1. What is a subdivision?
Answer: Generally speaking, a subdivision is the division of a tract of land into two or more lots (the number of lots includes the lot that remains from the division).
2. What is a land development?
Answer: Any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate including but not limited to:
Construction, reconstruction, or placement of a building or any addition to a building;
Installing utilities, erection of walls, construction of roads, or similar projects;
Construction of flood control structures such as levees, dikes, dams, or channel improvements;
Mining, dredging, filling, grading, excavation, or drilling operations;
Construction or reconstruction of bridges or culverts;
Storage of materials; or
Any other activity that might change the direction, height, or velocity of flood or surface waters.
Development does not include activities such as the maintenance of existing buildings and facilities such as painting, re-roofing, resurfacing roads, or gardening, plowing and similar agricultural practices that do not involve filling, grading, excavation, or the construction of permanent buildings.
3. Why do we have subdivision ordinances?
Answer: There are three good reasons for having subdivision ordinances.
First, an ordinance reduces the detrimental impacts to the surrounding community. For example, ordinances require that new driveways be designed and built in a manner that is safe for users of both the existing roads and the new driveways.
Second, an ordinance coordinates the orderly provision of services and infrastructure to support the new development. For example, development needs to provide a healthy method of treating wastewater.
Third, the ordinance requires that a plat be recorded in the Elkhart County Office of Recorder. Once recorded, it becomes part of the official county land records system. A recorded plat shows property lines and dimensions and becomes a source of title information.
Building a brighter future for generations to come
4. What’s the legal basis for the county’s subdivision and land development ordinance?
Answer: The Elkhart County Subdivision Control Ordinance was adopted under the authority granted by the State of Indiana pursuant to Indiana Code 36-1-3-4 and 36-7-4-700
5. In which municipalities is the Elkhart County Subdivision Control Ordinance in effect?
Answer: The unincorporated areas and remaining municipalities of Middlebury, Bristol, Wakarusa and Millersburg utilize the Elkhart County Planning Staff and rely on the County Subdivision Control Ordinance. The Cities of Elkhart and Goshen and the Town of Nappanee have developed their own Subdivision Control Ordinances and provide their own planning Staff.
6. What’s the difference between subdivision and zoning regulations?
Answer: Zoning ordinances regulate the types of uses permitted on a tract of land; determines the intensity of the land use; and minimum lot size in all agricultural, commercial, residential, and industrial zones.
Subdivision ordinances regulate how the land is divided to accommodate the land uses permitted by zoning. For example; zoning allows your land to be used for housing on a certain minimum lot size. The standards contained in the Subdivision Ordinance determine how storm water runoff is to be handled, the safest place to locate driveways, and whether or not sidewalks are needed.
7. What’s the first thing I should consider when developing or subdividing my land?
Answer: Contact Elkhart County Planning and Development to determine how your land is zoned. The planning and zoning staff administers the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Ordinance and will help you understand all of the requirements.
8. I know how my land is zoned.
Now I want to move ahead with a subdivision; what should I do next?
Answer: At this point, you should contact a surveying and engineering firm to prepare a plan for you. Surveyors and engineers are licensed by the State of Indiana to prepare and certify development plans. As licensed professionals, they are charged with designing, preparing, and submitting plans that conform to the applicable regulations.
It’s in your best interest to sit down and discuss your plan with your design professional. Together, decide how you want to develop your land. Discuss where you want to place new lots and where you want to locate buildings, driveways, streets, etc.
If you or your design professionals have any questions, please call 574-875-3335 or make an appointment to meet with the Elkhart County Planning staff to discuss your proposal. If you feel confident that you are adequately prepared to proceed, then have your surveyor or engineer prepare a formal plan and application for approval. The plan should be submitted, along with required application fees, forms, and other documentation, for review and approval by the Plan Commission.
9. How do I choose a professional to prepare and present my plan?
Answer: Ask Questions! You should choose a design consultant the same way you would choose any professional. Does the consultant have a lot of experience with the Elkhart County Subdivision Control Ordinance? Are they experienced in the design and development of single or multiple lot subdivisions or large residential and commercial land developments? Will they provide you with a list of references to check out? Does the consultant have good communication skills? Can you expect the consultant to keep you informed throughout the entire process?
We recommend that you take the time to check out design firms before making a final decision. For ethical reasons, the Elkhart County Plan Commission cannot recommend a design consultant.
10. What happens to my plan after it’s submitted to the Elkhart County Planning Commission for approval?
Answer: The Plan Commission staff checks to see that the application is complete. All required sets of plans and documentation must accompany your application. If the application is accepted, your plan is scheduled for review by the Technical Review Committee for conformance with the site, design, and procedural requirements of the ordinance. Generally speaking, your plan will be acted upon within 30 days of receipt!
The Technical Review Committee reports to the applicant on any technical deficiencies that may exist in the proposal. If deficiencies do exist the development professional is informed and expected to correct all deficiencies prior to the application moving forward to the Plan Commission. The Technical Review Committee forwards a written report telling the Plan Commission members how the plan conforms to the ordinance and makes a recommendation. The recommendation will either be an:
b. conditional approval, or
Plan Commission approval means your plan meets all the requirements of the subdivision and land development ordinance and can be recorded.
A conditional approval means that your plan is not fully in compliance with the ordinance, but it can be brought into compliance if it is revised to meet the specified conditions. Before your plan can be recorded, the deficiencies must be corrected and approved by the Plan Commission Staff. No building may take place until those corrections are made, and the plan has been recorded.
Disapproval means that your plan cannot be approved as submitted, because, it departs substantially from the ordinance requirements. A disapproved plan cannot be recorded and no building may take place. A new plan must be submitted if the intention is to proceed with the development.
11. My plan was conditionally approved. What happens next?
Answer: Contact your design consultant to discuss how you can meet the conditions and how soon the compliance items can be submitted to the commission staff for review.
12. How long will it take to get my plan recorded?
Answer: As mentioned in Question No. 11, a plan is usually scheduled for action by the commission within 30 days of receipt. If your plan is approved or conditionally approved, the proposed subdivision must meet the conditions of the approval in order to proceed to secondary approval.
In the majority of the cases, the commission staff will review a plan’s compliance for secondary submission within two weeks and make a recommendation to the Plan Commission. Once approved by the Plan Commission (the secondary process takes about 30 days) the subdivision can be recorded.
13. What does it mean to have my plan recorded?
Answer: The subdivision plat must be recorded in the Elkhart County Office of the Recorder. Recording the plat places the lot or lots "on record," meaning that they can legally be divided from the larger tract of land.
14. What is a Comprehensive Plan?A comprehensive plan is an official document that contains the collective expression of community values that form the character the community hopes to achieve. It is also a general policy guide for the physical development of Elkhart County and it serves as the framework upon which all administrative and regulatory documents are based. The comprehensive plan considers many factors that influence a community such as location, character and timing of future development, as well as the infrastructure and services needed to accommodate new residents.