Township approves first reading of accessory structure ordinance amendment

FLUSHING TWP. — Flushing Township residents who want to build an accessory structure on vacant land will need to prove that they also intend to construct a house, per new proposed guidelines from the township.

Last Thursday, the Flushing Township Board of Trustees approved the first reading of an amendment to its zoning ordinance regarding accessory structures. The amendment calls for property owners to purchase a building permit for a house before obtaining a special use permit for an accessory structure such as a pole barn or garage on vacant land.

Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby said that the amendment is necessary to prevent locals from constructing an accessory structure on vacant land without ever constructing a principal structure.

“We get quite a few special use requests (from residents) to build accessory structures (on vacant land),” he said. “(But) some of them end up becoming a pole barn on a vacant piece of property, where people store their stuff without actually living there. Or, they use it as a commercial enterprise.”

In January, the township placed a moratorium on future special use applications to construct accessory structures on properties without a residence or another type of primary building. The moratorium was established in part to give the Flushing Township Planning Commission time to review the accessory structure ordinance and to tighten its enforcement.

“The way our ordinance is written now, we essentially allow people to build an accessory structure on a vacant piece of property with a few stipulations,” Thorsby said. “They have to show on a plan where they would place a house if they decide to build one. There’s no requirement that they do build a house; they just have to show where it would be in case they ever did.”

Once amended, the township’s ordinance will state that residents cannot build an accessory structure on vacant property unless they have already purchased a building permit for a house and are planning to use the accessory structure to store materials and equipment while the house is being built.

Thorsby said that the township’s accessory structure ordinance must be amended as soon as possible, especially as the demand for building permit requests increases and construction ramps up in the summertime.

A second reading of the amendment to the accessory structure ordinance will be reviewed at next month’s township board meeting, just prior to the expiration of Flushing Township’s moratorium on special use permits for accessory structures.