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What dictates the spacing between a dwelling and a shed?

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I would like to find out the history of the building to shed separation spacing.  Basically where this ordinance derived from.  The township ordinance in my area has it listed as "An accessory building must be at least ten feet away from any other building."  The building code has no problem with this.

My situation is this:  I have owned my house for eight years.  I purchased it with a shed that was two and a half feet away from my garage.  This shed was there for at least four years prior (12 years total) to that when the previous owners bought it.  After several years of repairs, I decided to take down the shed due to safety hazards.  I replaced the shed with a new one about a year ago increasing the distance to four feet between the shed and garage.  I also had a concrete pad put down to below the shed to keep critters from undermining it like the last one had. Two weeks ago I received a letter from the township that it was in violation and needed to be moved creating the ten foot space between.  So it seems they waited until I had a new shed now with concrete under it to tell me that the shed is too close to the house.

We also have a trailer park with in the township that has multiple units with sheds that are a foot away from a bedroom window?  This does not make sense to me that it is allowed or exempt for some reason.  Their lives are not any less important than mine.   If I did not have a shed then any gas equipment like my lawn mower, weed whacker and leaf blower would be in my garage like everyone else.  This in turn could start the house on fire faster.

I have been looking for a way to appease them and comply with a solution that would be better then why a shed cannot be this close (thinking fire here).  I would like to propose a fire suppressant system (automatic dry chemical fire extinguisher) for my shed to eliminate a fire hazard if this is why the separation is an issue.  This means my shed would be safer and better protected than my garage or house.

I have not been able to find any sources on the internet of where and why the ten foot separation rule originated from.  Today's technology and safety are leading the way of why we are forced to update and re-evaluate building codes and zoning ordinances.  I would like to know how offer a better and safer solution utilizing today's technology to the current ordinance, but without knowing why this is an ordinance it is difficult to address it and find alternate viable solutions.

Two other things: I have a fire hydrant in my front yard and the fire dept. is one block away on my road.

If this is beyond what you tend to discuss on your site, I would be very appreciative if you could point me in the right direction to further research this topic.  I live in west Michigan.

Thank You,

asked in Exterior Walls by shed (120 points)
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1 Answer

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The requirements vary (sometimes significantly) between jurisdictions and unfortunately we don’t have many choices except for complying with whatever the local law says, around my place they don’t allow metal sheds… don’t ask me why.
The accessory building location (shed) may be regulated by zoning code. Since I don’t know where exactly are you in Michigan you can try to go to http://www.law.msu.edu/library/substantive/local.html, click on your location from the list and when it opens type “accessory buildings” in a search box (top right), click “Go”. 
Let me know if this helped.
answered by darekrudy (21,730 points)