Improving a subdivision without consent of residents?

This was inspired by a thread in alt.folklore.urban (hello, any fellow AFUistas!), so I’m in no way directly interested in this. I do live in a semi-rural subdivision, but given that the town it’s closest to is slowly dying, I don’t foresee anything like this happening to me.

Let’s say a subdivision is lying in the path of progress, just outside a growing town. The residents enjoy the lack of a surplus of neighbors, the freedom of large tracts of land, and so on, and have so far resisted any attempts to pave the dirt roads to their houses. Some people who make a living improving and selling off subdivisions (building roads and houses, laying utilities, and so on) decide that it would make them a mint to improve that one and essentially absorb it into the town.

The residents are not amused.

Can the people living there stop it from happening?

Real short answer: It depends entirely on the state’s laws.

Slightly longer answer: In general, unless there are public health issues involved, the larger units of government (township? county? city looking to annex?) are not interested in paying for improvements unless the people actually want them, and in general, the residents are given an opportunity to approve or disapprove the proposed improvements.

But all that differs based on exactly what the state’s rules and regulations governing such improvements might be.

Better answer: Wait for plnnr to show up and address the question; he’s a pro. at this, while I simply worked for a planning agency, in adm. asst./paralegal capacities, for a bunch of years. I think there are a couple of other professional planners on the board too.

Suggestion: Form a residents’ association to be in position to jointly take the common-consent stance when somebody does actually try to do this stuff.

Final Comment: It’s highly unlikely that a developer would try to “improve” an existing subdivision – he doesn’t make money off infrastructure; rather, it’s a necessary expense for him. Where he makes money is taking 50 acres of unused pasture and woodlot and cutting it up into 1/4 acre lots, plunking down 200 new houses on them, building the bare minimum of roads, water and sewer lines, and amenities that the state regulations and the sales climate will bear, throwing up some impressive Ye Olde Phayque Englishe signage at the entrance that cost him $250 at most but which gives an aura of respectability to his former pasture, and selling the resulting properties for several times what it cost him to buy the land and build it. So the actual scenario you envision is unlikely – there’s no money in it for the developer.

What could happen, on the other hand, is that local wells and septic will be adversely influenced by development around the existing rural subdivision, necessitating public water and sewer for health reasons.

Final point: Unless somebody in the subdivision or somebody in accord with the desires of the subdivision residents owns those fields and woods surrounding it, you have for the most part no say in what’s done with them. (State open space or greenway laws, where in place, may help a bit.) Contemplate jointly buying up the land you want to keep as “buffer” to assure that it doesn’t get developed and impact you adversely.

The residents have a better chance of stopping the improvements if it’s on their own land.

IF it’s not, then one must look to things like zoning and building codes, EPA regulations, claims the road is on Indian burial sites etc. Just because such claims may not be true doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t tie the project into knots suficient to stop it.

Uhh … there’s another planner here, who usually responds to most planning-related threads, and also happens to run this site.

No, plnnr and I don’t know each other… He won’t even join the bulletin boards on my site.

elmwood, AICP :mad:

Sorry, Elmwood – it’s been long enough since you and I happened to participate in the same planning/zoning thread that your profession completely slipped my mind. (Though I did remember that there were others on the board!)

Anyway, I gave a very rough-cut answer based on what little I know outside NYS and NC (and not a whole lot about the specifics in NC) – can you deal with the OP with more specificity than I could?

There’s not really enough information in the OP to give a useful response. As others have said, the answer will depend on state law, and possibly the ordinances of the nearby town and the county in which the subdivision lies.

Assuming that the town wants to expand and absorb the subdivision, it needs to annex it. Under most states’ laws, there are voluntary annexations and involuntary ones. (Voluntary in this context meaning with the support of the landowner(s) and/or registered voters in the tract of land at issue, but many states essentially have a vote, and if the requisite percentage of the landowners/voters are in favor, the land gets annexed, even if some of the residents oppose the plan.) Involuntary annexations are typically tougher to do. For example, they may be limited to situations where the tract is small, and partly or completely surrounded by the municipality. Court approval might be necessary. Again, state laws will vary on this issue.

IANALP, but IAAL, and I regularly deal with annexation issues.

Here’s a kinda sorta real world local example of the OP’s scenario Group works to stunt growth
Petition circulates to block annexation

As a side note, while I can appreciate Polycarp’s cynicism re developers trying to minimize expenses, most municipalities P&Z and Public Works admins did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday re negotiating with developers. In my capacity as a commercial real estate agent I’m on the other side of the equation in working with developers to identify and develop potential tracts and parcels for development, and there are numerous developers that have been mercilessly squeezed by municipalities to finance, and lay in, substantially more up front infrastructure than their project needs in order to receive the necessary approvals for development, and some projects (and developers) have gone broke doing this.