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Do I need a building permit to install a fence?
Building permits are required for fence installation in unincorporated St. Joseph County. All fences must meet the location and height development standards in the zoning ordinance. The standards can be found in starting in the lower part of page 3 in this Zoning Ordinance chapter.
Where can fences be located/what is the setback?
Fences can be placed right at the property line. In other words, there is no setback for fences. Please note that the front property line is usually never at pavement, but rather at the edge of the County owned right-of-way which extends beyond the street surface (see "How can I determine where my property lines are located?" below).
What is the maximum height for a fence?
The maximum height of a fence depends on the type of fence and its location on the lot. There are additional regulations for corner lots.
For fences where greater than 70% of the fence is open, such as a chain-link fence, the maximum permitted height is 8’- however, if the fence is placed along the front property line or along the side property line within the front building setback (typically 35’ from the front property line for residential lots), the fence shall not exceed 4’ in height.
For fences where less than or equal to 70% of the fence is open, such as solid privacy fences, the maximum permitted height is 6’-however, if the fence is placed along the front property line or along the side property line within the front setback (typically 35’ from the front property line for residential lots), the fence shall not exceed 3’ in height.
Corner Lots. On a corner lot containing greater than 9,000 square feet, both property lines along the street are considered front property lines when it comes to determining maximum fence height. For corner lots less than or equal to 9,000 square feet, one front property line, as determined by the Zoning Administrator, may be considered a side property line and therefore allow for a taller fence. For all corners lots, fences along the two property lines abutting the streets cannot exceed 3’ when they come within 10’ of the right-of-way of the perpendicular street. This area is known as the clear sight triangle, and nothing taller than 3’ may be erect there to protect driver visibility at intersections.
Does it matter which way a fence panel faces (i.e. can the posts/"ugly side" face outward)?
There are no development standards in St. Joseph County regulating which way a fence panel faces.
How can I determine where my property lines are located?
The only way to determine the precise location of a property line is to hire a land surveyor.
Aerials provided by Planning & Zoning staff or online GIS sources can only provide the approximate location of property lines, and may be several feet off.
Can I place a fence in an easement? How do I know if there is an easement on my property?
Easements, such as those reserved for drainage or utilities, are to remain free of structures, including fences. To determine if there is an easement on your lot, first contact the Division of Planning and Zoning. If the parcel was part of a subdivision recorded after 1964, Planning staff will be able to provide you with a subdivision plat which includes all easements in existence at the time of recording. If the parcel was not part of a subdivision, or was part of an earlier subdivision, staff will advise you to contact the County Recorder’s Office to determine whether any easements are present.
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Where do I go for zoning information and help for property in the St. Joseph County (unincorporated) or the Towns of Lakeville, New Carlisle, North Liberty, Osceola, and Roseland?
Properties with five digits (and sometimes four digits) are in St Joseph County (unincorporated). Properties with less than five digits and addresses in Lakeville, New Carlisle, North Liberty, Osceola, and Roseland are in their respective towns. St Joseph County (unincorporated) and these towns are served by the Area Plan Commission, the Area Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Department of Infrastructure, Planning, and Growth Division of Planning and Zoning staff. Webpages and links on this website can help you with any planning and zoning related issue in these areas. You can also contact our staff by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 574-235-7800.
Additionally, each town has their own zoning administrator who handles zoning code enforcement and related issues. Unincorporated County properties have their zoning code enforcement handled by County Planning & Zoning staff. The Executive Director of the Area Plan Commission is also the County Zoning Administrator, per County Zoning Ordinance.
Where do I go for zoning information and help for property in the City of South Bend?
South Bend addressed properties with less than five digits are usually in the City of South Bend. Planning and zoning for property in the City of South Bend is handled by the City’s Department of Community Investment. Please see southbendin.gov/zoning, or email email@example.com, or call 574-245-6022.
Where do I go for zoning information and help for property in the City of Mishawaka?
Mishawaka addressed properties with less than five digits are usually in the City of Mishawaka. Planning and zoning for property in the City of Mishawaka is handled by the City’s Department of Planning and Development. Please see mishawaka.in.gov/planningdevelopment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 574-258-1625.
Where do I go for zoning information and help for property in the Town of Walkerton?
Walkerton addressed properties with less than five digits are in the Town of Walkerton. Planning and zoning for property in the Town of Walkerton is handled through their Building Commissioner. Please see walkerton.org, or email email@example.com, or call 574-910-0820.
Where do I go for zoning information and help for property in the Town of Indian Village?
The Town of Indian Village contact information is listed in our directory. They can help you with and planning and zoning issues you may have in their Town.
There are two online Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping apps available to lookup property and zoning information:
maps.macog.com – The MACOG mapping app is probably the most well known and well used of these two options. (You need click the “St. Joseph Planning” box in the layers list to see zoning districts.)
stjocogis.maps.arcgis.com – This ArcGIS Zoning Map app has the zoning map layer already active. If you are looking for what a parcel of property is zoned you can use this one. (You will need to check the “PARCEL” box in the “Layers” tab when you are zoomed in closer to see property lines and click on parcels for more information.)
You can also contact our staff by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 574-235-7800.
Zoning ordinances list permitted uses for each zoning district. In addition to the primary uses listed, each zoning district also has a list of uses permitted with a special use permit (see below for more information on this). Zoning ordinances are available online.
Rezonings, development standard variances, special exceptions/special uses require a public hearing in front of a decision-making body, such as the Area Plan Commission and the Area Board of Zoning Appeals. Property owners adjoining or near the subject property receive notice of that public hearing so that they can have their voice(s) heard in favor of or opposition to the issue at hand. The meeting agenda with application and staff report are available ten calendar days before the public hearing, go to our agendas page.
If you have any questions on that matter you are encouraged to contact us prior to the hearing (email@example.com or 574-235-7800).
If you have comments in favor or opposition to this matter you are encouraged to make them in writing via mail (227 W. Jefferson Blvd, County City Bldg., 11th Fl., South Bend, IN 46601) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and to attend the public hearing itself.
The Area Plan Commission has a policy of placing “Zoning Hearing” signs at properties scheduled for a rezoning public hearing ten calendar days before hand. The meeting agenda with application and staff report are also available ten calendar days before the public hearing, go to our agendas page.