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Volume 2 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 39

Opinions of Counsel index

“Subdivision” or “split lot” (definition) - Real Property Law, § 334; Real Property Tax Law, § 502; 9 NYCRR 185.1:

A lot, whether it be a “subdivision lot” or “split lot” should be separately assessed unless it can be demonstrated that it is impracticable to do so. The Rules and Regulations for the Preparation of Tax Maps for Real Property Assessment and Taxation Administration define a “lot” as “a contiguous land area delineated on a tax map under a single fee ownership as far as may be practicable, used or intended for use as a single piece. A lot shall not be bisected by a state, county, city, town, village, school or special district boundary line.”

We have received a letter requesting a definition of “subdivision” and “split lot”.

In general terms “subdivision” could be defined as the division of any parcel of land into two or more lots, blocks or sites with or without streets or highways. However, it should be noted that the definition of “subdivision” may not be the same in various state and local planning and enabling statutes.

For example, Real Property Law, section 334 provides that when a person or corporation subdivides real property into lots, plots, blocks or sites for the purpose of offering such lots, plots, blocks or sites for sale, a map thereof must be filed in the office of the county clerk. The Attorney General has stated that compliance with section 334 is not required when an individual or corporation sells a portion of land which had not been subdivided into lots (see, 1969, Op.Atty.Gen. (Inf.) 97). That opinion has reference to what commonly is referred to as a “split” or “split lot”. In other words, in the opinion of the Attorney General, section 334 of the Real Property Law does not apply to an individual or corporation who, with no plan of subdivision in mind, sells off a part of a parcel of real property which he owns.

Public Health Law, section 1115 defines a subdivision to mean any tract of land which is divided into five or more parcels. Public Health Law, section 1116 provides that no subdivision (as defined in section 1115) or portion thereof shall be sold until a plan or map of such subdivision shall be filed with and approved by the department or city, county or part-county department of health having jurisdiction and such plan or map thereafter filed in the office of the county clerk. Thus, the State Comptroller has stated that a subdivider whose plat contains five or more lots must obtain prior approval of the Department of Health before proceeding to develop his property (20 Op.State Compt. 44).

It is also noted that the Department of State exercises control of certain subdivisions pursuant to Article 9-A of the Real Property Law. Further, and probably of particular interest to the situation here, a town is authorized to adopt zoning and subdivision regulations by ordinance or local law pursuant to sections 276 and 277 of the Town Law. Reference to subdivisions in local regulations should not be confused with those enumerated above.

There is no definition of a “parcel” of real property in the general laws relating to the assessment and taxation of real property set forth in the Real Property Tax Law. Therefore, generally what constitutes a separately assessed parcel of real property for assessment and taxation purposes is a determination to be made by an assessor upon a reasonable basis. However, it should be noted that several early court cases construing the statute from which section 502 of the Real Property Tax Law is derived (which provides for the form of an assessment roll) conclude that subdivided lots should be separately assessed unless it can be demonstrated that it is impracticable to do so (see, 52 St. Dept. 475). Attention is also called to the definition of “lot” contained in section 185.1 of Rules and Regulations for the Preparation of Tax Maps for Real Property Assessment and Taxation Administration, approved by this Board on November 24, 1971, which reads, “The term ‘lot’ means a contiguous land area delineated on a tax map under a single fee ownership as far as may be practicable, used or intended for use as a single piece. A lot shall not be bisected by a state, county, city, town, village, school or special district boundary line.” (9 NYCRR 185.1)

August 28, 1972

Updated: