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The Linn County Unified Development Code regulates the division of land. Any parcel of ground created that is less than thirty-five acres in size must submit an application for subdivision with the Linn County Department of Planning and Development. Depending on the use of the property (proposed or current) you may also need to rezone your property. Rezoning may be required when a property is being subdivided, resulting in any lot of less than 35 acres of land. A rezoning or subdivision request must meet the required minimum levels of service (MLS) and have a passing Land Evaluation Site Assessment (LESA) score calculated for the property. There are different MLS requirements for different land use designations on the Linn County Land Use Plan Map; however, they are all required to be within 1/4 miles of a county maintained hard service surfaced road. Separation requirements from Confined Animal Feeding Operations, as well as minimum distances to a fire station must also be met. Minimum levels of service are items that must be met and no variances are allowed. Email the staff at Linn County Planning and Development or call 319-892-5130 with any questions.
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Separate zoning, building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits are required. Application for a building permit includes the submittal of two sets of construction drawings. In order to determine a valuation and permit fee, please include the area in square feet for: each floor, finished basement, unfinished basement, garage, decks and porches. Plans are thoroughly reviewed by an inspector for code compliance before issuance of the building permit. electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits must be obtained and work performed by contractors licensed in the respective trade. For further information view our Single Family Dwelling Handout. Before the above permits can be issued, the Planning & Zoning Division must verify that all zoning requirements are met and must also approve a site plan. You will need to provide staff with the locations of the well, septic drainage field and existing structures. You will also need to provide the location of the proposed improvement showing dimensions from property lines and from existing structures. Contact the Linn County Planning and Development Department for information on required submittals for constructing a new house or garage at 319-892-5130. Contact the Public Health Department at 319-892-6000 for information on well and septic system permits and the Linn County Engineer at 319-892-6400 for information on a driveway entrance permits and addressing permits.
The State of Iowa has given counties the authority to develop zoning regulations for their unincorporated areas. However, the State has declared that farms should be able to operate relatively free from local restrictions. This "right to farm" is contained in the following section from the Code of Iowa:
335.2 Farms exempt. Except to the extent required to implement section 335.27, no ordinance adopted under this chapter applies to land, farm houses, farm barns, farm outbuildings or other buildings or structures which are primarily adapted, by reason of nature and area, for use for agricultural purposes, while so used. However, the ordinances may apply to any structure, building, dam, obstruction, deposit or excavation in or on the flood plains of any river or stream.
Even though the State exempts farms from zoning regulations, it has provided few guidelines as to what should be considered a farm. In order to qualify under the agricultural exemption, it must be clearly demonstrated that the principal use of the land and the proposed building(s) is farm-related. This includes proposed dwellings, and that the occupants of the dwelling are primarily engaged in agriculture.
We strongly encourage anyone wishing to claim the exemption - especially for a new house - to contact us prior to the start of construction to determine if the exemption is appropriate. The farm exemption applies only to Linn County zoning and building regulations. Other permits (such as floodplain development, well, septic, E911 address or driveway access) may be required. Please contact the appropriate county department for information.
New in 2020!
In 2020, the Iowa legislature enacted additional exemptions from zoning regulations for “agricultural experiences” as follows:
335.26 Agricultural experiences exempt. To assist in the promotion of agricultural experiences, a county shall not require a conditional use permit, special use permit, special exception, or variance for agricultural experiences on property of which the primary use is agricultural production. Agricultural experiences includes any agriculture-related activity, as a secondary use in conjunction with agricultural production, on a farm which activity is open to the public with the intended purpose of promoting or educating the public about agriculture, agricultural practices, agricultural activities, or agricultural products.
Because the “agricultural experiences” provision in state code is new, the definition of an agricultural experience is very broad, and the application of building codes is not exempted, please contact the Planning & Development Department for assistance.
To submit a request or if you have further questions, please email or call 319-892-5130.
