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Okay... Well, we have tried starting our building processes, but we are at a loss.

We have all of these permits we have to obtain and I can't answer a lot of the questions on the applications. I have contacted my township and in some instances they sent us to the county. The county has then sent us to the state because they can't handle some of the permits due to wetlands and state highways.

We want to have our property built, but there is an issue with where we want to build. There are cattails (aka wetlands) on the property. The state has to come evaluate the property and areas we want to build. There is a permit required for this and of course a fee upwards of $1000 depending on the area of investigation.

To make matters worse, we have to install a driveway for the vehicles to access the property, however the driveway itself has to go through MDOT (state transportation agency) because the frontage is on a state highway (but I have neighbors on both sides with driveways). I don't anticipate that being an issue, however I have to have a permit for the driveway, and I would need a building permit from my local agency before I can build a driveway. The building permit requires me to go through the state agencies and county agencies first.

Septic and well installation require ground disturbances if heavy equipment is used. I can't even get this done yet because I need the state involved to do the wetland assessment and soil erosion control (which is a separate permit and agency).

So, for those in Michigan, or other areas with similar permit requirements, what did you do first? It seems like I can't get building permits from my local agencies until I go to the state, but the state requirements to have local building permits in place before I can even build a driveway to access the property. I can't get the building permit until I have septic permits, well permits, soil erosion control permits, and drain commissioner permits for driveway, and state approvals first.

What the heck am I supposed to do first? I need help figuring out what my first step is. The agencies have not been very much help at all in answering questions. They like to send me to the building/zoning ordinances and avoid answering my questions.
 

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Sounds like a huge mess!

I can't help with your questions. But this is why I have always bought a property with an old house on it. Where I live the grandfather clause kicks in for most everything including replacing a septic system. With an old house on the property the driveway will already be established along with the building, water and septic. Yeah - it all may need to be redone but you won't need permits if you are fixing up what is there already.
 

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Swinging the hammer is the easy part....all the other BS is what you need to get past.

Hang in there....take ahwile.
 

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If there are wetlands involved, get that done first because it will affect everything else.
 

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Otiose Endomorph
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Reminds me of a neighbor whose home was built on an old rock pit (blasted rock to use in development of other properties). Well, shrubs and trees took root in this pit, and there was a depression right beside where his house went. It filled in with water because excavator guys funneled drainage from other properties into it. He had a pond, and owner was happy. Except when it came to building his deck...he wanted it hanging over edge of pond...not so fast. In comes the feds (Fisheries and Oceans). They scope out this 100ft round pond, and decide it is under their purview, and deck cannot extend over pond...endanger habitat in pond. Well, deck was built...so he had to lope off a section of deck. A year later I see a biologist mucking about in pond looking for amphibians...
Then they changed the water act a few years later to dispense with nonsense like this....had he built his deck a few years later he could do as he pleased.
And irony of ironies, said owner could have infilled 'pond' and paved it, and nobody would be wiser. But all it took was a by-the-book building inspector (checking out deck) to ruin his day.

If the state hasn't investigated yet, I'd make said wetlands disappear, if possible...your entering Kafkaesque territory with government. And I need a honkin tall gate at my driveway entrance...
 

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Seems crazy to me that MDOT requires you to have building permits in place before you can construct a driveway. (link) I'm assuming you are just talking about a culvert and some gravel just to gain access, right? What if you weren't planning on building anything, as in, just needing a driveway to access an agricultural field or hunting property?

I'm in Washtenaw county and to the best of my knowledge, adding a driveway is handled by the county but with you accessing via a state highway righ-of-way, MDOT is involved. I have no guidance for you except maybe have a better conversation with MDOT and explain that you MAY NOT build anything, you just want to be able to pull out the property without needing an offroad vehicle.

