WHAT IS A TRACT MAP?
A tract map is one of the processes used to subdivide real property into smaller lots. Typically, the tract map is used to create five (5) or more residential lots. This type of subdivision is normally associated with full urban improvements, which would include paved streets, curb, gutter and sidewalk, fire hydrants, street lights, comprehensive drainge system, water and sewer service, and other infrastructure found in urban areas.
There is no statutory limit to the number of lots that can be created by using the tract map process. However, each lot must meet the minimum lot size required by the Kern County General Plan and Zoning Ordinance, and the land must be capable of supporting the proposed number of lots and the permitted land use.
Applicants for tract maps are typically “developers” (those who are in the business of developing residential properties). A significant investment is involved in gaining approval of, and constructing, a tract. Other less costly and less complex processes are available to individual landowners who wish to subdivide their large parcel into fewer pieces.
WHAT ARE THE SUBMITTAL REQUIREMENTS FOR A TRACT MAP?
Applications for a tract map may be obtained at the Planning Department counter, mailed upon request, or downloaded from the Department website. Typically, a licensed land surveyor or registered civil engineer will submit the application on behalf of the developer. (Due to the technical nature of the mapping process, state and local laws require that the tract map be prepared by a licensed land surveyor or registered civil engineer, licensed to survey in California.) Once an application is submitted to this office, it will be reviewed to determine completeness. An application package consists of the following:
- Application form, signed by the owners and agent/representative;
- One (1) copy of a preliminary title report (no more than ninety (90) days old);
- Two (2) copies of the proposed tract map, prepared by a land surveyor or civil engineer;
- Conceptual drainage plan;
- Hazardous Waste Site Verification Statement; and
- Preliminary review fee.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that an environmental study be prepared for some types of projects. Tract maps are rarely exempt from an environmental review. The environmental study can take the form of a Negative Declaration, a Mitigated Negative Declaration, or an Environmental Impact Report. If the Planning and Natural Resources Director determines that an environmental study will be required, the applicant will be requested to submit a completed Environmental Information Form. Technical reports may also be required. These may include: a biota report, an archaeological survey, a soils report, a geologic hazard report, a traffic study, and a groundwater analysis, among other studies/ reports. These studies will be used to assess the existing physical condition of the property and to determine the impacts the tract map (construction of one (1) residence per parcel) will have upon the environment.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS A TRACT MAP GOES THROUGH?
After a tract map application has been formally accepted as complete, the map is sent to governmental agencies, utility companies, and the public for review and comment. A Notice of Public Hearing is sent to all of the property owners within 500 to 1,000 feet of the site and is published in the local newspaper. (If an environmental study is required, the map is not circulated for review until the environmental document has been prepared.) Two (2) meetings are scheduled. One (1) is the Subdivision Review Committee meeting, and the other is a public hearing.
The Subdivision Review consists of staff from the following County Departments: Planning and Natural Resources, Engineering Surveying and Permit Services, Public Health/ Environmental Health Services Division, Fire, Sheriff, and Roads Division. The Planning and Natural Resources Director acts as chairman of the Subdivision Review Committee. The purpose of the Subdivision Review Committee is to formulate a recommendation for the Planning Commission regarding the tract. This meeting is held so the applicant can discuss the recommendation with the Subdivision Review Committee. Applicants are strongly encouraged to attend the Subdivision Review Committee meeting and resolve all concerns at that level.
Written comments regarding the tract are made by each of the Subdivision Review Committee Departments. These comments are sent to the applicant at least three (3) days prior to the Subdivision Review Committee meeting. At the meeting, County Departments review and discuss recommended conditions of approval and a recommendation is formulated. After the Subdivision Review Committee meeting, the Planning and Natural Resources Department compiles all of the comments and prepares a report. The purpose of the report is to present the formal recommendation of the Subdivision Review Committee to the Planning Commission. The report includes recommended conditions of approval and recommended findings for the tract. The Planning Commission is the hearing body that acts as the Advisory Agency authority in these matters. Decisions of the Planning Commission can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors, but if no appeal is submitted, the decision is final after the Planning Commission decision.
The tract map process consists of two (2) distinct phases: the “tentative map” process and the “final map” process. The Planning and Natural Resources Department is responsible for processing the tract map from its initial submittal through to “tentative approval.” The Engineering, Surveying and Permit Services Department is responsible for processing the tract map after “tentative approval” through to the recordation of the final map. Once a tract map is tentatively approved, the applicant works with the Engineering, Surveying and Permit Services Department to comply with the conditions and record the map. Checklists containing requirements for submittal of a final map for checking and of an original for recording are available on the Engineering, Surveying, and Permit Services Department website.
Once the map is recorded, the property is officially subdivided. It often will take several weeks for the county’s official maps and computer databases to be updated to reflect the new subdivision.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO PROCESS A TRACT MAP?
Unless an environmental document is required, a tract map will typically take between six (6) to nine (9) months to process. An applicant can expect to receive an initial written response within in thirty (30) days of the submittal of an application for preliminary review. A typical tract will undergo multiple preliminary reviews until it has been determined that the application can be accepted as complete. Once the application is deemed complete and formally accepted, the Subdivision Review Committee meeting would occur in approximately thirty (30) days. The public hearing would normally be held within fifty (50) calendar days of acceptance of the application.
If an environmental study is required, the processing time is lengthened considerably. Typically, ninety (90) to one hundred and twenty (120) days are added onto the process for a Negative Declaration or a Mitigated Negative Declaration and twelve (12) to eighteen (18) months for an Environmental Impact Review.
HOW LONG IS TENTATIVE APPROVAL OF A TRACT MAP GOOD FOR?
The life of an approved tentative tract map is for an initial period of thirty-six (36) months from the effective date of its approval. An applicant of their representative may also request up to three (3) extensions of time, the total of which cannot exceed thirty-six (36) months. Additional extensions can be obtained through map phasing with eligible off-site improvements. Such extensions cannot extend the life of the map more than ten (10) years form its initial approval. Statutory extensions are also occasionally granted by the State allowing additional time to record the final map.
Staff is available to answer any questions you may have regarding the tract map process. Please telephone (661) 862-8600 if we can be of assistance.
FORM 714 (12/2016)