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What to Consider Before You Purchase or Build

This is not a comprehensive list of items to consider before purchasing a property located in rural Douglas County. The suggestions provided are based on questions commonly asked of Douglas County Planning Services’ staff.

Was the parcel legally created?
Before purchasing a parcel in a rural portion of the County, it is advisable that the prospective property owner contact Planning Services to verify that the parcel is “legal” for purposes of obtaining a building permit.  Establishing a parcel of less than 35 acres in size may have required subdivision approval by the County.  Existing structures on the property cannot be expanded if the parcel was not legally created.  Real estate agents and title companies should be able to verify legal parcel status if asked, but when in doubt, investigate further.

Are roads and services available on the 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 requires the provision of central water or sewer services.

What uses are allowed on the property?
In addition to a primary residence, a property owner may purchase a property with other or future uses in mind. Uses such as horse boarding and training, home businesses, short term vacation rentals, or accessory dwelling units, may or may not be allowed based upon the County’s zoning regulations. Certain uses may require additional permits or approvals, even if the property is currently being used for other activities. Do not assume such uses or activities are legal or otherwise “grandfathered.” Private covenants and deed restrictions may limit future uses as well.

Has the parcel been surveyed?
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.

Does the parcel have sufficient water rights?
It is 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.

Is the property eligible for the lower, agricultural tax rate?
Tax status is based on actual use of the property, NOT the property’s zoning classification.  The Assessor’s Office has specific thresholds for use and income that must be met in order to be classified as “agricultural” for tax purposes.

Contact us.
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 at 303-660-7460 or email general questions to [email protected].