Maximum lot size adopted as a “Reasonable Measure” to encourage Urban Growth.

Kitsap County has adopted a “Reasonable Measure” to encourage urban growth; a maximum lot size of 9,000 square feet in Urban Low Residential and Urban Cluster Residential Zones. This is less than 1/4 acre. (Kitsap County Code Title 17.040.50). A person  owning an vacant lot 1/2 acre would not be issued a building permit until the lot was subdivided, a lengthy and expensive process.

Here are our concerns about the Maximum Lot size in Urban Low Residential and Urban ClusterResidential Zoned areas:

Problem: This affects people who own parcels sized 18,000 square feet and larger, but does not affect anyone with a lessor sized parcel. According to 17.420.050(A) there is a “Maximum Lot Size” requirement of 9,000 S.F. Footnote No. 25 provides the specifications of this requirement, which are:

  1. no building permits are to be issued for lots 18,000 S.F. or greater in size unless a lot is created of at least 9,000 S.F;
  2.  this condition only applies in Urban Low and Urban Cluster (UCL) Zones and
  3. the condition may not apply if there is a restriction on further lot divisions in a prior approved subdivision.

Implications of this condition on property owners:

  1. No building permits for a single-family residence can be issued by the County until this subdivision requirement is satisfied.
  2. Other than item No. 3 above there are no exceptions that can be used to either circumvent the requirement or even consider special circumstances. Also there is no clarification as to whether the road right-of-way might be counted in the lot size for land owners having property in excess of 16,000 to 17,000 but not quite 18,000 S.F.

As a note of interest, Kitsap County has taken the position that most of its road right-of-ways are only “easements” meaning that the area of the right-of-way will be added to the site area listed in the Assessor’s records. Property owners who think they might have a site area below 18,000 S.F. could be in for a “surprise” at the time of building permit submittal.

  1. The regulation is punitive in that a person must either not build on his or her property or bear the expense and time delays (which translates into another series of costs to the property owner) that it takes to subdivide land. This same restriction would not apply to a person owning a lot of similar size……….say 17,900 S.F. in area (if not impacted by the road right-of-way addition) who could go straight through the building permit process without the delays and expenses associated with short platting.
  2. Property owners with parcels of 18,000 S.F. who either cannot afford to subdivide or do not wish to are still stuck with paying taxes on property they cannot use.
  3. The general public who do not understand the comprehensive planning and zoning requirements of GMA will not understand how they have been penalized by a Zoning requirement that came into being in less than 30 days last August. Nor did they have time to even consider how their lives or their pocketbooks would be affected and impacted.

Just because something sounds like a “reasonable solution” that has had no prior “real world” test vetting is just an exercise in “governmental control.” A property owner who finds out about what government did to him or her may do so months or years after a regulation is enacted. Then he or she is foreclosed from legal redress, because of failure to have spoken out in the public hearing adoption process, failure to have filed a timely appeal or because there are no funds to take a constitutional challenge through the court system.

Meanwhile the County goes its merry way thinking it has satisfied a GMA mandate (in reality the Hearings Board’s interpretation of that requirement) with nary a thought about the plight of the property owner.

Just what are the expenses a property owner faces if he or she owns that 18,000+ S.F. lot? These are the County fees recognizing that Short Plat approval has two phases – Preliminary and Final. Both phases have to be completed before a division of land is accomplished.

Phase 1- Preliminary application-Short Plat.

  • Submittal fee paid to the County $ 2,000.00
  • Concurrency Fee $ 200.00
  • Health Department Review Fee* $ 130.00*
  • Technology Fee $ 20.00
  • Base Application Fee $ 90.00
  • TOTAL Preliminary S.Plt. Ap. Fees $ 2,440.00

Final Short Plat Application

  • Submittal fee paid to the County $ 1,260.00
  • Final Site Development Activity Permit Fee $ 4,750.00
  • TOTAL Fees for Preliminary & Final Short Plat $ 8,450.00**

*This fee is charged by the Health Department to review the application regardless of whether the property will be served by sanitary sewers or the septic system they have already approved.

