Building Setback Ordinance and what it means

January 25, 2018

Dan Dysinger, Grant Twp Supervisor

Dan Dysinger, Grant Twp Supervisor

The Grant Township Board under advice from our Building Inspector moved to proceed with creation of a setback ordinance. Everyone should know by now that Grant Township does not have a land plan, none are proposed.

In October, November and December we discussed openly reasonable approaches and simplifying a draft document. In December, no further changes were proposed and it was agreed to send the simplified document to the Township Attorney. The Township Attorney put the legal touches in place and we will have a Public Hearing in February. We are not required to do so but the Grant Township Board has always been open.

Why would anyone want to build a structure within inches of or on a property line boundary, even worse build up to or in a road right of way? The simple answer for people in Grant Township… because they can.

It’s very unwise, but people have done it and will continue to do it until a rule prevents it.
Grant Township administers the Building Codes, Plumbing, Electrical and Mechanical and how buildings are constructed. We use the Michigan Building Code, the Township receives such authority through Public Act 230, and we have for decades. We do it for convenience of our residents, if we didn’t the County or State would.

The Michigan Building Code does not restrict or set any rule for setbacks from property boundaries.

Most Townships, who administer the Building Codes, are planned communities; setbacks are usually contained in such regulations.

Grant has no such rule in place.

The simple and condensed ordinance for Grant only restricts a building or structure distance from property boundaries.

The simplified version of the proposed rule; 10 feet from a side property line, 10 feet from a rear property line, and 20 feet from a road right of way.

That’s all there is to it, no hoopla, no multiple page rulemaking, just something simple.
The Ordinance and its enforcement will be used by the Building Inspector. The Building Inspector can deny a permit or red tag a building if the simple distance as outlined is violated.

One thing everyone needs to know, this does not correct the past and numerous mistakes in yesteryears.

So we won’t be visiting those who have put buildings in public road right of ways, or buildings where eves drip onto a neighbor’s property. What happened in the past is unfortunate, and near impossible or cost prohibitive to correct.

What is even more unfortunate, such lack of realistic behavior leads to a future degradation of property value, or making a future property sale near impossible.
This Ordinance will not restrict any use of property. A mixed use or business can be located anywhere; an industrial operation can be located anywhere. Some will assert this as zoning,

It’s not so, planning and zoning govern uses. Grant Township has no land plan or zoning.
This ordinance is based on a simple rule, “to protect the health, safety and general welfare of our residents.” The same rule applies to the Michigan Building Code, its purpose is to provide for a safe building environment.

So if we look at what other local Townships have for setbacks our proposed standards are way below those levels. Example: Hayes Township, averaged – front = 43 ft., side = 19 ft., rear = 33 ft.; Surrey Township, averaged – front = 36 ft., side = 21 ft. rear = 29 ft. These setback distances vary from one use to another, but are also part of a larger regulated environment called zoning. Grant Township has no land planning or zoning and none are proposed.

Let’s look at another rule dedicated to mere safety; it’s called the 4 to 1 rule using a ladder.
If you need to access a roof on a 16 foot structure by the simple rule it requires the extension ladder bottom be placed about 4 or 5 ft. safely from the wall, adding an extra foot makes a distance of about 6 ft. Personally I don’t like heights but if needed, the extra space is pure safety, If the building is taller more space is needed – maybe more than 10ft.
If I build on the property line, I need to access my building from the neighbor’s property. A worst case scenario is finding out later that my building is actually on the neighbor’s property; what does it cost to correct that? There are many stories about such incidents and squabbling neighbors.

The setbacks will help alleviate such issues in the future.

Setbacks from road right of ways at 20 ft. is on the low end of nominal, Right of way setbacks address safety. This Ordinance will also maintain the integrity of the Building Code program in Grant. No other reasonable approach has been offered, and any smaller distances would ignore science and safety.

Human behavior requires rules, history teaches us. Our 4th President of the United States James Madison once said, “If men were angels no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary”.

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