Yes, there is an application deadline, which is the last day you can submit a case for the next month’s case cycle. Case types that are required to meet the application deadline include: rezoning, residential parcel split, land preservation parcel split, final plat, conditional use, special exception, and variance. The application deadline is normally the 3rd Wednesday of the month. Contact our staff at 319-892-5130 for further information, or check our Planning and Development Calendar for application deadline dates.
Contact the office of Linn County Planning & Development for meeting agendas at 319-892-5130 or view our current agenda and minutes page.
Current zoning maps can be found at the Linn County Online Mapping site. Click accept if prompted (you may need to download Adobe Flash). Type in the parcel address or Geo-Parcel Number (GPN). The zoning district legend can be found by selecting “Layers” at the top right of the page, then selecting the drop-down menu for “Zoning.” If the zoning doesn't appear, you may need to zoom in. If you have any questions, call 319-892-5130 for assistance.
It is possible to operate a business from your home if the business meets certain criteria. A permit is required if any of the following are true of your business: has non-resident employees, has more than five customer visits in one day or more than three at once, has commercial vehicles or business equipment parked outside all or a portion of an accessory building is being used for the business. Please contact the Planning and Development Staff to determine whether your particular business will require a permit. Home occupations requiring a permit are granted by the Linn County Board of Adjustment after review and recommendation by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The regulations in the Unified Development Code governing Home Occupations is Article VI, Section 107-113(h).
Required lot sizes and setbacks vary depending on the zoning district of the property. First, you will need to determine the zoning district for the property in question (see item #5 in this FAQ). Next, you can locate requirements for the applicable zoning district in Article VII of the Linn County Unified Development Code.
A setback is defined by the Unified Development Code as “the minimum horizontal distance between a lot line and a building or structure located upon such lot required by the provisions of this chapter.” In order to know the distances from the proposed structure or addition to the lot lines, you will need to determine where the relevant property lines are located. If your property has been surveyed or is a platted lot, survey pins should be located at the corners of your property. If there are no property pins, or you are unsure of their location, these Tips for Locating Your Property Lines may be of assistance. There may also be easements located on the property that may have restrictions.
The best way to find information on the status of a case is to contact the lead staff person listed on your staff report. You can also email Linn County Planning & Development or call 319-892-5130.
"A private legal restriction on the use of land, attached in the deed to a property. A deed restriction is most commonly used in the establishment of a subdivision to restrict the use of all individual lots in the development to a certain type of use, e.g., single-family dwellings. Usually the community has no control over deed restrictions." (Source: Huntington, Stuart. Iowa Land Use Planning Notebook, Glossary of common planning and zoning terms. (Iowa State University Extension. Pm-1353. Reprinted March 1995.)
Deed restrictions may also restrict the type of construction materials, the minimum finished floor area, and may even require review and approval of building plans by an "architectural control committee." Deed restrictions, also called restrictive covenants, are private controls and the county has no authority to enforce such restrictions. Enforcement is therefore a civil matter between owners within the subdivision.
Linn County allows two different types of parcel splits to separate a house from a parent parcel. There are several factors in determining which type of split a parcel would qualify for, including what year the house was originally constructed. These two processes are called Residential Parcel Splits and Land Preservation Parcel Splits. Requirements for both types of subdivisions can be found in Article IV of the Linn County Unified Development Code. For further information, please email the Planning and Development Staff or call 319-892-5130.
The Linn County Geographic Information System Division maintains an interactive Flood Hazard Map. Enter your address or GPN in the upper left-hand corner of the interactive map to search for your property. If you need help interpreting the map, or for any other Flood Hazard Map questions, please email our Certified Flood Plain Manager or call 319-892-5130.
Planning and Development staff may have an elevation certificate they can provide you with. If Planning and Development staff does not have an elevation certificate for your property, you will need to contact a licensed surveyor to complete one for you. For further information, please email the Certified Flood Plain Manager or call 319-892-5130.