Zoning – setbacks


Setbacks are the minimum distance your building can be located from the four sides of the property line. Again for our example, see the chart on page 5.3-5. As you can see, set backs are shown for various lot widths. For instance, the side interior lot set back is 5’ if your lot is 41’ to 75’ wide, and so on. Here’s how the setbacks affect you:

  1. Setbacks do not apply to an existing house because the house was built before the new zoning code became law. However, the setbacks are in effect for an addition or a new house.
  2. The side setbacks are reasonably straight forward. These apply to the primary structure only.
    1. For > 30’, 41’-74’, and <75’ lots, the setbacks are 3’, 5’ and 10’ respectively.
    2. For lots 31’ – 40’, a very common city lot, the two side setbacks have to total 10’, but neither can be less than 3’.
      1. 3’ + 7’ is ok, but 2.5’ + 7.5’ is not.
      2. 5’+5’ is also ok, and so on.
  3. The rear setbacks are just as easy except that there are really three different types of setback rules depending on what type of building is in the back yard.
    1. Primary structure – if there is an alley, the setback is 12’. If no alley, the setback is 20’.
    2. Garage in the rear 35% with an alley – 5’
    3. ADU (accessory dwelling unit) in the rear 35% with an alley – 5’. Note that an adu is a new type of structure permitted by the zoning code. See adu section to learn more.
  4. Side setbacks for a garage and an adu are 0’ and 5’ respectively.
  5. The front setback requires some explanation.
    1. If you have an existing house and you are not adding on the front, the front setback does not apply. If you are adding a new dormer or anything like that, the front setback applies to the new work.
    2. In most city zones, a block sensitive setback is required. The short description is that new improvements cannot extend past the face of adjacent houses. Porches do not count. The survey will show the existing setbacks from the two neighboring houses and we are required to use the adjacent setback furthest from the property line. In most cases this is 20’ to 25’. Since all block sensitive setbacks don’t fall into the above description, Chapter 13, page 13.1-30 has a detailed description on how to determine block sensitive setbacks.

Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the above.

Steve Culbertson