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Some tax, plat records out of sync
Minor subdivisions create dilemma
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Forsyth County News

Parcels and plats don’t always match up in Forsyth County planning and tax maps when it comes to minor subdivisions.

The issue sparked some discussion among the board of tax assessors Thursday about how to handle the scenario of minor subdivisions, defined in the county code as less than seven lots.

Chief Appraiser Mary Kirkpatrick said the discrepancy stirs some concern when an additional home is built on a property without either a plat or a deed.

She used the example of a man splitting 25 acres into four lots for his grandchildren, plus the existing one with his home on it.

If the man splits the land by deed, he “can avoid the development code criteria [for minor subdivisions] by just deeding his children 5 acres apiece and never recording a plat on it,” Kirkpatrick said.

However, if he submits a plat dividing the land, the tax assessors’ office doesn’t recognize that as separate parcels, she said.

In that case, when the grandchildren come in for a building permit, the planning department doesn’t have a tax record that matches the plat.

The new home will be taxed, but the bill will go to what’s considered the “parent parcel,” since the property is still 25 acres in the eyes of the assessors.

Board member Charles Meagher said though he understood the dilemma, the answer to the tax assessors seems to be a legal one.

“The land is conveyed with a deed. It’s not conveyed with a plat,” Meagher said. “A plat is just somebody’s wish or dream or hope. The deed is who owns the land.”

The board agreed with the current policy of honoring the deed, but discussed ways to improve the overall system, such as creating a digital map with several layers so discrepancies in tax parcels and planning parcels could be easily distinguished.

The planning department has proposed possibly including a statement that the owner accepts the tax responsibility of dividing the land into a minor subdivision during the plat, Kirkpatrick said.

The issue with that comes in with the school tax exemption, which eliminates that portion of tax for residents 65 and older, she said.

The exemption can only be taken on one parcel, so if the grandfather divides his 25 acres into five pieces for grandchildren to build homes in the future, he’s going to lose that tax break on the other four sites even if the land remains vacant.

“On the flipside, if you come in here and you put a [major] subdivision plat on record and you sell three lots, if you’ve got 150 lots, you get 150 tax bills next year,” Kirkpatrick said. “We don’t make any exception for that.

“This is kind of a catch-22 because you’re not comparing apples to apples here. You’ve got the developer versus the homeowner, a school tax exemption versus possibly no property tax exemption.”