The Tooele City Planning Commission is mulling over a city ordinance that could allow neighbors to adjust boundaries between their properties with greater ease.
As currently proposed, the ordinance would allow neighbors to alter boundaries between their lots by submitting their deeds, drawings of the original properties, and drawings of the proposed alteration.
If the paperwork seems to be in order and the boundary adjustment doesn’t violate city code, city staff could approve the change and send the residents to the county recorder without the currently required public hearings and fees, said Jim Bolser, Community Development and Public Works Director for Tooele City.
“Inside our code currently, the only way for that to happen would need a formal subdivision process,” he said.
To subdivide the properties, land owners currently must present the proposed changes at a series of public hearings, in addition to paying a preliminary fee of $100 plus $60 per lot and a final fee of $250 plus $80 per lot. The currently proposed ordinance would allow the city to assess boundary line adjustments for a fee of about $50.
There is plenty of precedent for such an ordinance, Tooele County Surveyor Doug Kinsman said. State code already allows for boundary adjustments, and both Tooele County and Grantsville City have similar ordinances on the books.
In many situations, boundary line adjustments are an effective way for neighbors to make small changes to their lots, Kinsman said. If two neighbors want to move a fence, or build a slightly larger driveway, a boundary line adjustment is just what they need. But if they want to build an oversized garage, combine two properties to build a bigger house, or undertake any other project that would require changes to utility easements, residents must go through a more comprehensive process.
Additionally, a boundary line adjustment would not be an appropriate move for neighbors who are trying to settle a dispute regarding their properties. All disagreements would need to be settled between the landowners before the city could review the proposed adjustment, Bolser said.
Members of the planning commission first considered the proposed ordinance during a meeting last week, but voted to table it to allow continued research and discussion. In particular, members of the commission expressed concern that the ordinance, as presently drafted, would not require a formal survey.
Similar ordinances in Grantsville and Tooele County do insist that the applicants hire a surveyor to determine exactly where the pre-existing and proposed property lines exist, Kinsman said. This can become time-consuming and costly, especially if the original deed predates modern documentation. Establishing property lines on some of Tooele’s oldest lots would require surveying the entire block in some cases, he said.
That was exactly why city staff excluded the required survey from the ordinance’s original draft, said Bolser.
“The last thing we want to do is make that a really burdensome process,” he said.
However, members of the planning commission worried that allowing boundary adjustments without a formal survey could cause problems for property owners down the road, especially where older deeds are concerned.
The planning commission plans to further discuss the issue at their next meeting. There will be no open hearing on the issue, but those who wish to comment are encouraged to send their thoughts to Tooele City Planner Rachelle Custer at city hall.