I should have mentioned earlier that the code gets into the practice now of creating subtitles with rather dense chapters. My plan, mainly for readability, is to go through chapter by chapter rather than try to digest the whole Subtitle.
We’ll start out with the General Provisions chapter of Subtitle II that states that the purpose of the subtitle is to:
implement the authority granted to the City
by RCW Chapter 58.17 and to conform to its provisions which govern the platting and subdivision of land.
In order to get at what’s going on here you have to take a look at the chapter of state law cited here. The purpose of RCW Chapter 58.17 is to:
regulate the subdivision of land and to promote the public health, safety and general welfare in accordance with standards established by the state to prevent the overcrowding of land; to lessen congestion in the streets and highways; to promote effective use of land; to promote safe and convenient travel by the public on streets and highways; to provide for adequate light and air; to facilitate adequate provision for water, sewerage, parks and recreation areas, sites for schools and schoolgrounds and other public requirements; to provide for proper ingress and egress; to provide for the expeditious review and approval of proposed subdivisions which conform to zoning standards and local plans and policies; to adequately provide for the housing and commercial needs of the citizens of the state; and to require uniform monumenting of land subdivisions and conveyancing by accurate legal description.
Talk about a Christmas tree. And you can begin to see some of the elements of language that get reused in forming larger molecules of language elsewhere in the code: “health,” “safety,” “general welfare,” and “lessen congestion.” Using rules about subdividing properties to achieve these outcomes seems like a tall order for a section of state law on “platting,” which is essentially the breaking up of larger pieces of undeveloped land for the purpose of development. We’ll find out later how important Subtitle II is to sustainability.
Along with the purpose statement this chapter also establishes some interesting exemptions to the provisions of the subtitle. Cemeteries are exempt “while used for that purpose.” Any efforts to convert a cemetery to mixed use housing would, I suppose, be subject to Subtitle II. I don’t think that is going to happen, but it begs the question as to whether, as we become more sustainable in our burial practices, if some kind of innovated mixed use burial situation might indicate a revision of the code. I love the idea of a columbaria being a standard part of new development. But I digress.
Also exempt are “divisions of land into lots or tracts each of which is one one-hundred-twenty-eighth ( 1/128) of a section of land or larger or five(5) acres or larger if the land is not capable of description as a fraction of a section of land.”
Hmmmmmnnn. This one kind of makes my head hurt. It looks like an SAT question. I don’t know what this means. Is the idea to exempt extremely small or large? I don’t get it. But it could be relevant if we allow subdivision and sale of single family lots or of other kinds of lots. It feels like some kind of technical surveyor language. But I’d flag it for further explanation.
“Divisions made by testamentary provisions, or the laws of descent” are exempt from the provisions of the subtitle. Now it gets interesting. Death raises its head yet again. The terms “testamentary provisions” and “laws of descent [and distribution]” are legal terms referring to the law that specifies what happens to a property when the owner dies. I am guessing here that there is some longstanding (and ancient) law that prevails when a person leaves property and divides it among heirs. Probably not a big issue in terms of sustainability but again worth flagging for clarification and update.
“Divisions of land into lots or tracts classified for industrial or commercial use when the City has approved a binding site plan for the use of land” are also exempt. There has to be some history here which I am not aware of. Since this exemption section we know that it doesn’t apply, but we haven’t covered yet what the platting rules are. So maybe later this should be removed or revised based on what we find later.
Dividing up property with mobile homes is also exempt if a “binding site plan has been approved.” This exemption is probably a good candidate for repeal. Although, on second thought, what about the folks at HyBrid Architecture. The tiny and alternative housing movement is coming up with all kinds of housing solutions that push the limits when it comes to materials and use. It could be that “cargotecture” and other ideas will require us to rethink or traditional conception of “trailer parks.”
And last but not least, “a transfer of land to the City for open space purposes” is exempted from platting requirements in Subtitle II, provided that other remaining parts of the property that can be built on comply with the code. And of course, for all the exemptions, the rest of the code complies.
I probably could have summed up this chapter as “the chapter that explains the purpose of Subtitle II and the things that are exempt from it” and left it at that. But that wouldn’t have been nearly as fun, would it?
But that’s essentially what’s going on here, and I’ll be taking a look at platting and subdivisions in general in the next post before jumping into the meat of the subtitle.
Picture of “cargotecture” is from a post linked to above at Hugeasscity.