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Zoning Certificate


County Code

Obtaining a Zoning Certificate (Building Permit) /
Land Alteration Permit
Planning & Zoning

Building Permit

A building permit is required from the County Planning & Zoning office for the construction of any buildings or building additions including:

  • sheds
  • garages
  • porches
  • decks

in the rural portions or villages of the county. 

Note:  Building permits for the 11 incorporated cities within Clay County can be obtained from those city officials. 

Permits are also required for moving in any:

  • trailer homes
  • manufactured homes
  • pre-fab buildings

Application forms are available at the Planning & Zoning office on the third floor of the courthouse, or can also be mailed or faxed to applicants. See the Planning & Zoning Fee Schedule for fee information.

Information needed to complete the application includes: 

  • name
  • address
  • legal description
  • tax parcel number
  • current use of the property
  • shoreland management data (if site is within 1,000 feet of a lake or within 300 feet of a river or stream)
  • contractors
  • specific information regarding construction
  • a sketch plan of the site 

After an applicant (or authorized agent) completes the application, he/she needs to present it to one of their township officers for their signature. A list of the current township officers is available on-line or at the Planning & Zoning Office

A completed application, appropriately signed by the township officer(s), comes back to the Planning & Zoning Director for final action, and is processed within ten (10) days. Following approval, a Zoning Certificate is mailed to the applicant, to be posted in a conspicuous place on or near the construction site. 

Construction must begin within six (6) months from the date of issuance, and be substantially completed within one (1) year, or the permit expires and further work cannot proceed until a new permit has been obtained.

Any on-site sewage treatment systems shall be inspected and certified if a building permit applicant is located in the Shoreland Zoning District (within 1,000 feet of a lake or 300 feet of a river or stream) or if the applicant is constructing or adding an addition which includes a bedroom(s). Septic System Certifications are processed through the Clay County Environmental Health Department located in the Family Service Center, 715 11th Street North, Moorhead, Minnesota.  

If building near a well, a horizontal separation distance of three (3) feet must be maintained between the farthest exterior projection of a building and a well. The Minnesota Well Code is not administered at the County level; however, the Planning & Zoning office can provide a list of licensed well drillers in the area, or an applicant may contact the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) at 1.800.383.9808 or visit the Clay County Environmental Health web page.  Information can also be found in Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 103I

Wells that are not in use, not properly sealed, and which do not have a maintenance permit, must be properly sealed by a licensed well contractor. The Clay County Abandoned Well Program is administered through the Soil and Water Conservation District Office, and currently has funds available for applicants who meet the criteria. 

Land Alteration Permit

A Land Alteration Permit is required from the County Planning & Zoning Office for the following:

  • Topographic alterations involving the movement of more than ten (10) cubic yards of material on steep slopes or within shore and bluff impacted zones; or the movement of more than fifty (50) cubic yards of material outside of steep slopes or within shore and bluff impacted zones.

  • Grading or filling of type 2-8 wetlands.

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