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Zoning Permits: What You Need to Know as a Designer

Description/Purpose:

Zoning and permits are required for many landscaping jobs. This report will cover some of the zoning regulations and permits designers need to be aware of. It will look closely at Minneapolis and St. Paul as well as general DNR regulations. The Minneapolis and St. Paul categories covered are the same for most of the metro area. Contact your municipality, before beginning your project, for specific information pertaining to your area.

Why do you need a permit and how long does it last?

Permits are needed for any modification, exterior remodeling, or repairs to single and multi-family dwellings. All work on the given site must be completed in one year from the permit issue date. If work is not completed in one year, a penalty of $25 per day is charged. The site is considered a nuisance after the year deadline. The Director of Inspections may either complete the work or return the site back to the original condition. If the Director of Inspection takes action, the permitee must repay the charges in one sum or in ten equal annual payments.

Permits and Zoning Regulations, Minneapolis and St. Paul:

  • Erosion control
  • Fences
  • Phosphorous application
  • Property line location
  • Stormwater management
  • Wood decks
Erosion Control: The goal of erosion control is to keep soil on the excavation site and prevent it from entering any storm drain system on either private or public property.
  • Erosion control is necessary on any site that disrupts topsoil
  • Sites disrupting topsoil over 500 square feet or five cubic yards require a permit (residential and commercial)
  • Sites disrupting topsoil over 5,000 square feet need an approved erosion control plan before receiving a permit
What this means to you as a designer:
Be aware of erosion before, during, and after installation. Design with erosion in mind: choose plants with firm root systems that will stabilize and reinforce the soil, incorporate plenty of organic matter to improve soil structure, reduce tillage, and maintain plant cover year-round.
For more information: http://www.metrocouncil.org/environment/Watershed/bmp/ApA_LocalRegs.pdf

Fences:

Minneapolis

    Fence location
  • Fences can be built on or along property lines
  • Fence cannot cross onto any public or private property
  • Fence must not block access to any fire hydrant
  • Fence must be fifteen feet away from any intersection (street or alley) so it does not obstruct drivers view

    Maintenance
  • Owner must maintain fence
  • Owner must maintain the space between the fence and property line

    Fence height
  • Fence in front yard must be 3' or shorter
    • Fence may be increased by 1' if it is decorative and is less than 60% opaque
  • Fence in corner side yard must be 3' or shorter
    • Fence may be increased by 1' if it is decorative and is less than 60% opaque
    • Fence may by increased to 6' (total height) at the point where it intersects the corner side wall and rear wall
  • Fence in interior side yard must be 4' or less
    • Fence may be increased to 6' if neighbor has 5' between fence and sidewall along entire length
    • Fence may be increased to 6' at the point where it intersects the rear wall and rear lot line
  • Fence along rear lot line must be 6' or shorter
    • Fence in rear yard that is next to a side yard is considered an interior side yard
  • Fence within 5' of public street must be 6' or shorter

    Building materials
  • Fences must be built of wood, metal, bricks, or masonry
  • Only two or less materials may be used to construct a fence
  • Wood fences should be rot resistant
  • Fences cannot be made of electrically charged wire, chain link with slats, razor wire, chicken wire, rope, cable, railroad ties, landscape timbers, utility poles or any other material not meant for permanent fencing
  • Fence less than 6.5' cannot have metal cut edge at top of fence
  • Barbed wire can be at top of fence of it is 6.5' or higher and on industrial property 100 feet or more from residence or office residence
  • Finished sides of fence posts must face opposite private or public property
  • Snow fences can be used on public property to control snow between November 1 and April 15
St. Paul
    Fence location / height
  • All fences must be 6' 6" or less compared to the sidewalk or finished grade
  • The whole fence must be inside fence owner's property line
  • Fences from the front property line to the front setback line must be 4' or less
  • On corner lot, fences must be 2' or less compared to the street grade
  • Fence on front corner yard may not be 2' above street grade

    Building material
  • Barbed wire is allowed only if:
    • The location is a non-residential area or not residentially occupied
    • Three or less strands of barbed wire above 6' and not on public property
  • No electrical fences

    Maintenance
  • Fence should be neat, but there is no regulation
  • Finished side does not have to face outward
Fees for building a fence:
First 200 feet or less, $22.00
Each additional 100 feet or less, $8.00
What this means to you as a designer:
Design fences with regulations in mind to prevent future questioning and structure adjustments. Be aware of the lot location and the specific requirements for that area.
For more information:
http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us
http://www.ci.stpaul.mn.us/depts/liep/Building/fencepermit.html
http://www.ci.stpaul.mn.us/depts/liep/pdf/Zoning/Fenceregs.pdf

Phosphorus:

Minneapolis and St. Paul (effective January 1, 2004)

Phosphorus is found in decaying plant debris, animal waste, eroding soil particles, and fertilizers containing phosphorus. Phosphorus runoff comes from farmland in rural areas. In urban landscapes, phosphorus enters waterways through hard surface runoff. Organic matter left on hard surfaces and fertilizer spilled on hard surfaces will run into nearby drains that lead a body of water. Phosphorus can be extremely damaging to bodies of water. < 10 ppb of soluble phosphorus causes no problems, 10 - 20 ppb of soluble phosphorus accelerates eutrophication, and > 20 ppb soluble phosphorus causes lakes to become eutrophic. A eutrophic body of water is rich in minerals and organic nutrients. These conditions promote plant growth, especially algae. The increased plant life decreases the dissolved oxygen and causes other organisms to vanish. Phosphorus in the soil is considered immobile. Therefore, fertilizer containing phosphorus will rarely need to be applied since it leaches very slowly. For more information on eutrophication and other water quality topics, visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/shorelandmgmt/guide/waterquality.html.

    Restricted use:
  • Phosphorus may not be applied to turf in a metropolitan county (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington)
  • Granular fertilizer containing more than 3% phosphorus may not be applied in non-metropolitan counties
  • Liquid fertilizer with more than 0.3 pound phosphate per 1,000 square feet may not be applied in non-metropolitan counties

    Exceptions:
  • Tissue, soil, or other lab test completed within the last three years proves phosphorus level to be inadequate for healthy turf growth
    • Must not exceed rates recommended by the University of Minnesota and approved by the commissioner
  • Establishing a new turf with seed or sod (use allowed only in first season)
    • Must not exceed rates recommended by the University of Minnesota and approved by the commissioner
  • Fertilizer including phosphorus can be used on a golf course under the supervision of a licensed, certified, or approved person with an ongoing training program approved by the commissioner
What this means to you as a designer:
Always test the soil before applying fertilizer containing phosphorus. It is important to remember that most soils in Minnesota do not require additional phosphorus. Also, educate your clients about possible phosphorus damages to bodies of water and the regulations for their area.
For more information:
http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/18C/60.html
http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/18C/61.html

Property Line Location:

Do not assume hardscaped regions such as sidewalks and alleys dictate property line. Always determine exact property line before building a structure, even if neighbors are in agreement.

Locate pins on corners of property. If pins are not found, a surveyor can be hired to survey and reinstall new pins.

Property line location can be obtained from the City of St. Paul.
Property line location can be obtained from the City of Minneapolis:

GIS Printroom
309 2nd Ave. S.
Room 301
Minneapolis 55401-2268
612-673-2431
gisprintroom@ci.minneapolis.mn.us
What this means to you as a designer:
Begin designing property only after property line has been verified. Make sure your lot and plot plans are correct. Inspect any plans that are provided by the clients to verify accuracy and double-check your own work.
For more information:
http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us

Stormwater Management: the control of runoff that is discharged into bodies of water, reduction of nutrients from water, and reduction of suspended solids discharged. (Regulations vary per body of water)

  • Permits are required for sites larger than one acre
  • Annual permits are required for every stormwater device
  • Sites without enough space for stormwater devices may be exempt of regulation
What this means to you as a designer:
It may be helpful to direct the stormwater into a raingarden. Raingardens allow stormwater and melting snow to seep back into the ground naturally. They are beneficial because polluted runoff is prevented. Three simple steps should be followed to make a raingarden: 1) create any size dip in the landscape, 2) place it next to a hard surface, 3) plant native, hardy plants that do not need fertilizers and pesticides (Friends of Bassett Creek).
For more information:
http://www.metrocouncil.org/environment/Watershed/bmp/ApA_LocalRegs.pdf
http://www.mninter.net/~stack/rain/index.htm

