A legal lot is a parcel of land which has been subdivided with a subdivision plat approved by the governmental agency within which jurisdiction the subdivision falls. A legal tract is a parcel of land created by a metes and bounds survey and recorded in the county deed records prior to the date when a subdivision ordinance became effective for that parcel. For instance, if a parcel was deeded by metes and bounds on January 4, 1972, and the first subdivision ordinance for that area was not adopted until December 9, 1974, the parcel is a legal tract by virtue of the fact that it was created prior to the first applicable subdivision ordinance for that area. A term that is frequently used is that the parcel is "grandfathered" from the subdivision ordinance.
Some common "grandfather" dates for local governmental jurisdictions are as follows:
- City of Cedar Park - December 9, 1974
- Williamson County - February 21, 1985
- Travis County - September 1, 1983
- Austin extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) released to Cedar Park - May 12, 1977 or November 15, 1984 (depending on location)
Grandfather dates can be affected by the date a parcel of land was annexed into the ETJ of the City. It is necessary to consult the City or County in whose jurisdiction the parcel falls to determine the appropriate grandfather date. If the parcel is a legal lot or legal tract, the owner may apply for construction permits. If the parcel is not a legal lot or legal tract, the owner may not apply for construction permits until a subdivision plat is approved and recorded for the parcel.