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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click on the a question below to find the answer:

When do I need a building permit?

Lake County Planning and Zoning issues Land Use Permits (LUP).  A LUP is needed when you are placing any structure over 3’ in height and the intent is for it to be permanently placed on the property.  This includes, but is not limited to, decks, pre-built and plastic resin sheds, woodsheds, outhouses, fabric storage shelters, greenhouses, and steel containers.  You will also need a permit when changing the outer dimensions of an existing building such as adding an enclosed entry way or adding dormers to a roof.

Do I need a permit to put in a driveway or clear trees for a building project; what if I need to bring in soil, gravel, or rock?

Contact Planning and Zoning anytime you will be clearing land (clearing by hand is okay) and disturbing the soil or adding fill or gravel.  A permit may be required.  New driveways also may require an access permit from the County, MN DOT, or other entity that maintains the road. Clearing vegetation within 50 feet of a waterway and 20 feet of a bluff is strictly regulated.  Filling in wetlands also has strict regulations; failing to get a permit can result in expensive fines as well as the cost of restoration.

Do I need a permit to build a fence?

Fences six (6) feet in height and under do not need a permit and can be placed on the property line with the better side facing out. Fences over 6 feet require a LUP and must meet all setback requirements of your zone district.

Can I put a living space in my garage or build a second home on my property?

Contact Planning and Zoning anytime you convert a structure into living space or add a dwelling (including bunkhouses). There are additional requirements when having more than one dwelling on your property.

My home was built before zoning laws came into effect and now it doesn’t meet the zoning requirements; how does this affect my property?

Anytime you buy an older home or cabin that is very near to a lake or river, we recommend contacting Planning and Zoning. The structure may have many limitations for future use and expansion (lake and river setbacks vary). Lots, structures, and uses that were in place before zoning laws and no longer meet zoning requirements are considered non-conforming and are grandfathered-in, as-is. Lake County Land Use Ordinance and MN State Statutes may limit what you can do with your property or structures. Contact Planning and Zoning for more information.

When does my septic system have to be inspected?

Lake County requires an inspection on new systems after 12 years and every 8 years afterward when applying for a permit (Land Use, Interim Use, Conditional, Use, Variances) or upon sale of your home. Point of Sale also requires disclosure forms and possibly money to be set aside in escrow for repairs. Vacation rental homes and bedroom additions require inspections after 5 years new, and 3 years after that. Certain systems require an operating permit which must be renewed every 3 years or at point of sale.

Does Lake County allow pit privies (outhouses)?

Privies must be constructed per MN Rules Chapter 7080.2280 and a permit is required. A pit privy in shoreland (300’ from a public waters river or stream and 1000’ from a lake, or in the North Shore Management Zone) also requires a licensed SSTS contractor to identify suitable soils.

How do I split my property into smaller parcels?

Please contact Planning and Zoning; guidelines vary.

Can I use my RV or camper as my seasonal home?

RVs and campers that are licensed with current registration may be used as a dwelling for no longer than 21 days per calendar year. If you do not keep your RV or camper registered or wish to use it for more than 21 calendar days, contact Planning and Zoning for permitting requirements.

How can I place a sign on my property?

Signs for businesses require a Land Use Permit. Permit are not required for: political, residential identification, real estate, painted on a building, or home occupation signs. However, there are specifications that apply.

My neighbor’s security light shines into our backyard and windows; is this allowed?

All lighting should be directed downward, shielded, shall not trespass onto neighboring properties or roads, and shall not be mounted above 35 feet.