Wood Decks:

Minneapolis

  • Drawing scale must be: 1/4" = 1' or 1/2" = 1'
  • Materials should all be treated wood or approved of natural resistance to decay (ex: cedar)
  • Handrails are needed on stairs with four or more risers
  • Guardrails are needed on decks 30" or higher above ground
  • Posts on handrails and guardrails must be spaced close enough so a sphere 4" in diameter does not pass through
  • Base of stairs must not be on bare ground
St. Paul
  • Permit is required for a deck attached to a structure or a deck above grade
  • Guardrails are needed on decks 30" or higher above ground and must be at least 36" high
  • Posts and / or ornamental pattern on handrails and guardrails must be spaced close enough so a sphere 4" in diameter does not pass though
  • Joists may not overhang beams by more than 2', unless approved
  • Beams may not overhang posts by 2', unless approved
  • Must be designed to support 60 pounds per square foot
  • Materials should all be treated wood or approved of natural resistance to decay (ex: cedar)
What this means to you as a designer:
Design wood decks with regulations in mind to eliminate injuries, law suits, and unsatisfied clients.

For more information:
http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us

http://www.ci.stpaul.mn.us/depts/liep/pdf/Building/DeckHandout.pdf

City and DNR permits are required for different reasons. City permits are required for public safety, to ensure structures are built correctly, maintain a good impression, protect the environment, and many other reasons. The DNR requires permits to protect natural resources. They concentrate on waterways, forestry, trails, wildlife, parks and recreation, fisheries, minerals, land, and many other resources. This section will look at some permits that are needed when designing on a lakeshore property.

DNR Permits:

  • Aquatic vegetation removal
  • Beach sand blanket - Sand brought to a lakeshore area to build a beach
  • Boat ramps
  • Irrigation - Pumping water from a body of water onto private property
  • Lakeshore frontage
  • Retaining walls - Wall built along shoreline (in this instance) to control or stop erosion
  • Riprap - Large natural rock placed along a shoreline to control or stop erosion.
  • Structure removal
Visit http://www.sustland.umn.edu/topics/index.html for more information on shoreland restoration

Aquatic Vegetation Removal: Clearance of certain aquatic vegetation that would otherwise reduce waves, prevent erosion, and house fish and wildlife

  • A permit is required for removal of cattails, bulrush, and water lilies
  • An aquatic plant management permit is required to use pesticides for aquatic vegetation removal
  • Permits may be obtained through the DNR Regional Fisheries Offices.
  • A permit is not needed to remove any other aquatic plant species.
What this means to you as a designer:
The aforementioned aquatic vegetation is beneficial because it reduces waves, therefore reduces erosion. It also provides fish and wildlife habitats.
For more information:
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html

Beach Sand Blanket:

A sand beach may be installed without a permit if:

  • Material is clean, inorganic sand or gravel with no pollutants or nutrients
  • Area covered is less than 6" thick and 50' wide or less than one-half the lot width
  • Notify local zoning office and watershed districts seven days prior to installation
  • Location is not a fish spawning area (sign will be posted)
  • Material may be installed a second time with less material covering less of the same area as covered previously
  • Does not cover emerging vegetation
What this means to you as a designer:
Notify the zoning office and observe area for emerging vegetation and fish spawning area. Apply up to allotted amount or obtain a permit for greater coverage.
For more information:
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html

Boat Ramps:

Private boat ramps may be installed without a permit if:

  • Location does not need pilings, dredges, or other site preparations
  • Built of durable inorganic material
  • 7" or less thick, 12' or less along shore, 10' or less waterward or into 4' of water (which ever is less)
  • 5 cubic yards or less excavation and 5 cubic yards or less of fill for base
Public boat ramps may be installed without a permit if:
  • Location does not need pilings, dredges, or other site preparations
  • Built of durable inorganic material
  • 60 cubic yards of less excavation and 30 cubic yards or less of fill for base
  • 24' wide and 20' waterward or into 4' of water (whichever is less)
What this means to you as a designer:
Design boat ramps, or ramp placement, with regulations in mind for use without a permit.
For more information:
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html

