State Defined “Subdivision” – a division of a lot, parcel or tract of land by the same owner that creates 5 or more parcels or building sites of 1½ acre or less, or successive divisions of land by the same owner within a five year period that result in 5 or more parcels of 1½ acre or less.

Wis. Stat. § 236.02(12)

Local “Land Division” – local ordinances may be more restrictive than the state definition with regard to the number or size of lots regulated.  This publication will generally use the term “land division” to refer to all such developments.

Wis. Stat. § 236.45

Much of the form and character of a community is determined by the design of subdivisions and the standards by which they are built.  State statutes regulate the technical and procedural aspects of dividing land for development and provide minimum standards for subdivisions related to sanitation, street access and layout.

Local communities (counties, towns, cities and villages) may also adopt local land division or subdivision regulations.  Local ordinances may be more restrictive than the state with regard to the number or size of lots regulated.  Local ordinances tend to focus on the density, layout and design of new developments.  They may also require developers to provide public improvements such as roads, storm sewers, water supply systems, landscaping or signage.  If a local community does not exert control over local land divisions, the result may be excessive or premature division of land, poor quality or substandard development, or partial or inadequate infrastructure development.

Among its many purposes, land division regulations can help a community to:

  • Address health and safety issues such as stormwater runoff and emergency access.
  • Ensure new development is adequately served by public facilities such as roads and parks.
  • Provide for the efficient placement and delivery of public services and facilities.
  • Promote neighborhood designs that meet the needs of residents.
  • Ensure accurate legal descriptions of properties.
  • Avoid disputes regarding the sale, transfer or subdivision of land.
  • Protect other community interests outlined in a comprehensive plan or local ordinance.


Back           Next