Can I subdivide my Kalispell land?”
There are various reasons for this question. Buyers may wish to split the land among family members, giving each a deeded piece of property. Or they might want to gain income from the sale of a few pieces, and live on the remaining parcel. Or perhaps they want to purchase land as an investment and subdivide for a development. Whichever of these is true, the answer to the question “Can I subdivide my Kalispell land?” is “It depends.”
The two major types of land divisions in our area are: family transfers and subdivisions.
Family transfers allow a land to be divided and exempted from subdivision review. Specifically, this kind of transfer means the land is being sold or gifted to a member of the landowner’s immediate family. The land would need to be surveyed. The only additional review that is required is the Montana Department of Environmental Quality would need to ensure the land meets sanitary guidelines.
Subdivisions are the official division of land for use or purchase by non-family members. Typically these are intended for arms-length sales and are far more complex. The two major types of subdivisions in the Flathead County area are: minor and major.
A minor subdivision creates five or less lots. A major subdivision includes six or more lots. That sounds easy enough until you find out those numbers reflect the total number of divided lots since July 1, 1973. If the property in question has already been divided five times since 1973 and you want to divide that lot in two, even though you are only creating two lots, this is considered a major subdivision (the original five plus the additional one you are creating gives you six). So even the question as to whether your division will be major or minor is tricky.
A minor subdivision would require that you submit maps and supporting documentation to Flathead County Planning & Zoning as part of a first minor administrative review process. They will provide a decision on whether you can move forward with your project. If it is approved, it’s usually with conditions and you’ll have 18 months to meet any conditions. Then you will submit your plat application. Your final plat application may also receive preliminary approval with conditions and you’ll have three years to meet any conditions and to apply for final plat.
A major subdivision also requires that you submit maps and supporting documentation to Flathead County Planning & Zoning as part of a preliminary review process. There are additional requirements for major subdivisions including a required environmental assessment. Another difference is that major subdivisions must be discussed at a public hearing in front of the Planning Board. The public hearing schedule is communicated in the Daily Interlake newspaper and via a letter to all property owners within 150 feet of the project. Applications with 50 or fewer lots will have a 60 day review cycle (business days) and those over 50 will take 80 working days.
As with the minor subdivision, conditions will need to be met within 18 months, and for the final plat process, 3 years.
Minor and Major Subdivisions
While both types of subdivisions may require different criteria, a few of the types of items that might be required include:
- Proof of ownership
- Copy of all surveys completed since 1973
- Environmental Assessment
- Probable impacts
- Fire Prevention Control and Fuels Reduction Plan
- Flood Hazard Evaluation
- Storm Water Drainage Plan
- Dust Control Plan
- Road Approach Permits
- Home Owners Association draft
- Proposed water supply systems, solid waste systems, well logs, ground water analysis
- Water rights disposition
- Surrounding owner information
And that’s not the complete list!
Since getting approval for both minor and major subdivisions is time consuming and certainly cannot be fully completed prior to buying land, how do you know whether a specific piece of property will work for you?
First, check the deed and any existing covenants for restrictions against subdividing. This is something your real estate professional should be able to get for you very quickly. Often, covenants do indeed address the subdivision question. If subdividing is not allowable, or if you won’t be able to divide into as many parcels as you’d like, that land purchase can be crossed off the list immediately.
If you don’t see anything in the deed or covenants that restricts a specific parcel from subdivision, contact the Flathead County Planning & Zoning team on (406) 751-8200. They have a planner on duty between 9am – 12pm and 1pm-4pm. That planner should be able to easily tell you if a particular parcel might be dividable for both family transfer and actual subdivision purposes. They will not be able to tell you whether an application would be approved or not, but they could give you some guidelines as to whether what you are thinking is feasible.
Finally, if you are considering subdividing land (whether it’s land you already own or not), read through the very thorough Flathead County Subdivisions Regulations document. It contains everything you need to know to move forward.
And of course, if you have questions about land in Kalispell Montana and Flathead County, feel free to contact Kat at 406-270-3667 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading “Can I subdivide my Kalispell land?” The answer is, “it depends.”
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