Lot Mergers

Asked March 15, 2018, 10:41 AM EDT

Is it legal to merge two taxable parcels across a pathway easement or roadway easement created by an old platted subdivision?

And is there state law or regulations that addresses this issue?

Washtenaw County Michigan zoning and land use regulation easements subdivision land division act

5 Responses

Greetings,

Reference is made to a platted subdivision, so the answer to the question assumes we are talking about combining two lots in a subdivision.

The Land Division Act, PA 288 of 1967, as amended (being MCL 560.101 et seq.) reads in Sec. 104 “A replat of all or any part of a recorded subdivision plat may not be approved or recorded unless proper court action has been taken to vacate the original plat or the specific part thereof…”

Also, Sec. 221 reads “The circuit court may, as provided in sections 222 to 229 vacate, correct, or revise all or a part of a recorded plat.”

Therefore, it will take action in Circuit Court (following the procedure in the Land Division Act) to merge or combine two lots in a platted subdivision. It is my understanding this answer applies the same to an “assessor’s plat” and a “plat.”

The answer is quite different if this question concerns the merger or combination of two parcels of unplatted land (i.e. land not in a subdivision). In that case, the merger would be reviewed by the local land division review official (most likely the assessor, but possibly the zoning administrator) and be subject to local ordinance. There is nothing in the Land Division Act prohibiting the merger or combination of parcels.

Also keep in mind, property tax numbers do not necessarily have to match actual parcel configurations. In other words, a single parcel could have two tax parcel numbers. This is a matter of county (Equalization Office) policy.

Brad:

Thank you for your response it is very helpful. I have just a few follow up question regarding your response. So it appears you have to go through circuit courts to legally merge properties within a platted subdivision. That is true for merging lots across easements and adjacent parcels, correct? Is that also true for boundary adjustments also, because a boundary adjustment would be a revision to the originally platted subdivision also correct?

Again I want to thank you for all of you help on this issue.

Scott Pacheco, AICP

Yes, a change to a plat requires Circuit Court action. This includes merging lots with “adjacent parcels.” That is essentially enlarging a plat to include unplatted land (i.e. a parcel with a metes and bounds description) outside the original plat. MCL 560.221 – 560.229 deals with plat changes (see exceptions in 222a).

You also ask about “merging lots across easements.” Who owns the easement? Is this actually a common area owned by the association (like a street in a subdivision would be)? Typically, easements do affect the underlying property ownership. Imagine I grant you an easement to cross my property to access your landlocked property. You seem to be characterizing the situation in a way that there is a separation between lots (e.g. “merging lots across easements”), but who actually holds title to the land there under? Or, do the lot lines run to the center of the easement area? Regardless, I believe a combination of lots in a plat is an amendment to that plat that requires Circuit Court action.

Also be aware, the Land Division Act does provide a simpler means of amending a plat if it is just to split a lot within the subdivision, done through local ordinance (Sec. 263).

Brad:

Thank you again for the quick response.

I think there is some confusion with the adjacant lot question. The question was Is: It does not appear that you can merge lots 43 and 44, two adjacent lots within the same subdivision without a circut court action. This is according to the wording in Section 104 and 221, Is that correct?

I think with the easement question: Lets say there is a roadway easement owned by the Road Commission or MDOT, These lots can not be merged correct? All merged lots have to be contiguous and can not be separated even by a roadway or pathway easement unless the property owner owned the land under the easement, Correct?

Sorry it is hard to get all the information out through written examples. It would rather talk you can send me an e-mail at spacheco@hamburg.mi.us and we can exchange phone numbers to discuss.

Thank you,

Scott Pacheco, AICP
Hamburg Township

As for the first statement "It does not appear that you can merge lots 43 and 44, two adjacent lots within the same subdivision, without a circuit court action," I believe the answer is yes (correct). Merging two lots is changing the plat.

As for the second statement "All merged lots have to be contiguous and can not be separated even by a roadway or pathway easement unless the property owner owned the land under the easement, Correct?" I believe the answer is yes (correct), but the circuit court judge can revise a plat how s/he feels is warranted. Also, if we are talking about unplatted parcels that meet at the center line of a county road, and that road is simply an easement for public access across the properties and is not actually property owned fee simple by the road commission, then the parcels could be combined barring any local prohibition from doing so.