Zoning Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Question:  What size lot do I need on which to build a home?

Lot size depends on the Zoning District in which the property is located.  Please contact the Zoning Administrator for lot sizes in the various Zoning Districts:  Lot size minimums exclude road right of way so that area must be added to the minimum area.  R-A Rural Agricultural is 3 acres, R-1 Low Density Residential is 1 acre, R-2 Medium Density Residential and R-3 Special Residential are 17,000 square feet, R-L Lake Residential is 10,000 square feet if on the sewer line or 1 acre if not on the sewer line, FR Flat River (see underlying district), C Commercial has no minimum requirement, and I Industrial is 2 acres.

2. Question:  How many homes can I put on one lot?

One home is allowed per lot or parcel except for a special exception use permit for an accessory dwelling (typically for family needs).

3. Question:  What is a Permanent Parcel Number?

It is an identification number used to locate a parcel and for assessing.  In Vergennes Township, Permanent Parcel Numbers begin with 41 (Kent County) - 16 (Vergennes Township) - __ (Section Number) - __ (Block Number of Section) - __ (Individual Parcel Number).
Example:  41-16-19-400-006 is the Permanent Parcel Number of the Vergennes Township Hall.  It is located on parcel 6 in the 400 block of Section 19.

4. Question:  How far from the road must I build?

In the Rural Agriculture and residential zoning districts, the distance is thirty-five (35) feet from the edge of the road right-of-way.  Commercial and Industrial districts are seventy-five (75) feet.  Please check each Zoning District for any changes before placing a building.

5. Question:  How close can I build my home to my property lines?

In R-A and R-1 districts, the distance is fifty (50) feet from the rear property line.  In the R-2 and R-3 districts, the distance is thirty (30) feet from the rear property line.  In the L-R district the distance is thirty (30) feet to the lake edge or rear lot line.  In the R-A district the side setback is twenty (25) feet.  In R-1, R-2, R-3, R-L districts the side setback is ten (10) feet.  On corner lots, the street side setback is thirty (35) feet from the road right of way line.  See the C and I district ordinance for details for setbacks in those districts or contact the Zoning Administrator.

6. Question:  What is the minimum lot width?

The lot width varies according to the Zoning District in which the property is located.  In the R-A district it is 300 feet, R-1 is 165 feet, L-R is 50 feet on the sewer line or 165 feet if not on the sewer line, R-2 and R-3 is 100 feet, and I is 200 feet.

7. Question:  What is the minimum square footage needed for a home?

One thousand one hundred fifty (1150) square feet is the total required, but for a two story house, seven hundred twenty 720 square feet is required on the first floor. The minimum residence building width is twenty-four (24) feet and for manufactured homes twenty-two (22) feet.

8. Question:  What is a site plan and do I need one?

It is a scaled drawing of the lot and boundaries with the proposed structure and its location accurately depicted.  Homeowners often have a survey of their parcel, and this makes a good site plan if kept up-to-date.  Aerial photos are also available at the Township Hall.

9. Question:  Are modular/mobile homes allowed?

They are allowed if they meet the BOCA and HUD code and the Township width and square footage requirements.  Single wide mobile homes do not meet the minimum width and square footage requirements and therefore are not permitted except for special exception use permits for an accessory dwelling or a temporary dwelling.

10. Question:  Do I need a building permit to re-build if I have a fire loss or other natural disaster?

Yes.  It is a building project, a demolition permit is also required from the Building  Inspector.

11. Question:  Do I need a permit for an agricultural use barn or other farm building?

Yes, if the use is 100% agricultural, a Zoning Compliance Permit is required.  If an agricultural building is proposed on a vacant parcel, then a special exception use permit is required from the Township Board.

12. Question:  Are there fees for other permits?

Yes.  Some fees are standard, and some are based on square footage.  Please check when applying.

13. Question:  Are there regulations for home occupations and home based businesses?

Yes.  Permits are required and certain standards must be adhered to.  Please see the Ordinance for particular details, or contact the Zoning Administrator.

14. Question:  Are there regulations for signs?

Yes.  A sign permit is required for some types of signs and others are exempt from a permit but must meet certain requirements such as setback and size. 

15. Question:  Can I build an accessory building?

Yes.  A building permit is required and the fee is based on the building’s size.  There are also setback and location requirements.  Accessory buildings under 200 square feet do not require a permit but have setback and other requirements (see question 20), so please check with the Zoning Administrator.

16. Question:  I own land along the Flat River.  Are there special requirements which I must follow to protect the River?

Yes.  Three hundred (300) feet along each bank of the River is designated as the Natural River District by the State of Michigan and local ordinance.  It overlays the Zoning District in which your property is located.  The first twenty-five (25) feet along the river bank is to be preserved as a natural vegetation strip.  A small path up to 4 feet wide may go through the strip to access the river.  Only dead, diseased or dying trees may be cut and noxious plants.  Any other cutting requires approval form the Zoning Administrator and/or the State Natural Rivers Administrator.  Permits are required for docks, boardwalks and river access stairs.  Please check with the Zoning Administrator for further protective measures and requirements along the River.

17. Question:  If I want to split my land into more parcels, what requirements are there?

The splits must be allowable by state law and ordinance and must meet minimum acreage and frontage requirements.  A scaled drawing or survey is required.  Legal descriptions of the split parcels and the remainder parcel are required.  If all requirements are met, as determined by the reviewing Assessor, the splits can then be recorded with the Kent County Register of Deeds.  Please check with the Assessor for more details and information.

18. Question:  Are private roads permitted and what are the requirements?

Yes.  A private road is an easement that serves three (3) or more parcels.  The roads must meet certain specifications, and the plan for which the road is being built must be reviewed and recommended by the Planning Commission to the Township Board for approval and a permit to construct the road.  Please check with the Zoning Administrator for more information and ordinance requirements.

19. Question:  What if I need something special that is not defined in the Ordinance?

Please contact the Zoning Administrator for assistance with your questions.

20. Question:  Can I put up one of those little pre-built or kit barns for storage without a permit?

Yes.  A permit is not needed if it is under 200 square feet and less than 12 feet tall.  Location is not permitted in the front yard and there is a five (5) foot setback from side and rear lot lines (corner lot 35 feet from road right of way).  A site plan drawing is sent to the Zoning Administrator to be filed.