Fancy Can - Local Zoning

Special Use, Setbacks and Lot-Coverage... oh, and parking-per-square-foot.

These are all terms you'll get to know up-close and personal..

Before you invest a dime on your Commercial Kitchen go see your local government officials. That would be the township, village or the city. Determine what zoning district your property is located in.

The best locations are within the Commercial or Agriculture districts, or best of all, areas that have NO ZONING.


There is a State of Michigan farming guideline that applies only to agriculture property (farms) that isn't located in within a city of 100,000 or more people. That's the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices, or GAAMP's guidelines for farms.

Even though most cities allow for agriculture use, Property zoning ordinances designate existing agricultural operations present prior to the ordinance’s adoption as legal nonconforming uses as identified by the Right to Farm Act, for purposes of scale and type of agricultural use.

The website for the GAAMPs is

The Gaamp's could help you with your farm market building and parking lot materials specification.


Practically speaking, 90% of people looking to install a Commercial Kitchen on farm, are going to need at least an acre of ground. Especially if the public is coming to your Farm and parking their cars. The parking requirements will probably be -- for every square foot of Commercial kitchen and display sales space, -- you'll need equal amount of space for parking and then add the (25' wide x ?? long) driveway to that.

The Zoning Permit Process

The township will want a description of your market activities. The size of your property, location of the trash bin, public parking and driveway. All of the buildings will need to be on your site plan to scale.

Here is the basic stuff to get started with your local zoning department.

  • First you draw a site plan (to scale). Property lines, existing buildings, driveways and land features (ponds, retaining walls). Future parking, buildings or green houses.
  • Write a brief summary of planned activities, farm products, special equipment (like a meat smoker) and hours of operation.
  • Use the summary and site plan to apply for a permit to run a farm based value-added operation on your property. My "Special Use Permit" application cost $200.
  • A future date for a public hearing is set and all of your neighbors (usually within a 300 ft.) will be sent a letter describing your plan and the date of the public hearing.
  • The evening of the public hearing your neighbors have the opportunity to express their concerns (like traffic or noise). The planning board makes a decision based on zoning guidelines, the public input and the zoning administrator expert advice.
  • If your special use plan is granted, typically you will also have also purchase a permit for any new buildings, fences, hoop houses and such. In Coldwater Township the fee is $40. These fees differ from town to township.
  • To get a permit for a new driveway, take a copy of your site plan to the county road commission for approval. That fee is usually around $50.
  • If a new building is involved, take your township permit and visit the County Health/Building Department for your building permit and or the septic permits. Typically those fees are based on size of the building and amount of generated waste water. Starting at $200 and up.