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A plat map that shows the location of a lot for sale Ottawahillsplatmap.gif
A plat map that shows the location of a lot for sale

In the United States, a plat ( /plæt/ [1] or /plɑːt/ ) [2] (plan) is a cadastral map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of a piece of land. United States General Land Office surveyors drafted township plats of Public Lands Surveys to show the distance and bearing between section corners, sometimes including topographic or vegetation information. City, town or village plats show subdivisions into blocks with streets and alleys. Further refinement often splits blocks into individual lots, usually for the purpose of selling the described lots; this has become known as subdivision.


After the filing of a plat, legal descriptions can refer to block and lot-numbers rather than portions of sections. [3] In order for plats to become legally valid, a local governing body, such as a public works department, urban planning commission, or zoning board must normally review and approve them.

Types of plats/plans

A plat of consolidation or plan of consolidation originates when a landowner takes over several adjacent parcels of land and consolidates them into a single parcel. In order to do this, the landowner will usually need to make a survey of the parcels and submit the survey to the governing body that would have to approve the consolidation. [4]

A plat of subdivision or plan of subdivision appears when a landowner or municipality divides land into smaller parcels. If a landowner owns an acre of land, for instance, and wants to divide it into three pieces, a surveyor would have to take precise measurements of the land and submit the survey to the governing body, which would then have to approve it. [5] A plat of subdivision also applies when a landowner/building owner divides a multi-family building into multiple units. This can apply for the intention of selling off the individual units as condominiums to individual owners. [ citation needed ]

A correction plat or amending plat records minor corrections to an existing plat, such as correcting a surveying mistake or a scrivener's error. Such plats can sometimes serve to relocate lot-lines or other features, but laws usually tightly restrict such use. [6]

A vacating plat functions to legally void a prior plat or portion of a plat. The rules normally allow such plats only when all the platted lots remain unsold and no construction of buildings or public improvements has taken place.

Other names associated with parcel maps are: land maps, tax maps, real estate maps, landowner maps, lot and block survey system and land survey maps. Parcel maps, unlike any other public real estate record, have no federal, state or municipal oversight with their development.

Reasons for platting

An 1878 plat map of Transitville (now Buck Creek, Indiana) Transitville, Indiana 1878.png
An 1878 plat map of Transitville (now Buck Creek, Indiana)

Reading a plat

Plats contain a number of informational elements:


A pamphlet for a walking tour of Boise's original ten blocks. BoiseInaugural1863Plat.jpg
A pamphlet for a walking tour of Boise's original ten blocks.

The creation of a plat map marks an important step in the process of incorporating a town or city according to United States law. Because the process of incorporation sometimes occurred at a courthouse, the incorporation papers for many American cities may be stored hundreds of miles away in another state. For example, to view the original General Land Office plat for the city of San Francisco, California, filed in 1849, one must visit the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Oregon City, Oregon, as at that time Oregon City was the site of the closest federal land office to San Francisco. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Surveying The technique, profession, and science of determining the positions of points and the distances and angles between them

Surveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, art and science of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. A land surveying professional is called a land surveyor. These points are usually on the surface of the Earth, and they are often used to establish maps and boundaries for ownership, locations, such as building corners or the surface location of subsurface features, or other purposes required by government or civil law, such as property sales.

Public Land Survey System system of dividing most of the U.S. into squares

The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is the surveying method developed and used in the United States to plat, or divide, real property for sale and settling. Also known as the Rectangular Survey System, it was created by the Land Ordinance of 1785 to survey land ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, following the end of the American Revolution. Beginning with the Seven Ranges, in present-day Ohio, the PLSS has been used as the primary survey method in the United States. Following the passage of the Northwest Ordinance, in 1787, the Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory platted lands in the Northwest Territory. The Surveyor General was later merged with the General Land Office, which later became a part of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Today, the BLM controls the survey, sale, and settling of the new lands.

A variance is a deviation from the set of rules a municipality applies to land use and land development, typically a zoning ordinance, building code or municipal code. The manner in which variances are employed can differ greatly depending on the municipality. A variance may also be known as a standards variance, referring to the development standards contained in code. A variance is often granted by a Board or Committee of adjustment.

Section (United States land surveying) square subdivision of a U.S. survey township

In U.S. land surveying under the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), a section is an area nominally one square mile, containing 640 acres, with 36 sections making up one survey township on a rectangular grid.

Metes and bounds is a system or method of describing land, real property or real estate. Newer systems include rectangular, lot and block and Torrens. The system has been used in England for many centuries, and is still used there in the definition of general boundaries. The system is also used in the Canadian province of Ontario. By custom, it was applied in the original Thirteen Colonies that became the United States, and in many other land jurisdictions based on English common law, including Zimbabwe, South Africa, India and Bangladesh.