If you are building anywhere near an established wetland, you are going to have some challenges. And I would not recommend damaging or filling an otherwise naturally occurring wetland. If you are caught, penalties are steep. I'm guessing that falls in the lap of the Michigan DEQ (link). This wasn't in Michigan, but I belonged to a gun club in New England. The "all knowing" directors of the club decided they wanted to extend one of their ranges....that involved filling a wetland. They rented a bulldozer or had one of their buddies go to work, without permits. Someone complained and the DEQ came calling, wondering where the wetland went and wanting to see their permits. Thousands of dollars in fines, court fees, a coup on the directors by the members, and having to build a new wetland later, they finally got their new range built. But it was a call from a neighbor that got them in trouble and I'm pretty sure most environmental agencies (regardless of state) do not take kindly to wetland destruction. I would CYA, get ready for this to take some time, and do it right.
 

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Otiose Endomorph
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Party poopers....:p
I could see just about anyone next to a gun range, except a gun range owner, complain about a range addition, but a few cattails in the middle of nowhere not adjacent to a huge body of water...hmmm.
Transplant them a couple hundred feet off your property...
 

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Don't touch those wetlands/cattails without making sure they are "not wetlands".
Here is a Michigan law firm's recent blog (2016) on this issue: http://www.ddc-law.com/blog/serious-consequences-for-impacting-a-wetland/

"Property owners and construction clients often come to us for advice after already starting a building or development project because the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has informed them that their activities have impacted a wetland. Unfortunately, it is often too late at this point to avoid serious consequences. While there are certain procedures available that may allow the client to eliminate or minimize the adverse impacts on a regulated wetland, he or she is often required to pay fines and penalties for engaging in construction activities without a permit. At up to $10,000 per day, this can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexpected and unintended project expenses.

Needless to say, it is critically important for anyone considering construction or development to evaluate his or her property for regulated wetlands and obtain any necessary permits before commencing work. The purpose of this article is to give an overview of wetlands regulation and the permit process in Michigan.

Authority for Regulation

The MDEQ is responsible for the protection of wetland resources and the public functions they provide under the authority of Part 303 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The program oversees activities proposed in regulated wetland areas and reviews permit applications for dredging, filling, draining surface water, or constructing, operating, or maintaining any use or development in a wetland. The MDEQ also administers the federal permit program which regulates dredging and filling of wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (except in coastal areas where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers retains this authority). Thus, in most parts of the state, issuance of a permit by the MDEQ also authorizes alteration of wetlands under federal law.

There are also local regulations and ordinances you must be aware of when beginning a construction project which may require more extensive protections for wetlands depending on the locality. Local wetland protection ordinances may require a contractor who desires to perform work in or around a wetland to comply with larger setbacks for construction activities. Local regulations may also regulate wetlands smaller than those regulated by the federal and state rules. You should consult the local government to determine if a wetland ordinance exists.

Classification of Regulated Wetlands

Part 303 defines regulated wetlands as including all those that are contiguous to inland lakes or streams and the Great Lakes, as well as other wetlands over five acres in size. Contiguous wetlands may be connected to lakes, streams, or the Great Lakes by a surface water connection or by groundwater, and it is presumed that any wetland within 500 feet of inland waters or within 1000 feet of the Great Lakes has a groundwater connection. The DEQ may assert jurisdiction over non-contiguous wetlands less than five acres in size under special circumstances if it notifies the property owner in advance.

Most often, the best approach is to consult an environmental engineer familiar with wetland determinations as part of your development team. He or she will be able to walk the property and provide an informal initial opinion about whether wetlands exist. The MDEQ will also perform this type of inspection for a fee. But more often than not, you are better off hiring your own consultant to establish arguments that will help limit the scope of the wetland on the property.

