Subdivision Ordinance Changes Being Considered

On June 7th the Orange County Planning Commission voted unanimously to retain the time-phased component of the subdivision ordinance until an alternative is in place. We will keep you informed as this issue progresses. 

Board of Supervisors Considers Eliminating much of the Subdivision Ordinance

The Orange County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on Tuesday, April 10th, to take comments on two draft subdivision ordinances. Both proposals received a slew of negative comments at the Planning Commission level. Roughly 50 people attended the Board’s public hearing with the majority asking the Board to stick with the current ordinance rather than adopt the two proposed ordinances. These citizens pointed out these two proposed ordinances would only benefit speculative developers, not citizens. The public hearing was closed with a statement from the Chair, indicating there was little interest to pass either proposal under consideration.

On June 7th the Planning Commission considered a proposal to repeal the time phasing provision of the subdivision ordinance. The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to send this proposal to the Planning Commission which stated adamantly that without an alternative in place they could not support this elimination of the current subdivision ordinance language. Elimination of the time-phased component of the subdivision ordinance is an elimination of the single most important growth management tool the County has in controlling the rate of rural land division. The Planning Commission voted against this proposal unanimously. We will keep you informed as this issue progresses. 

Proposed Changes and the Consequences:

The time-phased component of our subdivision ordinance is the single most important growth management tool the County has in controlling the rate of rural land division. Since the County is not offering a replacement for the time-phased component (such as sliding scale zoning), there would be no restrictions on the number of new lots that can be created or when those lots could be pursued. The only limiting factor would be the minimum lot size of 2-acres. This change would take the County back decades with worse consequences than the old four in four ordinance – allowing for four divisions every four years with subsequent divisions. Under that model, a 130-acre property could be fully divided into two-acre lots in only 8 years. The four in four was responsible for thousands of new residential lots on land zoned for agriculture. This level of growth resulted in high infrastructure and service costs that the county struggled to keep up with and a recognized loss of rural character. This unsustainable development led the County to pass the current Subdivision Ordinance adopted in 2008.

No real data has been presented on the current supply of land and housing such as the number of rural lots, unoccupied homes, and unbuilt zoned residential units in the growth areas. There has not been a calculation of the total number of lots that could be created under these changes or any information presented about the need for additional rural lands to be opened to this level of growth. Without understanding the supply of rural lots or the impact of the proposed changes, there is no way to evaluate the draft ordinances or predict the quality of life impacts or economic impacts to the County and its citizens.

The proposed changes will certainly increase the rate of suburbanization of rural lands in Orange County. It will increase speculative division of land and therefore the financial burden of infrastructure and public services on the County. It is even being pursued absent a replacement to manage rural division rates – something almost unthinkable given the development that resulted from the looser time phasing prior to 2008.

We will keep you updated
Please stay tuned for the official hearings dates and for further updates on this critical matter. 

Please contact Dan Holmes (, PEC’s Orange Field Officer, with any questions.