The Macon County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve changes to the county's subdivision ordinance during its July meeting Tuesday night. The changes were brought forth from the Macon County Planning Board, who has been working on the revisions for months.
After controversy due to confusion in the language in the ordinance, commissioners directed the Planning Board to begin reviewing the ordinance and to clarify some of the language used. In the past, confusion on the definition of existing subdivisions in the ordinance was a recurring issue which prompted the ordinance to be reviewed and amended as needed.
"The revisions to the subdivision ordinance are intended to make the review process more streamlined for anyone wanting to subdivide land in Macon County," said County Planner Matt Mason.
The vague and sometimes confusing language has often caused provisions of the subdivision ordinance to put developers in the unusual situation of being compliant with almost all regulations of the ordinance, but still not being approved as a subdivision because they failed to file a plat prior to the date the county’s law went into effect. As a result, some developers have faced additional hurdles when trying to sell their lots.
The subdivision ordinance was originally adopted on June 2, 2008, and became effective in September of that year. Since adoption, the law has been amended several times, including in 2009 when requirements for lot sizes were decreased and “family subdivisions” became exempted.
According to county law, the purpose of the subdivision ordinance is “to establish procedures and standards for the development and subdivision of land within Macon County.” The provisions of the code are administered by the Planning Board, which also gathers data to provide local government agencies and officials with information regarding land development taking place in the county.
Among other things, the ordinance requires minimum road standards for the county; the establishment of homeowners associations and road maintenance agreements; and recording of plats for all developments to comply with the ordinance. Subdivisions established before the ordinance went into effect are exempt from these requirements.
One of the significant changes in the ordinance includes the addition of a technical review committee. The committee will review all major subdivision preliminary plats and to approve, approve with conditions, or disapprove such plats. The committee will be comprised of five members and will include a subdivision administrator, a member of the Macon County Planning Board, and one representative each from the Fire Marshal's office, environmental health, and the planning, permitting and development department.
"The primary reason we changed the technical review committee was to allow developers quicker review times when the plat was submitted," said Mason. Without the review committee, the Planning Board was directed to approve or deny applications, with the Planning Board meeting only once a month to be able to review applications, the process was rather lengthy. According to Mason, the new technical review committee will be comprised of county staff members who work daily, and are easily accessible as applications come in.
"Also, by making these changes the review committee can conduct preliminary onsite meetings before approving or denying a proposed subdivision," said Mason.
The revised ordinance also includes changes to the guidelines for the approval of subdivision plats like mandating that before plats can be considered, the district highway engineer must be given an opportunity to make recommendations concerning the plat. The ordinance also allows individuals to appeal the decision of the technical review committee to the Planning Board for further review.
"Our goal was to make the subdivision ordinance better for the citizens of Macon County," said County Commission Chair Kevin Corbin. "We certainly want to protect our natural resources and the beauty of our area but there were some things that made developing your property more difficult. I applaud the Planning Board for making those changes and I applaud our board for approving and making the changes needed to the subdivision ordinance. The changes have made the subdivision ordinance more user friendly."