Planning and Development - Building Division

Permit FAQs

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What kind of projects do I need a permit for?

Permits are required for most residential building projects including privacy fences, decks, sheds, pools, garages, driveways, patios and even wind turbines.

Projects not requiring permits include re-shingling a roof, siding, replacement windows that are exactly the same size as existing windows, non-privacy fences (fences that you can see through 50% or more) wooden play sets or swing sets, and sheds that are less than 150 square feet (sheds must comply with normal setback requirements). When in doubt about an improvement call the Department.

If your building is within the floodplain, additional requirements may need to be met with respect to the improvements. Please contact the Department if your home/structure is in the floodplain or if you are required to have flood insurance through your mortgage lender.

How do I apply for a permit?
Building Permit Applications are available on this website and in the office. At this time you are encouraged to apply in person with the required documents listed on the checklist and applicable fee. 

How long is a permit valid?

Building permits are valid for a maximum of two (2) years from the date of issuance. A permit will become invalid if the work is either not started within six (6) months of the date it was issued or suspended or abandoned for a period of six (6) months.

Permit extensions requests must be submitted in writing to the Building Enforcement Officer and justifiable cause demonstrated. Permit extensions can be granted for a maximum of one (1) year and will cost 25% of the original permit fee.

What is the turnaround time for approval of a building permit?
The turnaround time for the approval of a building permit depends on the scope of the work and complexity of your project. The permit goes through three reviews: zoning, stormwater and plan review. There are several factors that affect the length of time it takes to issue the permit such as the current workload of staff at the time of submittal, completeness of plans, required information and how quickly the contact person responds to review comments. If any corrections are required to the plans, the process will take longer. Electric service, furnace/air and siding can be issued over the counter. Permits are reviewed on a first come-first served basis.

What are the requirements for final occupancy?
Click here for occupancy requirements. The County does not grant temporary occupancy.

Why does my building permit need a stormwater review? Will I need a stormwater permit?
Most all building permits require a stormwater review. This review is to make sure there are no impacts to wetlands, floodplains or floodways. For a list of criteria that will trigger a stormwater permit, click here

Can I rebuild my damaged residence (or structure) if it is non-conforming? 
If your structure has experienced substantial damage, there are regulations that may affect the reconstruction or use. If your structure is non-conforming or contains a non-conforming use, the regulations within the McHenry County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) may affect how you rebuild or whether the non-conforming use can continue on the property. If your structure is below the 100‐year flood elevation, there are flood damage prevention regulations that may affect how you remodel, renovate, or add on to your building. 

Click here for the 50% RULE for Substantial Damage or Improvements to non-conforming properties or uses.  

Do I need a permit for a garage sale?
Permits are not required for garage sales in unincorporated McHenry County.

What about junk and debris on my neighbor's property?
McHenry County does not have a property maintenance code. The McHenry County Department of Health may be contacted regarding their nuisance ordinance.

What can be done about the junk car on my neighbor's property?
The Sheriff’s Department handles unlicensed vehicles. The McHenry County Department of Health would handle any cases where there could be contaminants involved.

Am I allowed to park my commercial vehicle on my property?
You may park your commercial vehicle on your property if it is strictly the occupant’s means of transportation to and from their employment such as a company vehicle.

Am I allowed to park my recreational vehicle on my property?

What are the requirements for a fence permit?
Permits are required for privacy fences. A privacy fence is a fence that you cannot see through by 50% or more. This means that the open space is less than the width of vertical members of the fence. See permit packets for information on obtaining a permit.

Am I allowed to build in a utility easement?
In order to build in a utility easement the property owner must obtain approval from all utilities and meet all setback requirements.

Am I allowed to run a business in my home?
Home occupations are allowed in McHenry County providing they meet the criteria in enumerated in Section 14.5.I of the McHenry County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). 

My neighbor is filling in his property with dirt which may cause water to pond on my property. What are my rights?
State law prohibits damming up a stream or drainage swale to prevent off-site water from draining onto your property. Filling or excavating work done on a residential property may require a stormwater review from the Water Resources Division before starting to move dirt. It is recommended that you contact the Department with any questions on permitting.

Am I responsible for violations created by a previous owner?
All zoning and building violations are the responsibility of the current owner when they are discovered. If the County has determined that the violation was present prior to March 1, 2005, the County has a specific policy to address violations that were present prior to the March date. Per the terms of the policy, you must submit to a compliance inspection and agree to correct any identified building construction deficiencies. The charge for the compliance inspection is $75.00. Additional permits and permit fees may be required as a result of this inspection. As an alternative, you may choose to remove the violation. Please contact our office to discuss your options for scheduling the compliance inspection.

What if I want to report a possible building violation?
If you would like to submit a complaint regarding a building or zoning violation, you may contact the Department or complete a Request for Enforcement form and submit it via e-mail or regular mail. All information received remains confidential.

Do I need a permit for a large party or gathering?
Temporary Use Permits are required for large gatherings. Some examples may include, but are not limited to, animal shows, auctions, carnivals or circuses, festivals, flea markets or gatherings with outdoor entertainment. For more information, please refer to the McHenry County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Sections 5.10 and 14.4: Temporary Uses. Temporary Use Applications must be made at least 30 days prior to the event.

How do I know if my plans have enough information?
See the Residential Application Submittal Checklist.

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