What to Consider Before You Purchase or Build

Though by no means is this a comprehensive list of items to consider before purchasing a property located in the rural area of Douglas County, the following are suggested items based upon questions commonly posed to the Douglas County Planning Services’ staff.

Before purchasing a parcel in a rural portion of the County, it is advisable that the prospective property owner contact County Planning Services to check that the parcel is “legal” for purposes of obtaining a building permit.  If your parcel is less than 35 acres in size, subdivision approval may have been required by the County.  Even if structures exist on the property, you will not be able to expand the structure if the parcel was not legally created.  Your  real estate agent and title company should be able to verify legal parcel status if asked, but when in doubt, investigate further.

In addition, a seller may indicate that the County is obligated to extend services, or approve specific zoning and subdivision changes for a particular property.  Generally, if roads or services are not currently extended to a parcel, they are not likely to be so in the foreseeable future.  Any promises made by others regarding future zoning, subdivision, or other types of development approvals required by the County should NOT be relied upon without verification.

Generally, for parcels greater than two acres in size, individual water wells and septic systems may be installed by the property owner to provide such services.  However, any prospective buyer should contact the County to determine if the property’s zoning rules require the provision of central water or sewer services.

Property owners may wish to have their land surveyed and pinned by a licensed surveyor to correctly identify the physical limits of the parcel.  Title work should be completed to identify any recorded deed restrictions, easements, or covenants that may apply to the property as these documents may limit certain uses of the land or impose ongoing financial obligations. The County has no role in enforcing private covenants, easement agreements, or deed restrictions.

As discussed in greater detail in other sections of the guide, it is also important to ensure that adequate water rights are being transferred with the property to obtain a well permit, and that legal and physical access to the property is in place with maintenance responsibilities identified.

The Department of Community Development Planning Services’ Division has staff available to answer zoning (permitting uses), subdivision, and development questions for particular parcels.  Please contact the Public Outreach and Assistance staff in Planning Services at 303-660-7460 or email general questions to planning@douglas.co.us