Today we're going to take a look at one of the most important aspect of planning home additions: Zoning!
A critical part of planning and executing a successful home addition project is understanding the zoning regulations and obtaining the necessary permits. When it comes to zoning there is not a universal guide to what is allowed. Instead, zoning is regulated by the municipalities and county's who each have their own zoning code. For that reason, each project needs to be looked at carefully to see what is allowed. Today we're going to touch on a few of the main things to look at when considering zoning and we've also included a video of Greg walking through an example!
Zoning: What is It and Why it Matters
When you’re planning a home addition, it’s key to understand there are two primary types of permits you’ll need: The building permit and the zoning permit.
The building permit is related to the technical aspects of materials and methods used to build the project. Any professional builder should be able to easily obtain the building permits needed for a residential home addition.
On the other hand, the zoning permit is more about the intended use, location, and size of the addition. This permit can be much more trick y and often times can actually prevent a project from happening.
Working Through an Example
To illustrate the process, we're going to look back at a project we completed in 2022 for a customer in Green Bay. At Linked Living Homes, we use a checklist of key considerations to ensure we stay aligned with the zoning restrictions and regulations.
The Zoning Checklist:
Intended Use: Is your planned use permitted?
Find Your Zoning Authority: Your city, or the county in more rural settings, is typically the authority issuing zoning permits.
Setbacks: This refers to the distance from the plot line to the proposed site.
Impervious Surface: Limits how much of your property can be covered by a surface that doesn't allow water to seep through.
Septic, Covenants, Floodplain, Wetlands, and Shoreland: While irrelevant in our example, these elements can add layers of complexity to your zoning situation and need individual attention.
In our example, we found:
An in-law suite addition was permitted. Noteworthy is the fact that in this location we were allowed to add the suite directly to the garage. In some areas this is not allowed.
The Green Bay City had jurisdiction.
Setbacks needed for the front yard were 15ft, 6ft and 8ft for the side yards, and 25ft for the rear yard.
The property could cover only 50% of its total lot area with impervious surfaces.
After understanding these zoning details, we reviewed and measured the property against the guidelines using the county's GIS map. Provided these constraints, the family was able to construct an in-law suite, connecting to their existing garage, while maintaining adherence to the prescribed guidelines.
Navigating Your Way Around Zoning
Every property and every project are unique and zoning can be tricky. It can be easy to get the wrong information if you talk to the wrong person or ask questions in not wrong way. We've had a number of customers come to us saying other builders or people at the town have told them they can't build what they want to and later we actually built additions for them.
So, our advice to you is to do your homework and don't take no for an answer right away! If you don't feel confident that you know how to navigate the process well enough give us or another professional a call and we can help you out.
Happy building and until next time, take care!