How to Navigate Zoning Regulations for Post Frame Construction


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Written by Evelyn Long | May 24, 2024

You’ve got your space in the country with peace and pasture for your horses and you’re ready to develop it with a barn. However, you have another bridge to cross before you call up your buddies for a good, old-fashioned barn party — navigating zoning regulations.

Even in off-grid rural areas, you will likely have to win the approval of the requisite authorities before building on your land, or risk fines or pricey demolition and renovations. Here’s what you need to know about navigating zoning regulations for post frame barn construction.

Understanding Zoning Regulations

Every jurisdiction in the United States has zoning ordinances that define how those who own the land use it, including what structures they may build and where. While these regulations can seem burdensome to landowners, they serve several useful purposes, including:

  • Maintaining the value of nearby properties.
  • Protecting the surrounding environment.
  • Balancing communities to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources.

Disputes can sometimes arise, especially in rural areas that are zoned for residential, not agricultural use. For example, you may have bought an acre or two with the intent to raise chickens alongside your horses, but your neighbors object to your rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo-ing at the crack of dawn. Your best bet is to do careful research before you buy to ensure you won’t run into issues with your proposed plans, although alternative routes exist if you already own land.

Even if your property falls into the right zoning category, you must still abide by certain rules. For example, the goal of preserving property values and travel visibility on nearby roadways may limit your structure’s size or where you can place it on your property. You must set it back a prescribed distance from the nearest road, and area aesthetics may require you to choose a specific design style or require a minimum number of square feet per structure.

Researching Local Zoning Codes

Researching local zoning codes requires assertiveness and the willingness to ask questions. In general, you must obtain a construction permit for work affecting your property’s exterior or structure, such as adding a swimming pool or moving pipes, let alone an entire outbuilding like a  barn.

Searching online for the zoning board in your jurisdiction will reveal the number, address and other contact information of the requisite authority. Reach out to them directly to inquire about what permits you need and the process to obtain them, as it varies from location to location. Prepare to incur fees for filing permit requests, although these are generally reasonable — less than $100. Once approved, the costs for the permits themselves may be significantly more depending on your state and county.

You may need to do considerable homework. For example, your jurisdiction may require you to submit floor plans, and schedule additional meetings and inspections. Ensuring you dot every “I” and cross every “T” decreases your chances of having someone question your design later.

Compliance Strategies and Design Considerations

What can you do if the zoning board comes back and says “Sorry, your land isn’t zoned for that use?” In such cases, you must apply for a variance, which typically involves filling out the official request paperwork and paying an additional fee. Authorities review such requests on a case-by-case basis, not changing the law but making an exception to it.

Your best shot at success is to address the factors that inspire zoning laws in the first place. For example, show how your proposed design will enhance — not detract — from area property values, improve the area environment or provide community resources.

Working With Professionals and Neighbors

Working with a barn service like Barn Pros can improve your chances of winning zoning approval. These professionals know their way around a blueprint, and can answer questions about material choices, the overall sustainability of your structure, and how their designs have enhanced similar properties and communities.

Another trick? Get to know your neighbors, discuss your project, discover any objections they may have and address them. While you should avoid taking the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” approach, the reality is many zoning violations in rural areas go unnoticed — until someone complains. At that point, the homeowner risks fines and the possible need to demolish the structure.

In some cases, your request for a variance may entail a public hearing where your neighbors can weigh in on what they think of your proposed pole barn plan. Knowing which ones you can count on to have your back, and who may object and why can help you plan your approach to the board.

Navigating Zoning for Post Frame Construction

A post frame barn is a fabulous place for your animal friends, but building it without the requisite approvals can lead to heartache and unnecessary costs. Learning how to navigate zoning before commencing construction saves money, time and stress.

Follow the steps above to obtain the requisite permissions before raising your post frame barn construction. You’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your property conforms to the letter of the law.

For a more technical guide to applying for and obtaining building permits in your area, explore the Barn Pros resource, “The Building Permit Process: Cost, Timeline and What to Expect.”

Evelyn Long is a writer focused on making the construction industry easier to navigate. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Renovated Magazine, where she writes tips and tricks for construction professionals and homeowners renovating their home. She is also a contributor to sites like NCCER and Building Enclosure.


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