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In the zone — but not the right zone

by | Nov 1, 2023 | Buying | 0 comments

In the zone — but not the right zone


You can’t trust government websites. Ask me how I know. Better yet, I’ll just tell you.

We’re currently working on a project that has a house sitting on 4.5 acres in a nice country setting. That sounds quaint, doesn’t it? It’s a good area and will make someone a great home. But something we realized is that the extra acreage does not increase the value of the house tremendously. So, we decided to divide that land and put a new home on the other piece.


Now, I have never done this before. I have bought property many times where the houses were on one parcel and we had to do divide the land up so that each house had its own parcel. That was not a terribly difficult task. It just took time.


You have to order a survey. And the next step is to sit… and wait.


The reason for this intermission is that there are only a handful of surveyors in our area. In Gordon County, for instance, I’m only aware of two. That means you have to get in line and wait. And wait you shall. I have yet to have a survey crew to take less than a month and half to get on-site, and that’s with me being “worked in.”


Once the crew goes out and marks the parcel, they’ll take those GPS points back to the office and the head surveyor will use them to draw a new plat that shows how you want your property to look with the new lots.


But you’re not done there. You have to take that plat down to your county’s planning and zoning commission’s office and get the zoning administrator to sign off on it. If they OK your plan, they’ll stamp it, and then you can take that plat back to the surveyor, who will then record it at the courthouse.


Once that is done, you’ll need to take the plat to your attorney, and they’ll prepare deeds for the new lots so that each one will get its own legal description. And the final step is to contact both the tax commissioner’s office and the GIS department to let them know the lots have been divided so that they can set up new map and parcel numbers for new lots and get the property  divided in their system.


Actually, there’s one more thing. You’ll need to talk to the post office about adding addresses. I don’t know what is involved with this step. Every time we’ve divided a property, the houses already had their own mailing addresses.

That sounds like a lot (pardon the pun), but it’s really not that bad. But something you need to make sure of is that the original parcel is zoned correctly for what you need. And therein lies my problem with government websites.


Currently our county governments are using a mapping service called qpublic to post all the data associated with taxes, property lines and much more. Once you go to your county’s qpublic site, and search for a property, you can pull up something called the property’s tax card. There, you can find all sorts of public record information. You can see who owns the property, when it last sold, the structure square footage, the acreage and lots of other things, including its zoning.


Now the property card for the house we’re working on says the house and 4.5 acres are zoned R-3 residential, which is what we needed, and we thought all was good.


So, we got in line for the surveyor, got the plat drawn up, took it down to planning and zoning only to find out from the zoning administrator that we are zoned A-1 agriculture. This means that in order to do what we want, we have to get it rezoned.


Now, I showed the zoning administrator that the tax card said R-3, and she showed me something that I had never seen before. In parenthesis and written in red under the R-3 class, it says, “Note: This is for tax purposes only. Not to be used for zoning.”

I told the zoning administrator, “Well, I missed that didn’t I?”


She laughed.


Something else piqued my curiosity: I had looked all over trying to find the official zoning map for the county. It had always pointed me back to qpublic where I’d search and find a parcel, went to the map and looked at the layer list where I had to make sure the box for zoning was checked. Once I did that, some of the neighboring parcels changed colors to reveal their zoning in accordance with the qpublic map legend.


Mine did not change color. I told the zoning administrator about that and asked how I was supposed to know what zone I was in if the tax card class was not used for zoning purposes and the parcel didn’t reveal a zone color when I clicked the box. That’s when she told me something you should know. If there is no color change, the zone is A-1 Agriculture, despite what the tax card class says.


I wanted y’all to know this so you won’t make the same mistake I did. Now, we’re going to be put off a few months going through the rezoning process because I thought I was in the zone, but as it turns out, I was not in the right zone.


Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to or call Joe at 678-986-6813.



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