Nonprinciple use structures

Asked March 20, 2013, 3:08 PM EDT

If a zoning board/planning commission would like to allow the building of a non principle use structure such as a storage building without a residence in a residential zone would a provision under a special land use be the best way to go. Thought maybe a "nonresidential structure" or some other classification with a recordable certification (to serve notice) in the county courthouse would allow us to let property owners construct storage buildings and hopefully stop these buildings from becoming camps or residences in the future unless they plan on meeting current building codes.

Iron County Michigan

1 Response

A "non-principal use structure" is normally called an accessory structure. By its very definition it has to be associated with a principal use. If it is the only use on the parcel, then it is the principal use on that parcel.

The answer is "no", planning commission (or zoning administrator) cannot allow an accessory use/structure as the only land use on a parcel.

For example a principal use might be a dwelling (home). The accessory structure(s) would be the garage, garden shed, outdoor swimming pool, storage building, etc. If one wanted to allow the garage on a parcel without the dwelling, normally one would amend the zoning ordinance to list "garage" as a principal use or special use in the respective zoning district. As you might imagine, allowing garages/storage buildings in a residential district may be controversial -- as others may not like the idea of storage buildings (warehouse) in the neighborhood.

There are some communities that allow construction of the garage before the dwelling, so there is a building to store construction materials in while the home is being built. Usually the zoning permit is issued for both the garage and dwelling (at the same time), that includes a site plan clearly showing intent to build both within a certain period of time.

Other communities have provisions to allow the accessory structure to be built on the adjacent parcel (including a parcel across the street from the existing dwelling). They are requiring the parcels to be combined and with a deed restriction indicating cannot sell one parcel without the other (so the house and garage always stay together).

Another community I am familiar with has provisions for individuals to camp on their land, but has restrictions such as no electric hookup, or if there is electricity then there has to be potable water and an on site septic system, limit on the number of days per year camping equipment remains on the parcel, etc. etc.

I am not aware of any community trying to do what your question proposes. You will need to talk to your municipal attorney about the recordable certification, as I am not sure how, or if, that can be done. Also not sure it accomplishes much, as with or without the certification the municipality will have to take enforcement action against those that become something not wanted.