Subdivision (land) divided piece of land

Subdivision is the act of dividing land into pieces that are easier to sell or otherwise develop, usually via a plat. The former single piece as a whole is then known in the United States as a subdivision. Subdivisions may be simple, involving only a single seller and buyer, or complex, involving large tracts of land divided into many smaller parcels. If it is used for housing it is typically known as a housing subdivision or housing development, although some developers tend to call these areas communities.

A cadastre is a comprehensive land recording of the real estate or real property's metes-and-bounds of a country.

Lot and block survey system land surveying system used in the US

The lot and block survey system is a method used in the United States and Canada to locate and identify land, particularly for lots in densely populated metropolitan areas, suburban areas and exurbs. It is sometimes referred to as the recorded plat survey system or the recorded map survey system.

A planned unit development (PUD) is a type of building development and also a regulatory process. As a building development, it is a designed grouping of both varied and compatible land uses, such as housing, recreation, commercial centers, and industrial parks, all within one contained development or subdivision.

Infill rededication of land in an urban environment, usually open-space, to new construction

In urban planning infill is the rededication of land in an urban environment, usually open-space, to new construction. Infill also applies within an urban polity to construction on any undeveloped land that is not on the urban margin. The slightly broader term "land-recycling" is sometimes used instead. Infill has been promoted as an economical use of existing infrastructure and a remedy for urban sprawl. Its detractors view it as overloading urban services, including increased traffic congestion and pollution, and decreasing urban green-space.

Land lot spatially separated part of the earths surface, which is recorded in the land register on a separate sheet of the Land Register

In real estate, a lot or plot is a tract or parcel of land owned or meant to be owned by some owner(s). A lot is essentially considered a parcel of real property in some countries or immovable property in other countries. Possible owner(s) of a lot can be one or more person(s) or another legal entity, such as a company/corporation, organization, government, or trust. A common form of ownership of a lot is called fee simple in some countries.

Mt. Scott-Arleta, Portland, Oregon Neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, United States

The Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood of Portland, Oregon is located in the city's southeast quadrant. It is bounded on the north by SE Foster Road, west by SE 60th Avenue, east by SE 82nd Avenue, and south by SE Duke. Mt. Scott-Arleta borders the neighborhoods of Woodstock on the west, Foster-Powell on the north, Lents on the east, and Brentwood-Darlington on the south.

George L. Kinnard (1803–1836) was a Representative from Indiana; born in Pennsylvania in 1803; moved with his widowed mother to Tennessee and completed preparatory studies; moved to Indianapolis, Ind., in 1823; studied law; was admitted to the bar and practised in Marion County, Indiana; assessor for Marion County in 1826 and 1827; member of the State house of representatives 1827–1830; county surveyor 1831–1835; colonel of the State militia; elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Congresses and served from March 4, 1833, until his death on November 26, 1836; interment probably in Presbyterian Burying Ground, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Spot zoning is the application of zoning to a specific parcel or parcels of land within a larger zoned area when the rezoning is usually at odds with a city's master plan and current zoning restrictions. Spot zoning may be ruled invalid as an "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable treatment" of a limited parcel of land by a local zoning ordinance. While zoning regulates the land use in whole districts, spot zoning makes unjustified exceptions for a parcel or parcels within a district.

An easement is a nonpossessory right to use and/or enter onto the real property of another without possessing it. It is "best typified in the right of way which one landowner, A, may enjoy over the land of another, B". It is similar to real covenants and equitable servitudes; in the United States, the Restatement (Third) of Property takes steps to merge these concepts as servitudes.

Construction surveying or building surveying is to stake out reference points and markers that will guide the construction of new structures such as roads or buildings. These markers are usually staked out according to a suitable coordinate system selected for the project.

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Cadastral surveying is the sub-field of cadastre and surveying that specialises in the establishment and re-establishment of real property boundaries. It is an important component of the legal creation of properties. A cadastral surveyor must apply both the spatial-measurement principles of general surveying and legal principles such as respect of neighboring titles.

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Redmond–Bend Juniper State Scenic Corridor is a collection of ten unimproved land parcels administered for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The parcels are located along U.S. Route 97 between Bend and Redmond, Oregon, United States. It is named for the large western juniper trees found on the parcels. The scenic corridor is completely undeveloped with no trails or park facilities of any kind.


  1. American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. "plat."
  2. from a letter published in The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 72, Part 1, London, 1802 : "... many attorneys ought to be whipt for not knowing how to spell; that plot a conspiracy and plat a piece of ground were pronounced exactly alike ..."
  3. "City of Corpus". Retrieved 2012-12-13.
  4. "What is a Plat? - Real Estate Advice". 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
  5. "Platbooks and Land Ownership Maps | Find Maps". Retrieved 2012-12-13.
  6. "Land Development Frequently Asked Questions". 9 May 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  7. Kaplan Gordon, Lisa (2019-12-10). "What Is a Plat Map? A Survey That Can Tell You a Lot About Your Property". Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  8. "First Plat of San Francisco Found (1904 artricle)". Clackamas County Historical Society. The Oregon City Enterprise. Retrieved 11 February 2017.

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