Activities Regulated

The law requires that persons planning to conduct certain activities in regulated wetlands apply for and receive a permit from the state before beginning the activity. Specifically, if an area on the property is considered a regulated wetland, a permit is required for the following activities:

Deposit or permit placing of fill material in a wetland.
Dredge, remove, or permit removal of soil or minerals from a wetland.
Construct, operate, or maintain any use or development in a wetland.
Drain surface water from a wetland.
Permit Standards

The rationale behind wetland regulation is that the public interest in the functions that wetlands provide is in need of protection. Accordingly, wetland permit decisions depend on the impact of the project on the public interest. Before a permit can be issued, the MDEQ must determine all of the following:

The permit would be in the public interest.
The permit would be otherwise lawful.
The permit is necessary to realize the benefits from the activity.
No unacceptable disruption to aquatic resources will occur.
The activity is wetland dependent or no feasible or prudent alternatives exist.
Two types of wetland permits can be obtained. A “general” permit or an “individual site specific” permit. The general permit does not require the MDEQ to hold a public hearing. General permits entail less oversight and are issued for more common or minor activities that occur in wetlands during construction.[1]

Individual site specific permits are required when the project will result in more extensive wetland impact. In this case, the MDEQ oversight increases. The wetland area on the property must be surveyed and mapped, and the MDEQ may require an environmental impact and feasibility study to determine: (1) whether there are any less damaging alternatives to develop the site, (2) whether there will be any adverse impacts on aquatic resources, and if applicable, (3) whether wetland mitigation is required.

Wetland mitigation involves creating a new wetland either on the site or nearby in an amount greater than the area that was impacted or lost from the construction. Mitigation is an available option when any of the following conditions exist:

The wetland impact is otherwise permissible under Part 303.
No feasible and prudent alternatives to avoid wetland impact exist.
An applicant has used all practical means to minimize impacts to wetlands.
Enforcement and Penalties

Wetland property owners should be aware of the stiff penalties that come with violating Michigan’s wetlands law. Failure to obtain a necessary permit, or violation of permit conditions, are subject to civil and criminal penalties—including financial penalties, restoration, or jail sentences. A court may impose a civil fine of up to $10,000 per day of violation of the law or violation of court order, as well as ordering wetland restoration.

Criminal penalties are slightly different. A person who violates the Act is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000. Willful or reckless violations of permit conditions by a person or corporate officer can result in a fine of not less than $2,500 nor more than $25,000 per day of violation, and imprisonment for not more than one year. A second such violation constitutes a felony, punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 per day of violation, and up to two years imprisonment. In addition to these penalties, the court may order a person who violates this act to restore the affected wetland.

Conclusion

As described above, constructing in wetlands is not only highly regulated and complicated, but also subject to severe punishment if not properly undertaken. If you are considering construction or development activities on wetland property, you would be wise to contact an attorney to guide you through the process and discuss your available options. A little planning ahead of time may help you avoid the unexpected and unintended fines and penalties that can be imposed in any construction project that involves regulated wetlands.



Footnotes
[1] Examples of activities that typically would only require a general permit include: construction of boardwalks and platforms; construction of walkways and driveways through wetlands; construction of utilities and certain well access roads; storm water outfalls, culverts, other drainage work through or across wetlands; and minor fills for the construction or expansion of a single-family residence where the fill area is not to exceed 1/4 acre."
 

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Otiose Endomorph
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Wow, Solar Geek, you have the enviro bible of Michigan, chapter and verse.
This part stuck out, "Most often, the best approach is to consult an environmental engineer familiar with wetland determinations as part of your development team. He or she will be able to walk the property and provide an informal initial opinion about whether wetlands exist. The MDEQ will also perform this type of inspection for a fee. But more often than not, you are better off hiring your own consultant to establish arguments that will help limit the scope of the wetland on the property."

I do love bureaucracy...just consult my development team on which blade of grass I can whistle through...
Who in the world has a development team (or a consultant) on staff when blowing in a gravel driveway...

At least they offer 'some' guidelines as what constitutes a wetland.

I need a gate.
 

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Melli, that seems unkind. Anyone can do the search that I did and find the law - and it may be that since that firm put up that blog, things have changed. But not from what I was able to locate.

We, the average Joe, can't help what the laws say at this point; changes/comments and complaining need to be addressed through the bureaucracy as you suggest. The laws and regs exist. Most are modeled on the USEPA and Army Corps of Engineers laws and regs. Both federal and state laws are involved.

