October 2009

What is a parcel?

Webster's definition of "parcel" in real estate context is "a tract or plot of land". This can mean different things to different people in different circumstances. To a Lister or Assessor a "parcel" equates to one single assessment account. Vermont Title 32 Section 4152 (3) defines "parcel" as "all contiguous land in the same ownership, together with all improvements thereon". This definition should be used by Listers and Assessors to establish individual Grand List accounts. Each town's Grand List account has a parcel number. The State of Vermont has even established a unique number for each Grand List parcel in the entire state. This is know as the SPAN (School Property Account Number). Some Grand List accounts such as cable company equipment have nothing to do with land. Most Vermont towns have several "unlanded mobile home" accounts. These are mobile homes where the owner of the mobile home is different from the owner of the land underneath them. These are all referred to a Grand List parcels.

To a Zoning Officer a parcel is something different. Many Grand List parcels are made up of multiple Zoning parcels. It is common for a property owner to purchase adjacent land. John Smith owns a three acre conforming lot next to Mary Jones' five acre conforming lot. Mr. Smith sells his lot to Ms Jones. Mary Jones now owns two Zoning parcels even though the resulting Grand List has one parcel in the name of Mary Jones for eight acres.

In another example, a developer owns 100 acres of undeveloped land. He/She goes through the permit process and gets approval for a total of 35 lots but has not sold any. The developer still owns all 35 approved lots totaling 100 acres. There should be one Grand List parcel even though the developer now owns 35 approved Zoning lots or Zoning parcels.

The term "parcel" appears in Vermont Statues hundreds of times. It means different things in different contexts. Many towns have "tax maps". In some towns the maps show boundaries of Grand List parcels. In some towns the maps show Zoning parcels. In some towns the maps are a mixture.