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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Land Use

What projects require a land use permit from Land and Resource Management?

A permit is required for any structure built or moved onto a property in Douglas County*, including but not limited to:

  • Dwellings,
  • Storage Sheds,
  • Decks,
  • Patios,
  • Playhouses and
  • Garages

 A permit is also required for if you are remodeling and planning to change:

  • A footprint of the original structure,
  • Changing the roof pitch, or
  • Making any structural changes.

 Permitting procedures are relatively similar for all projects. For information on how to obtain a permit and what it will cost see our handout “Procedure for obtaining Land Use Permits” and the current fee schedule.

Before issuing a permit, Douglas County Land and Resource management requires that sewers over five years old be inspected or have had a compliance inspection within the past three years. In most cases, a permit is NOT needed for:

  • New Siding,
  • Windows,
  • Shingles, or
  • Remodeling projects that do not affect the exterior footprint.
  • Please check with our office to determine if your project requires a permit. Some projects may require a variance or a conditional use permit. If you are within two miles of the city limits of Alexandria, you will also need to meet the permitting and building code requirements of the City of Alexandria.

** As of January 1, 2007, permitting for all properties located within Alexandria Township is done through the township office.

How do I get a building permit?

To obtain a building permit, we encourage you to apply online through the permitting portal located on the Douglas County Website under quick links, or in person at Douglas County Land and Resources Management.

Please bring the following with/ or have ready for application:

  • A plan or drawing showing the dimensions of the lot,
  • Location of proposed structure and any other structures located on the property.
  • The percentage of impervious coverage of your lot.
  • Building Plan
  • List of licensed contractors that will be working on the project.
  • If your property has a septic system that is more than five years old, Douglas County will require that you have a current sewer compliance inspection on file before issuing a land use permit.

For more information on obtaining permits see our handout “Procedure for Obtaining Land Use Permits” and the current fee Schedule.

It can take up to 15 days to issue any building permit. Work Cannot start until the permit is received on site so please plan accordingly.

Land Use Permits must be obtained by applying online or in person.
What’s a setback?
A setback is the distance a structure needs to be from property lines or other features such as wells or sewers, on a piece of land. The actual setbacks for a parcel are dependent on zoning district, date platted and type of sewer system. For specific setback information see our Building Setbacks handout.
What do I need to do to add on to my house?
Any additions to an existing structure must meet the current setbacks as determined by the Douglas County Zoning Ordinance. A permit must be obtained in the same manner as when building a new house. If bedrooms are being added, it may be necessary to increase the capacity of the existing septic system. In addition, existing septic systems more than five years old must be inspected. Failing systems will need to be upgraded before a permit is issued. For information on how to obtain a permit and what it will cost see our handout “Procedure for Obtaining Land Use Permits” and the current fee schedule.
Do I need a permit to add a deck or patio?
Most of the time a permit will be required to add a deck or patio. To find out if your project requires a permit call the Land and Resource Management office at (320) 762-3863 [or email us the with your parcel number or address and a description of the project.
Am I allowed to remove shoreline vegetation?
It is a good idea to arrange a site visit with a Land and Resource Management technician before beginning any shoreline work. You can do this by calling (320) 762-3863. Removal of vegetation below the ordinary high water line (OHWL) is regulated by the MN department of Natural Resources. Above the OHWL intensive vegetation removal is not allowed. Limited clearing (25% or up to 25 feet of the shoreline frontage) is allowed with a Shoreline Alteration Permit issued by land and Resource Management. A Shoreline Alteration Permit is also required for any type of landscaping, construction, dirt work or excavation within the shore and/or bluff impact zones.
How can I find a licensed contractor, excavator, sewer designer?
Building contractors are licensed by the state of Minnesota. To find out if a particular contractor is licensed check the MN license lookup website. Sewer designers and inspectors are also licensed by the state of MN. Excavators are bonded by Douglas County. Our most recent list of bonded excavators is updated periodically. To find out if a particular landscaper or excavator is bonded, you can call (320) 762-3863.
Can I have horses on my property?
The Douglas County Ordinance states that a conditional use permit must be obtained to keep livestock in a residential area. In addition, all shoreland areas are considered residential so if your property is within 1000 feet of a body of water you may need a conditional use permit to keep horses.
Do I need a feedlot permit?
  • A feedlot is required to maintain a registration with the county Feedlot Officer and is any facility where livestock are kept in confinement where there is no sustained vegetation growth including:
    • Barns
    • Sheds
    • Open lots
    • Facilities with more then 50 animal units, or
    • More then 10 animal units if located in shoreland
  • Feedlot rules apply to all types of livestock operations included but not limited to:
    • Cattle feeding operations,
    • Dairy farms,
    • Poultry barns and
    • Hog facilities
  • In most cases a feedlot permit is issued for expansion of an existing livestock operation, construction of a new livestock operation or to fix a pollution hazard on an existing livestock operation. If you own any number of livestock and don’t have your operation registered, please contact the County Feedlot Officer in our office to discuss the requirements and benefits of registration.
When is a stormwater (NPDES) permit needed?
A construction stormwater permit is required on all construction projects that will be disturbing one or more acres of land. Sites disturbing less than one acre within a larger common plan of development are also required to obtain a stormwater permit. You can apply for a stormwater permit online at: