Glossary of Land Development - Land Banking Terms


Consists of more than one acre of land.

Acre of Land

A two dimensional measure of land consisting of 43,560 square feet. It can be any shape.


An area with a severe lack of water greatly limiting the development of natural plant and animal life.


A deep gully cut into the land by intermittent running water.

Artesian Well

A water well that is drilled where the water rises because of natural underground pressure. It is not mechanical.


Exists where two or more adjacent parcels are combined with the result that the assembled parcels have value that exceed the sum of the individual parcels. The added value is plottage value.


This is an appraisal concept, used by subdividers and land appraisers, that determines the highest value of land parcels prior to subdivision. For example, it might be determined that a certain parcel of land should be subdivided into 10 lots rather than 9 larger lots, or 11 smaller lots in order to maximize the value of the parcel.

Bottom Land

This is land near a lake, stream, or river that is subject to flooding because of its location and elevation.

Boundary Line

A line of demarcation between two adjoining lots or land parcels that mayor may not be I marked.


A small stream or brook.

Currency Land

This is land that has nominal value because it has no water, electricity, sewers, or nearby roads. It is generally arid land far from populated areas. It is called currency land because its primary value is to barter it to land speculators who are willing to hold it in their family for fifty years or more.


A region that receives an extremely small amount of rain, less than enough to support most plant life.

Detention Pond

This is a reservoir intended to hold water on a temporary basis while slowly draining to another location. Detention ponds are used to avoid flash floods as part of a flood control plan. Compare to Retention Pond.

Directional Growth

The direction in which the population is growing. Directional growth is an Important factor in predicting future land values.

Dry Lake

Dry lakes are former lake beds containing high levels of alkali salts. Dry lakes are devoid of plant life.


A non-possessory interest to use land that is not owned by the user for a defined purpose. An easement is a property right.

Endangered Species

A population of organisms that are at risk of becoming extinct. California has 289 threatened and endangered plant and animal species which include many beetles, rodents, reptiles, and grasses.


Refers to the right to develop land granted by the local government.

Environmental Assessment

This is a study to determine if a specific land parcel has any unique attributes so as to further determine if an Environmental Impact Report is needed. Unique attributes can include the presence of hazardous waste, endangered species, or historical artifacts. The presence of any of these unique attributes can result in a parcel of land having little or no value.

Environmental Site Assessment

This a pre-acquisition study of a land parcel to determine if any hazardous waste exists. Environmental site assessments are done in two phases. Phase I involves research to determine the previous uses of the parcel and whether hazardous waste is likely to exist. If the answer is yes, a Phase II assessment is conducted to discover the severity of any contamination.

Environment Impact Statement

This is a study of the anticipated effects of a proposed development on the local environment.

Excess Land

Excess land is the land area beyond what is required to support the current highest and best use of the property. It is land that can be separated and used separately.

Flash Flood

A sudden local flood of great volume and short duration that occurs with little warning.

A relatively level area of land contiguous to a body of water that is subject to periodic flooding.

Four-Three-Two-One Rule

This is a general rule that applies to commercial land appraisals. It holds that the first 25% of frontage is worth 40% of the total value, that the next 25% is worth 30% of the total value. the next 25% is worth 20% of the total value, and the back 25% is worth 10% of the total value. This is not a perfect formula, but it is a good estimate.

Ground Lease

This is the lease of land only. A ground lease can be unsubordinated or subordinated (made junior in priority) to a mortgage or deed of trust.


A channel or ditch cut into the land by intermittent running water.

Inclusionary Zoning

This refers to local zoning laws that require developers to set aside a percentage of housing units, at a reduced price, for low-income people in exchange for the right to develop the land. The result is that the price of the unsubsidized homes are increased in order to make it possible for low income people to buy a house they could not otherwise afford. It is a government program designed to redistribute wealth.

Interstate Land Sales Act

Federal law which requires detailed disclosures to be made when land is offered for sale across state lines. The law is administered by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Land Lease

See Ground Lease

Land Locked

Land that has no access to a public street except through an adjacent lot or parcel of land.

Land Residual Technique

An appraisal method of estimating the value of land based upon the net operating income and the cost of proposed improvements.

Legal Description

A written description of land sufficient to locate it on the earth by reference to an approved recorded map or government survey.


An agreement whereby the owner of property permits the temporary use of the property by another. It is not an interest in real estate. A theater ticket would be an example.


A special assessment or tax upon property owners in a particular district unique to California.

Mitigation Land Bank

Government program requiring landowners to set aside portions of their land for nondevelopment if the government determines the land to be "environmentally sensitive."


Not in my back yard.

Nonconforming Land Use

Use of land that violates the current zoning laws but is permitted to continue because the property was developed before the current zoning law was enacted.

Open Space

Land set aside and left undeveloped by the developer of adjacent land which serves as an amenity to the nearby residents. It may be designated for recreational use or simply be set aside as open space.

Paper Road

A road that is planned but does not actually exist. They are sometimes shown on maps and developer plans.

Plat Book

A public record usually maintained by the County Recorder's Office containing land maps showing the land divided into lots, blocks, and streets, and indicating all measurements.


Refers to creating value (plottage value) by assembling small adjacent land parcels into I a larger, more useful development site.


A small inland body of standing water that is smaller than a lake, A pond can be natural or man-made.

Potable Water

Water suitable for drinking purposes.


A radioactive chemical element sometimes found in soil. It is colorless odorless and tasteless, and dangerous to human life.


Acreage used primarily for raising and grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep.

Range Lines

Lines that are parallel to a Principal Meridian at six-mile intervals known as ranges. They are numbered east or west of a Principal Meridian. For example, Range 1 West or Range 2 West.

Raw Land

Land without any improvements such as utilities, streets or buildings.

Riparian Owner

An owner of land adjacent to a body of water such as a lake or river.

Riparian Rights

The right to u~e water on, under or adjacent to your land.

Rural Land

Land outside cities such as farms, ranches, and raw land.

Section of Land

A section of land is one mile square and contains 640 acres within a township There are 36 sections in a township.

Setback Line

The distance from the curb or other legally established point within which no building can be constructed.


A sinkhole or sink is a natural depression or hole in the surface of the earth.

Site Improvements

Additions to raw land that enhances the value and usefulness of the land such as utilities, drainage, sewers, and sidewalks.

Site Plan

A written document that sets forth how a parcel of land will be improved. It shows the locations of all buildings and improvements such as driveways swimming pools, landscaping, and paved parking areas.

Special Assessment District

An area where a special assessment is imposed on the property owners to pay for a government project that presumably benefits the land owners in the district. It is a substitute for a tax increase.


A person who occupies property of another without legal authority or consent.


The negative image affecting the value and marketability of property after an environmental cleanup or other material event.

Strict Liability

Refers to the liability of a property owner under some circumstances for cleaning up an environmentally contaminated site even though the landowner was not responsible for the contamination.


A person who partitions a parcel of land into individual lots.

Subordinated Ground Lease

A land lease where a mortgage or deed of trust has priority over the recorded lease.


A plan showing boundaries, measurements, and contours. Also, the process by which a land parcel is measured and its area determined.


A licensed professional who prepares land surveys.


A shallow depression, usually made of concrete, constructed by a developer so that rainwater can more easily drain away from structures.

Tax Sale

The sale of property by the county for failing to pay property taxes.


The degree to which a chemical or other substance is toxic to humans. Often refers to chemical levels in water.

Underground Storage Tanks

Below grade tanks used to store gasoline, diesel fuel, industrial products, and waste chemicals. Leaks are one of the largest causes of environmental contamination to the soil and water supply.

Vacant Land

Land that is not being used. It may have utilities and off-site improvements. Compare to Raw Land.

Valley Fever

A fungal disease spread by spores that are swept into the air by disruption of the soil usually during farming operations. It is most common in the dry areas of California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Wild Fire

Any uncontrolled fire in combustible plant material. Also referred to as a brushfire, forest fire, or grass fire.

Zoning Laws

Zoning laws are a use of the power of the government to limit or regulate the use of private property.

Zoning Ordinance
A law adopted by a city or county setting forth the type of use to which property may be put. Zoning Ordinances also address the procedure for appeals ,obtaining variances, and penalties for violations.

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