Lot Status (Legal Lots)
Understanding the rights of property ownership is integral to determining what can and cannot be done with a piece of land under Snohomish County’s development code. One founding principle of property ownership is “legal lot” status. This concept is derived from a mixture of case law and land use law that has evolved as new land division regulations have been imposed over time. Legal lot status bestows unique property rights to parcels of land, which entitle landowners to apply for development applications. This is a fundamental concept to understand because not all parcels of land have lot status or qualify for it while others are automatically recognized or have the potential for recognition.
Property owners or prospective property owners should determine the status of property prior to submittal of a development application. If a property lacks individual lot status, it could result in the County rejecting a development application and/or requiring the applicant to apply for Lot Status Determination. The process to determine if a property is recognized as having legal lot status is fairly straightforward. Snohomish County maintains an Official Zoning Map, which graphically depicts all currently recognized lots in the county. Through the course of research it may determined that a piece of property is not presently recognized. This however does not preclude formal recognition if documentation can be produced to verify legal lot status. Property owners that wish to have property recognized as legal lots may file an application for Lot Status Determination on their own accord.
The image to the right depicts a broad range of parcels that are recognized as legal lots. Four examples of this are highlighted, including lots created through a five-acre segregation, a short plat and long plat, and a parcel that was granted individual lot status. The first three examples mentioned were created through formal land divisions approved by Snohomish County; the latter land division occurred outside of County review and before formal land use application procedures were devised. Other types of land divisions are recognized by the County (see Legal Lots bulletin), but we'll focus on these four examples for illustration purposes.
The short plat from 1978 (SP 528-78) consists of three contiguous lots. Parcel lines are overlaid with green borders and letters A through C are assigned to each lot. The short plat file number, in this case, is located toward the center of the plat boundaries. Just below the short plat is a five-acre segregation from 1977 (S 30-77). This looks similar to the short plat also consisting of green borders overlaid on parcel lines. The individual lots are indicated with numbers.
In the upper right, there is a long plat with nine lots and four tracts. Unlike the short plat, it doesn't have an outline of lot boundaries and subdivision boundaries, but the extent of the plat is relatively clear. Plats like this are noted with the plat name (Westbrook) and plat number. Contemporary short plats are depicted in the same way. Finally, in the lower right, a legal lot (LS 83-89) is outlined in yellow and noted with a file number. Occasionally these appear in red when they have been recently inked in on the maps.
To learn more about how legal lot status is determined, consult the Legal Lots bulletin or PDS staff.