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Does a farmer constructing a pole barn for livestock have to receive a zoning compliance permit from the township?

The answer depends on the farming operation and the structure proposed. Many townships or counties are involved in issuance of a building permit to ensure that new structures meet the State Construction Code Act. This ensures that the structure is properly built. The Act provides an exemption to a building erected solely for agricultural purposes. Under that exemption, agricultural buildings do not need to receive a permit. Many municipalities still require the farmer to complete an affidavit attesting that the building is solely used for agricultural purposes.

This exemption for building permits is often misapplied in the zoning context, leading individuals who are building agricultural buildings to believe they are also exempt from a zoning permit for the same reason. The township still may not be able to require a zoning compliance permit, but it is for a different reason. The Michigan Right to Farm Act protects commercial farms that are in compliance with the Act and the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Principles (GAAMPs). If the farm or farming operation is commercial in nature and conforms to the GAAMPs and the building is to be used for such farming operations protected by the Right to Farm Act, the township is unable to enforce any zoning ordinance provisions that conflict with the Act. Therefore, depending on each case, in certain circumstances the farmer may also not need a zoning compliance permit.

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