Plat Application FAQ’s
These frequently asked questions and answers about plat applications can help you get a better understanding about subdivision platting and the City of Houston’s land planning and development regulations.
- What is a plat? A plat is a map document based on a survey that shows land subdivision, land classification, or a change in property boundaries and is required before building permitting. A plat’s name provides a legal description for the land, such as “Lot 29, Block 19, Happy Trails” subdivision. See Chapter 42 ordinance.
- How do I obtain a plat or replat? A plat, or replat, is filed at Harris County Records Office after approval and after recordation by the landowner. You may request a copy from Harris County via email CCO.CCInfo@hctx.net or by phone 713-274-6390.
- How do I look up a plat application? You can view plat applications using the City’s Geographic Information System (GIS) research app tools, Houston Map Viewer or Houston Plat Tracker Plats, by entering an address or zooming in to the location.
- How are plats prepared and how do I submit one? Professional consultants are hired by property owners to advise them and create plat maps to prepare land for development and building, if the land is not properly platted. A plat must be signed by a licensed surveyor and/or a civil engineer. Consultants submit applications on the Plat Tracker online portal for consideration by the Planning Commission, which operates on a two-week cycle.
- When does the Planning Commission meet and how can I get information about the agenda? The Commission meets biweekly on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. See Planning Commission and Plat Tracker webpage for the posted agenda and in-person and virtual meeting options. The posted agenda serves as public notification of the items being considered by the Planning Commission, in addition to notification letters and signs that are required only for certain types of plat applications.
- What considerations are made at a Planning Commission meeting? The appointed Planning Commission is the body that approves, defers, or disapproves an application. If the plat meets all the rules under Chapter 42, the Commission shall approve the plat. Conditions related to a specific variance request may be imposed. A deferred application will be considered at the next Commission meeting. Issues such as water, sewer and drainage, flood mitigation, traffic flow, and types of buildings, do not fall under the purview of the Planning Department, and therefore, are not handled by the Planning Commission.
- What are the types of plat classifications? See Chapter 42- 23 for classes of plats. To prepare for building development in Houston, land is usually subdivided and classified into residential lots; or reserves for other purposes, such as commercial or any other unrestricted purpose.
- What else is considered in preparing a plat? Consultants can advise the property owner on considerations such as the project’s feasibility, conceptual plans, market conditions, application specifics, timing, costs, fees; and Chapter 42 plat factors, such as street circulation and block lengths, building lines and easements, plat drawing details, and more.
- What is a variance and what types are available? A variance is a Commission-approved deviation to a proposed land development, according to Chapter 42 standards. If there is a hardship or unusual physical characteristics, a consultant may help landowners seek a subdivision or development plat variance according to the Ch. 42 provisions. Variances are the exception rather than the rule. See variance guidelines for more details.
- Definitions and Plat Classifications: See Chapter 42-1 for terminology details. See Chapter 42- 23 for all classes of plats.
- Plat Abbreviations. Lots (LTS) is the legal description abbreviation for a single family residential classification. Reserve (RES) is an abbreviation for land platted for anything other than residential. Other legal descriptions require platting (i.e. TR for Tracts, ABS for Abstracts, SVY for land surveys, AC for acreage.) You can reference a local tax appraisal district’s information, such as www.hcad.org for legal descriptions. However, the tax codes are not legally binding.
- Incomplete plat applications and actions: Submitted plat applications that staff determines as incomplete are not promoted to the agenda for consideration. Consultant applicants of incomplete plat applications may submit revised information to be reconsidered within two weeks.
- Complete plat applications and actions: Plat applications with complete data are promoted and posted on the Planning Commission agenda and then reviewed by staff. The Commission’s action on these plats may be to approve, defer or disapprove. Deferred plats are automatically included on the subsequent agenda with a new agenda number.
- Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ): The City reviews plats in the ETJ which is an area extending approximately five miles beyond Houston’s corporate limits into the unincorporated areas of Harris, Fort Bend, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties. These areas are subject to platting requirements by state law, but are not subject to the City’s permitting and building inspection regulations.
- Public Hearing (C3N): Commonly referred to as a "public hearing”, a class three preliminary replat with notice (C3N) is simply a residential subdivision that is being replatted and requires a hearing if single-family restrictions ever existed within any prior plat boundaries. Some public hearing items also include a variance request. A public hearing date is established for C3N plats approximately 4 weeks before the hearing. Property owners within 500 feet of the property replat, and within the original subdivision boundary are mailed letters of notification; a sign is posted by the applicant; and a posted agenda notifies everyone of the plat proposals.
- Variances: A variance is an allowed deviation from the standard rules and regulations of Chapter 42. Planning Commission has limited discretionary authority if a plat requires a variance or special exception. Property owners in the city limits that are within 500 feet of the proposed development are notified of certain variances. The applicant must document a reasonable hardship or unusual physical conditions for the variance, such as if strictly applying the rules of Chapter 42 would make the land difficult to develop without the variance, or that the rules applied to the project are contrary to sound public policy.
- Single-Family: Single family designation under Chapter 42 can include more than one housing structure, such as a duplex or a house with a garage apartment under 900 square feet. If an area is deed restricted, the restrictions must restrict number of structures and type of structures on a lot to prohibit this type of development. See 42-1 for the single-family definition.
- Reserves: A platted unrestricted reserve can be used for any commercial or non-single-family residential application, such as for a retail center, apartment, or commercial office building. A reserve can designate further restrictions for the property, such as for commercial or institutional classifications. An owner can sell off part of a reserve in Harris County without replatting but cannot sell or convey part of a single family lot. See 42-1 for the reserve tract definition.
- For more City of Houston land planning and development information: Contact 832-393-6624 for the Planner of the Day, and explore our web site at www.houstontx.gov/planning/DevelopRegs.