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Small Cabin Forum / Properties / Small cabin in northern Michigan and building permits
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bigdude
Member
# Posted: 26 Jul 2019 02:58
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New member here looking for information on building codes and permits. Here is my situation:

My wife and I are currently looking for property with 10-20 acres that will be used to build a small cabin on in northern Michigan. Our plan is to put a 500-600 square foot cabin on the property with electrical, septic and a well. We cannot afford a traditional stick-build home, so we are considering one of those Amish-type cabins that are pre-made. It took me months to find a property for sale that had the proper zoning (or lack thereof). Most municipalities in northern Michigan have zoning ordinances that require the minimum area of a dwelling to be 800 sq ft or more. I found a few townships that have no zoning ordinances and hence that is where we are looking.

My current problem is building codes. Obviously, a pre-made Amish cabin will not meet building codes. But my wife and I want to follow regulations and we are not attempting to evade permit fees and property taxes. So my question is what are the possible repercussions when the county finds out that I did not apply for building permits? Am I looking at a fine, will they force me to tear it down, will it be labeled uninhabitable? Will I still be able to get plumbing and electrical permits even though I didn’t get the building permits?

Any information would be appreciated. I am trying to do as much research as possible before we make an offer on the property. I have already emailed the county building inspector asking his opinion as well, just have not heard back from him.

Lippy667
Member
# Posted: 26 Jul 2019 10:41
Reply 


Bigdude,

I recently bought property in northern Michigan as well (east of Wolverine), and went through some of those issues. It seems to mainly depend on what you are planning to use the cabin for, and what the property zoning is. If you do not plan on living there, and have the right zoning, there is a good chance you can still get all the permits you need for what you want.

Go to the local zoning department and ordinances first. If they approve something, the county building department has to go along with it unless it is unsafe. I spoke with the county bldg department first also, and he told me they don't allow cabins, had to be a full residence (min 1000 sf). So I went to the local zoning department and talked with them, who initially agreed with county, until I found an exemption for a "private hunting cabins" in their zoning codes. After I showed them that she said no problem, as long as we don't stay for more than 30 days straight, or rent it out (the "private" part). A lot of northern twps have ordinances that allow for "hunting/fishing/recreational cabins" that don't need to be to full residential code, as they don't qualify as a residence. Still need a building permit, but one of those pre-built structures are generally fine. Electrical/heating/plumbing will still need permits and need to be to code (county jurisdiction).

I had to dig up the cabin part in the local codes myself, as even the zoning department wasn't aware of it until I showed them. Just 1 sentence about hunting cabins being exempt. We bought the property before digging into the permit part, so luckily it has worked out but was frustrating to begin with. Took a while digging through all the codes after I was initially shot down but glad I was stubborn and didn't take their word for it. I mean how could you not be allowed a small cabin in northern MI?

We are going to build just a rustic "private hunting cabin" per zoning allowance (Nunda twp - our property is zoned Ag/forestry). Won't have electric (closest power line is ~3 miles away) or plumbing, to start anyway, so all I need is a zoning and building permit. Zoning said I can put up basically anything I want, that is structurally sound at least. We plan to start next year, so I am about to get started on the permits this fall/winter but have already talked with the twp and county people and they all seem on board for now. Remember to always be nice to them, they can help immensely, or make life hell.

And also yes, if you build without permits they can have you remove it from the property, at your own cost, depending on the officials, although I have found the small towns are generally a lot easier to deal with than cities. The county building departments on the other hand. If it meets codes anyway, they could just charge you fines and make you complete inspections. If it doesn't meet codes, good chance they make you update or remove. Again, depends on the officials some will work with you, some won't.

Good Luck!

mj1angier
Member
# Posted: 26 Jul 2019 19:04
Reply 


Here in NC if over 10 ac it falls under state codes which are a bit more lax. This is the reason a lot of land site are 10. 1 acs.

Worth it to check

bigdude
Member
# Posted: 27 Jul 2019 03:25 - Edited by: bigdude
Reply 


Lippy667,

The property is in Osceola county and there is no zoning for my particular township nor at the county level. So I do not have a minimum square footage to meet. My concern is building permits. I contacted the building inspector asking if an Amish pre-made structure would pass building inspections and this was his response:

"This sounds like a very nice project to do. This project is all doable. You will have to have 2x6 construction to meet the R20 wall factor. You need R49 for the ceiling. You will have to approved well/septic from the health department. Our website has a lot of information which I am sure you have found. Let me know if you have any questions. Also your foundation will have insulation."

I do not know what that statement means. I do not know anything about construction as I work in healthcare. Right now I am at loss as what to do.

bushbunkie
Member
# Posted: 29 Jul 2019 07:37
Reply 


Hi Bigdude,
Sounds like similiar situation in Ontario...our rules are a lot tougher. 2x6 is standard now with all builds...R20 insulation fits perfectly within the 16" centres. R49 is normal for the ceiling, we had to get r50 blown in.
All builds now in Ontario are required to be on a 4ft cement block crawlspace or posts, etc.
Go to the source...ask if you can come in and describe the steps for you...what they mean by "foundation"...if they want everything completed within a certain time frame...the process for getting a septic system approved (ours was $15,000), etc. All part of the learning / education...never a dumb question...I asked all of them!

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 29 Jul 2019 08:00
Reply 


You need to ask the town/county the proerty is in. No if ands or buts about it. Ask the proper authority and not people on the internet.

Lippy667
Member
# Posted: 29 Jul 2019 08:58
Reply 


Bigdude,

Sounds like they are requiring to build to residential codes, those are all right out of the MBC (Michigan Building Code). I did not know that any counties in Michigan didn't have zoning, but it is right there on the web page if you are not within those few townships. So sounds like the county bldg department is the only authority for building, so unfortunately you may be stuck with what he said.

ICC
Member
# Posted: 29 Jul 2019 09:12 - Edited by: ICC
Reply 


Quoting: bigdude
"This sounds like a very nice project to do. This project is all doable. You will have to have 2x6 construction to meet the R20 wall factor. You need R49 for the ceiling. You will have to approved well/septic from the health department. Our website has a lot of information which I am sure you have found. Let me know if you have any questions. Also your foundation will have insulation."
Quoting: bigdude
I do not know what that statement means.


That means building code is enforced. It's his way of saying the shed you propose is okay if it is modified / built to the present residential code.

IMO, you will never get the R49 in the ceiling or roof of a converted shed, unless you can get the builder to not install the shingles. That would allow you to install sheet foam over the sub-roofing to reach the R-49 level. Then apply the shingles or metal over that. There's more to how to do it but that's a nutshell description.

Talk to the shed builder and ask if they can modify things to accommodate the insulation and other code requirements.

You could also research whether or not a hunting cabin is allowed, as someone else mentioned. That can work along as you can handle the restrictions that usually are included.

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