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Homeowners Guide to Building


First steps in planning to build a house, adding to an existing structure or separate structure on the same property. What do I need to know and where do I find the resources?

Beaver Island operates under the guidance of the Beaver Island Resilient Master Plan, as a legal document. Ordinances and maps from both Peaine and St. James Townships are instructional for determining building and land use. The Zoning Administrator and Planning Commissions play a key role in assisting property owners determine what is best suited and legal for land use.  Architects and builders can guide you to the necessary resources needed for approval of your building project.

Role of Island Zoning Administrator:  Appointed by the Township Board to assure compliance with the Zoning Ordinances.

Role of the Planning Commission: The body created and authorized by the Township Board to plan for the Townships in accordance with Public Act 168 of 1959, as amended, and Public Act 33 of 2008, MCL 125.3801 et seq, as amended.

Most but not all construction requires a building permit. Building Permits are issued by the Charlevoix County Building Safety Department. 

 The Charlevoix County Building Department will not issue a permit, without an approved Zoning Permit obtained from the Beaver Island Zoning Administrator.


 Zoning PermitRequired for ALL construction.  This includes any structure that can be measured from the ground up, including but not limited to houses, additions, carports, garages, gazebos, pole barns, sheds, commercial buildings, storage buildings,’temporary’ structures, decks, balconies, and porches.  The moving of a building shall be considered the same as new construction.

Sign permits are required for signs advertising a business, development, or location of interest. Sign permits may be obtained at the township website or from the Zoning Administrator.

The allowed building size and setbacks for front, rear, and side yards vary, depending on the Zoning District where your property is located, can be found in the Township Zoning Ordinances. The zones are:  R-1, R-2, A, C-1, C-2, CD, and I.

Providing the Tax or Parcel dentification number to the Zoning Administrator, will facilitate determining the correct zoning district.  The number will be in the format for Peaine Township 15-012-_ _ _- _ _ _- _ _ and St. James Township 15-013-_ _ _- _ _ _- _ _ .  You can obtain a copy of the correct zoning district, and a permit application, at the township website, or from the Zoning Administrator.

If the construction is within 500 ft of a body of water, you must apply for a soil erosion permit. Permits are issued by the Charlevoix County Soil Erosion Control Officer.

If the construction is for a residence, you need to apply for well and septic permits at Health Department Northwest Michigan.

More things to consider:

             1.   Check to see if property has any deed restrictions, state setbacks related to dunes, and plan accordingly.
                    Check with Zoning Administrator. 

             2.   Contact the Charlevoix Building Department for other applicable permits such as well, septic,
                   driveways and culverts.

             3.   Make sure your property perks before any construction or development.

             4.    Zoning Ordinance, Section 4.22 Shoreline Protection Strip is related to the non-removal of vegetation
                     buffers and effects of high-water erosion. This is enforced and important to understand.

             5.   Will you be Homestead Exemption or Non-Homestead.

Important Links for more information:

           Beaver Island Master Plan

           Peaine Township Zoning Map  

           Peaine Township Zoning Ordinance

           Peaine Township Zoning Application Process

           St. James Township Zoning Map

           St. James Township Zoning Ordinance

           St. James Township Application Process

           Charlevoix County Building Safety Department

           Charlevoix County Soil and Erosion

           Health Department of Northwest Michigan