** The total amount shown here may or may not be the final amount to be paid. It all depends on how many actual staff hours are utilized to review the application material. Read this to mean the short plat applicant is very likely to pay a higher amount.

County application fees cannot even be incurred until a licensed surveyor and a Professionally certified engineer have prepared all of the right documents. The surveyor cannot just write legal descriptions and draw a plat map, he must go out in the field and establish property corners for, first the parent parcel and then the corners of the individual lots as well as locate all of the existing utilities, power, water line, sewer line, easements of record and any other utilities that may exist in the vicinity of the subject property. The surveyor’s work for the Preliminary Short Plat might be economical in the $5,000 – $8,000 range, but his Final Plat work might add another $10,000- $12,500.00 to the cost of the short plat. Without the expenditure of these funds no lot division can be approved or in fact created.

No short plat will be approved either in concept as with the Preliminary Short Plat or in final form without a provision for storm drainage control. Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether or not there can be compliance with the new storm water system design guidelines that went into effect on December 31, 2016, the design work performed by the civil engineer will cost about $14,000 – $16,000.00 inclusive of both Preliminary and Final Short Plat costs. There are instances when this cost might be $20,000.00 or more.

So now with surveying and engineering design costs associated with this Short Plat process, it has a minimum cost over $30,000.00 – just to get to a point where a building permit can be approved.

Sadly, the foregoing cost accumulations do not include any of the physical improvements that may and do in fact come as “Conditions of Short Plat approval.” At the very least the storm water control infrastructure will have to be installed either coincidental with short plat approval or soon thereafter. If “soon thereafter,” the applicant will have to post a bond in the amount of 150% of the value of construction and the infrastructure improvements. Again without the installation of the improvements and or bonding for later work, no Short Plat approval and no building permit approval.

Perhaps there might be a person or set of consultants who can get through the preliminary and final short plat approval process for less than $30,000 -$35,000.00. Great if that proves to be the case, but the hidden cost not yet discussed is the time delay in getting short plat approval. Under normal administrative approval processes the Preliminary Short Plat application approval will take a minimum of four months. However, the real delay is in the Final Short Plat / Site Development Activity Permit approval process. In an expedited approval process it takes 6 – 8 weeks. Depending on the workload in the Department of Community Development that 6 – 8 weeks can turn easily into 4 – 5 months.

If the property owner is hoping to build his or her new house the wait time to do so could extend very likely into a minimum nine (9) months or over a year. If financing is involved, “loan locks” have a more limited period of assurance as in 30 – 60 days. The implications of losing one’s financing or having to pay a higher loan rate can be costly to the property owner at the very least and perhaps even preclude his or her ability to proceed with home construction once the short plat hurdle has been crossed.

When the foregoing costs and time delays are considered the questions still unanswered by this requirement are:

What middle income household has $30,000 in savings to pay all of these costs? Statistically, the answer is very few, if any. Or what are his or her prospects of securing the financing to meet these expenses? If they can be enfolded into the cost of the house, then maybe a bank will reimburse the property owner, but likely the cost of short platting will have to be paid out of pocket first. Whether reimbursed or not, it is likely some “angel” will have to put up the money and the pay back on this investment might queer the house financing.

Knowing that there will be these extra costs, will a property owner actually try to develop or have his or her property developed with housing? If the cost deterrent is substantial as portrayed in this analysis, will there be the kind of “infill” development envisioned by this “reasonable measure?”

Admittedly, there are projected costs associated with this analysis that may not be quite real. However, the County fees and time delays associated with Short Plat approval are typical of what is now occurring. Regardless of whether we have all of the numbers correct, there is enough reality to know the property owner with a parcel over 18,000 S.F. in size is getting screwed by this requirement. There is very little doubt that his or her right to use their property as our constitution provides has been abridged.

 

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