Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
April 2006
Be Sure You Get All the Construction Permits You Need

Just because you have a zoning permit doesn't mean you don't need a construction, heating, plumbing, sign or electrical permit.  A phone call or meeting with an inspector can save you time, money and aggravation.

Two important contacts should be made at the early stage of any construction project.  First, check with your local village, town or city government to find out what local permits you need.  Often there are local inspectors to help figure things out in sequential order.  Inquire as to what other agencies' permits you may need.  Next, contact your county planning or zoning department to see if they have authority over the property you have in mind and ask if they know of any other permits or processes you need to pay attention to.

Even if a property has the proper zoning, you probably also need another permit if something is erected, constructed, improved, enlarged, altered, converted, repaired, filled in, moved or demolished.  The same governing body does not necessarily issue all the permits associated with a project as there are many variations. 

Many times different agencies, departments or clerks concentrate on their own regulations and do not mention the other regulatory agencies which will have an impact on the success of your project.  Unfortunately this becomes evident when the "other" regulatory body taps you on the shoulder and asks for a copy of their permit.  Federal, state, regional planning, county, municipal, special district, sanitary, erosion control, flood plain, zoning, driveway and well permits are examples of the various combinations that will affect your project. Building regulations continue to keep pace with ever-changing construction technology, and continue to become more specialized. 

Another result of specialized regulation, permitting and inspection is the agreement between governing bodies to address topics most closely associated with their expertise.  Municipal officials typically will concentrate on regulated objects constructed installed and altered in their community.  Building construction or alteration, mechanical systems, fences or signs are examples of regulated objects. 

County and regional agents will be involved with the collective impact those regulated objects will have on the environment.  Erosion control, storm water management, zoning and sanitary permits are examples of permits issued by counties.

Federal and state regulatory agencies typically handle review and inspection duties associated with federal law as well as statutory regulations.  Americans with Disabilities Act, Environmental Protection Agency and state building codes based on healt, safety and welfare of the built environment are examples of these rules and regulations.

A few tips to keep in mind when planning your next project include:

  • Even if your locality doesn't require a building permit, the construction must be done according to the correct codes.

  • Commercial buildings often need local or state design review before construction.  Most buildings need permits for plumbing systems.

  • Your locality may have contracted out to another unit of government or to a private company to enforce certain codes.

  • Make sure your contractor has the appropriate license(s) to do the work.  Getting your permit may depend upon that license.

  • Residential, industrial, commercial, conservation or agricultural; what ever your project scope, always remember to ask the right questions before beginning your project.

-- Henry Kosarzycki and Todd Taylor

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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