But since the OP asked for help, and people were stating things that could get him into trouble for years to come (it happened to a developer in the Milwaukee area and went through the courts for years and cost the guy a fortune), I tried to help.

Below, in common English are the links to some of the MI laws that may apply. As the article I quoted said, it is BEST to get ahead of all of this - MAYBE THE AREA IS NOT WETLANDS.

Tons more info in this link.

http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313_3687-10801--,00.html

"In 1984, Michigan received authorization from the federal government to administer Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act in most areas of the state. A state administered 404 program must be consistent with the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and associated regulations set forth in the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines. Whereas in other states, where an applicant must apply to the U.S. Corps of Engineers and a state agency for wetland permits, applicants in Michigan generally submit only one wetland permit application to the DEQ.

State and federal authorities overlap in coastal and certain other waters according to Section 10 of the federal Rivers and Harbors Act, and both federal and state permits are required. In accordance with the Clean Water Act, Section 404(g), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers retains federal jurisdiction over traditionally navigable waters including the Great Lakes, connecting channels, other waters connected to the Great Lakes where navigational conditions are maintained, and wetlands directly adjacent to these waters. Activities in these waters require a joint permit application which minimizes time and effort for applicants."
 

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Otiose Endomorph
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Melli, that seems unkind. Anyone can do the search that I did and find the law - and it may be that since that firm put up that blog, things have changed. But not from what I was able to locate.

We, the average Joe, can't help what the laws say at this point; changes/comments and complaining need to be addressed through the bureaucracy as you suggest. The laws and regs exist. Most are modeled on the USEPA and Army Corps of Engineers laws and regs. Both federal and state laws are involved.

But since the OP asked for help, and people were stating things that could get him into trouble for years to come (it happened to a developer in the Milwaukee area and went through the courts for years and cost the guy a fortune), I tried to help.

Below, in common English are the links to some of the MI laws that may apply. As the article I quoted said, it is BEST to get ahead of all of this - MAYBE THE AREA IS NOT WETLANDS.

Tons more info in this link.

http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313_3687-10801--,00.html

"In 1984, Michigan received authorization from the federal government to administer Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act in most areas of the state. A state administered 404 program must be consistent with the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and associated regulations set forth in the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines. Whereas in other states, where an applicant must apply to the U.S. Corps of Engineers and a state agency for wetland permits, applicants in Michigan generally submit only one wetland permit application to the DEQ.

State and federal authorities overlap in coastal and certain other waters according to Section 10 of the federal Rivers and Harbors Act, and both federal and state permits are required. In accordance with the Clean Water Act, Section 404(g), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers retains federal jurisdiction over traditionally navigable waters including the Great Lakes, connecting channels, other waters connected to the Great Lakes where navigational conditions are maintained, and wetlands directly adjacent to these waters. Activities in these waters require a joint permit application which minimizes time and effort for applicants."
No unkind thoughts on my part...zero. Actually, I was impressed you were able to find it...usually buried somewhere.
And please don't get wrong, keeping wetlands healthy should be everyone's concern. My area is in a water basin, and as such, certain groundwater polluting businesses are not allowed. Fair enough.
We don't know what the OP has, in terms of 'wetlands' (cattails grow all over), acreage, but not being able to put a driveway in does sound odd. It sounds like he/she doesn't own the land per se. Up here, we have maps that specifically lays out what one can do with their land, and where they can develop (aka chew up). Sensitive areas like oceans, streams, and lakes have setback requirements. Pretty simple...you can build within 10m (30ft+) of a body of water, stream, etc. There are no grey areas, where one has to get a 'development team'. Although, we've had First Nation folks try to hone in on private lands, and ask that an archeological team be at foundation digs. I think they finally dropped it, because they wouldn't give the municipality the 'map'. Some homeowners were obviously livid at paying a $1000/day for having 2 folks watch an excavator dig.

My overarching issue with this example is they make it sound like one is developing a theme park or subdivision, when all they want to do is have a driveway and house. Nothing unusual about that for a private property.

But your right, we don't have all the details.
 
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