Our present zoning requires that a residential home must be built before an accessory building is allowed. Since we are in a rural area, this has been a major issue and we would like to revise this zoning to allow accessory building in all districts within limitations. Any documentation or direction you can provide would be certainly appreciated.
Iron County Michigan
It is very typical of zoning ordinances that most districts prohibit accessory structures in the absence of primary (principal) structures. One rationale for doing so in a residential district is to maintain the character of the district. For instance, a residential district with half of the lots only having garages would not make for much of a ‘neighborhood’ as it will lack pedestrians and houses with windows that allow for interaction between the public street and the private home. In this example there is also likely a negative property value impact on neighboring homes caused by the 'underdeveloped' lots that only have accessory structures.
Another reason for prohibiting accessory structures in the absence of primary structures has to do with the underlying intent of use separated zoning ordinances. Where you have an accessory structure without a primary structure, the property may be being used for something other than the intent of the district. For instance, a garage in a residential district is likely being used for vehicle storage or vehicle repair, neither of which are residential uses.
That said, some communities do allow for accessory structures without primary structures in some districts, such as agriculture. For instance, to have only an accessory structure in an agricultural district, a property might need to satisfy standards like:
- The parcel is in an agricultural use; and
- Such agricultural use is the primary use on the parcel; and
- The parcel is at least 5 acres in size.
- "The requirements in this Article shall not apply to accessory farm buildings (such as barns, windmills, and silos) used in the agricultural operations on a bona-fide farm, as defined in Article X (Definitions), except that farm buildings shall comply with the setback requirements for the districts in which they are located."
The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (PA 110 of 2006) does not speak to this and it is completely up to the jurisdiction to decide where accessory structures in the abscence of principal structures might be appropriate.