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Major and Minor Subdivisions

A large, underused tract of land naturally encourages thoughts of turning that large tract into many smaller tracts that will be put to better and more profitable use. How complicated can it be to turn one large tract into 100 smaller ones? Very complicated indeed.

New Jersey’s land use laws and regulations are detailed and complicated, involving several different governmental bodies, a major state law—the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL)—as well as a wide variety of local ordinances that are designed to carry out the locality’s master plan for land use.

To navigate this system requires detailed knowledge of which bodies do what, how to apply for permits and approvals, what supporting documentation needs to accompany the application, whether you’re responsible for providing notice of the application and corresponding hearings, who needs to get the notice, and a host of other technical details—all of which is a long-winded way of saying that things go more smoothly and, quickly and successfully if you get the advice of an experienced New Jersey real estate lawyer.

Subdivision Approvals in New Jersey

The MLUL specifically requires approval of subdivisions—defined generally as any division of a land tract into two or more lots for purposes of sale or development—with the exception of subdivisions that are performed in accordance with the terms of a will or a court order.

The approval process differs depending on whether the subdivision is deemed to be a “major” one or a “minor” one. What makes a subdivision major as opposed to minor? That’s determined by two things:

  1. If the subdivision involves a planned development, new street, or extension of an off-tract improvement, the MLUL specifically classifies it as major.
  2. If it involves none of those things, it is minor if the number of lots being created by the subdivision is defined as minor by local ordinance; any other subdivision is major.

Classifying the subdivision as major or minor determines whether approval is a two-step process of preliminary then final approval (needed for major subdivisions) or simply a one-step approval (needed for minor subdivisions).

Preliminary Approval

Gaining preliminary approval requires submission of a plat and any other information that is needed in order for the approving body to make an informed decision on the application. The preliminary approval will be granted or denied:

  • Within 45 days for subdivisions involving no more than 10 lots
  • Within 95 days for subdivisions involving more than 10 lots

Both time limits can be extended if the developer agrees to the extension. Note that the process may begin all over again if the approving body requires the developer to make substantial changes to the original plat and plan.

Final Approval

The information required for final approval is more detailed than for preliminary approval. The board analyzes whether the detailed plans conform to the standards set out in the local ordinance. The board has 45 days from the submission of the application to render a final decision, unless the developer agrees to an extension. If no decision is rendered within 45 days or the agreed time, the application is deemed to have been approved.

A New Jersey Real Estate Lawyer for Your Subdivision Approval

Subdivision approvals are frequently complex procedures with many traps for the inexperienced and unwary. For example, there are special disclosure rules regarding for ownership of corporation or partnerships requesting subdivision of land they own, and additional disclosure rules for ownership of corporations and partnerships that own the corporations or partnerships requesting the subdivision of their land.

And the approval doesn’t completely end the matter. The MLUL also imposes specific requirements that the approved subdivision plat be filed by the developer with the county recorder; failure to file within the time limit means the approval expires—you’re back at square one. Put 20 years of experience in New Jersey real estate law behind your subdivision project you by consulting the attorneys at Barnes Law Group, LLC. If you have concerns about a planned subdivision, call us to schedule your consultation at our North Wildwood or Egg Harbor Township offices today.

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