FAQ's ABOUT WHAT I CAN DO WITH MY PROPERTY
On this page you will find the questions most frequently asked about what is allowed to be done on a property. Click on the question you would like to read about to go to the answer below. If you didn't find the question you were looking for, just give us a call and we would be happy to help!
1. Where do I get a permit application?
2. What is the setback from the lake?
3. What is the setback from a road?
4. What is the setback from my property line?
5. Is my lot big enough to build on?
6. Can I talk to an Inspector on Building Codes?
7. How do I get in touch with an Electrical Inspector?
8. Who should I call for land use information?
9. Where do I get a burning permit?
10. Do I need a permit to do projects near the lake?
11. I just bought an undeveloped lot. How much vegetation can I remove so I can see the lake?
12. My lot already has lawn down to the lake. The front part is steep and hard to mow. Is there something I could do with this area?
13. I have a wetland between my building site and the lake. May I fill it?
14. My lot has an ice ridge in front. May I flatten it out?
15. What is a bluff and how does it effect building on my lot?
16. May I fix up my old boathouse down by the lake?
17. May I place a gazebo down by the lake?
18. May I add sand to my beach or create a beach?
19. What is the single smartest thing I can do before I start a project near the shoreline?
Answer – Applications/Permit Forms are conveniently located on our website along with the option to pay online. If you do not have access to a computer the ESD office can send on to you by mail, e-mail, or fax, or you can come into the office and fill one out.
Answer – The setback depends upon which lake or river you are on. Information about setbacks is available through the county's online interactive mapping resources. The lake classification will be displayed in when zoomed to a parcel scale and the Environmental layers can turned on in the legend on the left. Lake classifications and setbacks are as follows: Natural Environmental (NE) - 150'; Recreational Development (RD) - 100'; General Development (GD) - 75'. River classifications and setbacks are as follows: Forest or Transition - 150'; Tributary - 100'; additional setbacks may apply within the Mississippi Headwaters region. For more information on the setback for the property in question, feel free to call or email the ESD office at email@example.com or 218-547-7241.
Answer – Twenty (20’) feet from a public, county, state, or township road right-of-way;
Answer – Ten (10’) feet.
Answer – Please refer to the setback information above in questions 2, 3, and 4 and wetland information in questions 13 below. In some cases it may be necessary to call the ESD office (218-547-7241) to make an appointment to meet with a resource specialist to make the determination.
Answer – Cass County has not adopted the Uniform Building Code; therefore Cass County does not administer local building codes.
Answer – Call the State Board of Electricity (651-284-5064) Their web site address is: www.doli.state.mn.us
Answer – Our office has some helpful information published on our website under Land Use Regulations and Zoning portion of our website. This includes links to our Land Use Ordinance Fact Sheets, a Shoreline Guide and other information you may find helpful. If you were unable to find the answer to your question please call or email the ESD office to speak to a staff member (218-547-7241 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Answer – Burning permits and information about burning restrictions can also be obtained online from the DNR website. If you live within the National Forest Boundary, you may call the US Forest Service – Walker area (218-547-1044) for more information. If you live in other areas of the county, you may also call the local Minnesota DNR Forestry office, or local fire warden.
Answer – A Shoreland Alteration permit is required from the Cass County Environmental Services Department (ESD) for any proposed project within the building setback area including vegetation removal, access paths, stairways, platforms, retaining walls, removal of spoil material from harbors, or ice ridge alterations. Shoreland Alteration or Conditional Use permits are also required for the movement of soil, depending on quantities.
Answer – The front half of the building setback area is called the Shore Impact Zone 1. Within this area you can remove any dead or down trees (not from chainsaw disease), maintain a 14 foot wide access path with a permit as per #1 above, and limb living trees to improve your view. Other than that, all living shrubs and trees must remain in place. This vegetated strip is critical to lake water quality preservation. It reduces runoff by 30 – 40 % and traps sediment and nutrients. In the back half of the setback (Shore Impact Zone 2), you can remove all shrubs and up to 25% of trees over 4 inches in diameter in a random pattern.
Answer – Planting a vegetated buffer area. This will enhance the beauty of your lot and help preserve lake water quality. Environmental Services has a wealth of information including a plant list for Cass County and excellent publications like DNR’s “Landscaping for Wildlife and Water Quality”.
Answer – Behind the setback, no wetland filling is allowed in the building setback area, boardwalks may be used to gain access. The Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act requires a process called “sequencing” whenever a proposed project is reviewed. This required that all possible measures be taken to avoid any wetland impacts before filling is allowed. The Act also does not allow filling for the purpose of creating lawn. On lakes without a public access, it may be possible to do some filling for boat launching purposes after completing a wetland replacement plan and mitigating the wetland loss either through actual wetland restoration or buying credits from a wetland bank.
Answer – If the ice ridge was pushed up the previous winter, there is a Shoreland Alteration Permit administered by the Cass ESD available which allows restoration of the shoreline. This must be done every year there is damage. Check with ESD for details. If the ice ridge is well established or “historic” and has woody vegetation growing on it, the maximum allowable width for an alteration is 14 feet. This ridge also serves an important function to keep runoff from flushing nutrients into the lake.
Answer – A bluff is a very steep hill facing the lake that is 25 feet or greater in height above the lake and has a 30% or greater slope. Because these areas are fragile and highly erodible, they are afforded greater protection under the shoreland standards. No vegetative clearing is allowed in a bluff area except pruning to afford a view. There is also a building setback from a bluff of 30 feet. ESD will be glad to assist you in determining whether a bluff exists on your property. Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our resource specialists.
Answer – Other than maintenance of existing structure and at-grade platforms, all new structures including fences must meet the building setback. Platforms are allowed with a permit at a 10 foot lake setback provided that they are no more than one foot in or out of the ground, are 150 square feet or less in size, and have no railings.
Answer – A one time addition of 10 cubic yard of sand is allowed with a permit above the ordinary high watermark (OHW) of the lake. Below the OHW, the DNR has a special permit for sand addition. A note on beaches – if you don’t have one now, chances are that adding sand to a mucky area is not going to work. In addition, you could be destroying habitat that is valuable to fish and other aquatic life. You may also stimulate the growth of a whole new crop of vegetation. You are better off leaving it alone.
Answer – Call!!! (218-547-7241). The ESD staff is always ready and willing to answer your questions and/or visit your site. We have many fact sheets on ordinance regulation and other valuable information on our website, but a call in the beginning can save a world of heartache later on.