Irrigation:

A permit is needed when more than 10,000 gallons are used per day or 1 million gallons are used per year

Water may be either pumped or allowed to flow freely onto property

What this means to you as a designer:
Determine the amount of water needed for irrigation and obtain a permit if necessary. You may consider modifying the irrigation schedule to stay below the given gallon amounts, if needed.
For more information:
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html

Retaining Walls:

A permit is needed to build retaining walls below the ordinary high water level.
Retaining wall construction is discouraged by the DNR

What this means to you as a designer:
Communicate to your client that rock riprap is desired over retaining walls by the DNR. Retaining walls cause waves that disturb sediment on the bottom and result in a sterile environment. Many walls on one body of water will reduce habitat for fish and wildlife. They will also reduce food that fish and wildlife depend on to survive. Structurally, retaining walls require high maintenance due to freezing and thawing and waves. Discuss the pros and cons of retaining walls vs. riprap with your client.
For more information:
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html

Riprap: Riprap is created by placing coarse rocks randomly along a shoreline. Riprap may be installed without a permit if:

  • There is a need to stop existing erosion or recover an eroding shore
  • Does not cover emerging vegetation
  • Natural rock with no debris, 6-30" in diameter
  • Crushed rock, gravel, or filter is under natural rock
  • Naturally shaped and does not obscure the flow of water
  • Slope less than 3:1
  • Location is not a fish spawning area
  • Less than 200' long and less than 5 times the width of the watercourse
What this means to you as a designer:
Riprap is only used when there is a need to control erosion. Consider planting between rocks to create a more natural shoreline and stabilize the riprap. Remember to build soil upwards on the land-side of riprap to reduce runoff.
For more information:
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html
http://www.sustland.umn.edu/implement/index.html
http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/publications/waters/shoreline_alterations_riprap.pdf

Structure Removal:

  • Area is restored once structure is removed
  • All parts of structure are removed
  • Structure does not control water level
  • Location is not a trout stream
What this means to you as a designer:
Consider structure removal and design with restoration in mind. Remove structure only if it meets the above regulations.
For more information:
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html

Summary

It is important to remember zoning and permit requirements when designing both residential and commercial landscapes. Permits are required for any modification, exterior remodeling, or repairs to single and multi-family dwellings. Requirements are made to ensure public safety, preserve natural resources, ensure proper building of structures, and many other reasons. All projects must be complete within one year of the permit issue date.

Lakeshore properties require many permits to protect fish and wildlife, control runoff, and prevent erosion. It is the designers responsibility to honor all permits and regulations as well as educate their clients.

This report was written to specify zoning regulations for Minneapolis and St. Paul, but most information will be the same for the surrounding metro area. Please contact your municipality for specific regulations in your area before beginning your project.


References:

City of Minneapolis. Information Sheets. 12 Feb. 2003. Minneapolis Information and Technology Services. 2001. http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us

City of St. Paul. LIEP Library. 12 Feb. 2003. City of St. Paul. http://www.ci.stpaul.mn.us/depts/liep/General/liep_library.html

Friends of Bassett Creek. Raingardens. 17 April 2003. Friends of Bassett Creek. 27 March 2003. http://www.mninter.net/~stack/rain/index.htm

Metropolitan Council / Barr Engineering Co. Appendix A Local Regulations. 10 Feb. 2003. Minnesota Urban Small Sites BMP Manual. http://www.metrocouncil.org/environment/Watershed/bmp/ApA_LocalRegs.pdf

Minnesota DNR. Permit Requirements. 10 Feb. 2003. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2003. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwpermits/requirements.html

Minnesota Statutes 2002. Phosphorus Turf Fertilizer Use Restrictions. 12 Feb. 2003. Minnesota Statutes 2002. 2002. http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/18C/60.html
http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/18C/61.html


This implementation report was developed by Rachel Elsen, student, University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Sciences.

 
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