Short Plat: What you need to know before you decide to subdivide

If you are a landowner in the Pacific Northwest, you may be wondering if you can achieve more value from your land by dividing it into individual parcels. The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. If you are interested in short platting your property, it is wise to first understand the process and the consultants you will need to engage along the way.

What is the difference between a short plat and a subdivision?

The subdivision of property is sometimes called short platting or short subdivision. Usually, short platting refers to the division of property into four or fewer lots in a rural area and/or nine or fewer lots in urban areas.

A short plat is a small subdivision, and it has a less complex approval process. For instance, most large subdivisions require a public hearing and a SEPA (environmental) determination, while a short plat project usually does not have these requirements. However, there are still steps that property owners need to take to get jurisdictional approval to legally short-plat a property.

Can I short-plat my land myself?

Land division is a legal process. It is recommended that property owners work with a professional land use consultant that is familiar with the jurisdiction and process to determine the feasibility of pursuing a short plat of the property prior to developing any plans or materials. Once the feasibility study is complete, the property owner can make an educated decision on whether to move forward with the submittal process. Once you decide to move ahead, you will often need to engage a civil engineer, surveyor, geotechnical engineer, and other consultants to prepare the required documentation.

What is the short plat process?

The process to short plat a property will differ from one jurisdiction to another. In general, the process goes something like this:

  1. Engage a land use consultant and site development team to determine the feasibility of subdivision and develop a conceptual plan.
  2. Work with the site development team to prepare the Preliminary Short Plat This gets reviewed by the jurisdiction, and there is typically some back and forth and revisions requested during review.
  3. Permit and complete Construction Improvements – generally anything needed to make the individual lots building-ready. This may include access easements or roads, utilities, and storm drainage. Sometimes the jurisdiction will allow the owner to post a bond enabling them to defer the construction stage and go straight to the final plat.
  4. Prepare the Final Short Plat The jurisdiction will review the construction and verify that all conditions of the Preliminary Short Plat application have been met. At the end of this step, a paper printout of the plat will be circulated for signature by the owner and jurisdiction before going to the County for a last round of signatures and for the final recording.
  5. Once the plat is recorded, the owner can proceed with selling the individual lots for development or can submit for building permits if they plan to develop the lots themselves.

The Short Plat Process

Short plat flow chart that shows the process

How long does the short plat process take?

Much of the timeline will depend on the individual property and the capacity of the jurisdiction to review your materials in a timely manner. Short subdivisions typically take 1-2 years from start to final plat recording when proceeding at a steady pace.

I want to short-plat my property, where do I start?

If you are ready to find out more about the feasibility and process associated with subdividing your property, reach out to our land use consultant, Carmel Gregory, to start a conversation. Carmel has experience with the short plat process in Snohomish and King counties as well as in local jurisdictions in the Pacific Northwest.


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