Community Development FAQ

  1. I’m a business owner and want to build a new facility in Portage.  What is the process?
  2. What type of business incentives are available from the City of Portage?
  3. What construction codes (building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical) does the City of Portage administer and enforce?
  4. Is a building permit required for my project?
  5. Is an electrical permit required for my project?
  6. Is a plumbing permit required for my project?
  7. Is a mechanical permit required for my project?
  8. If a homeowner is doing the work is a permit (building, electrical, plumbing or mechanical) still necessary?
  9. Do I need a permit to construct a driveway or work in the public right of way?
  10. I am a State of Michigan licensed contractor, how do I become registered to perform work in your city?
  11. Do I need a permit for a new roof?
  12. Do I need a permit for a fence?
  13. What are the fees for permits and other applications processed by the Department of Community Development?
  14. When do I have to get a sign permit?
  15. What type of housing assistance is available through the City of Portage?
  16. Do I need a permit to run a business from my home?
  17. Do I need a permit to have an outdoor promotional event for my business?
  18. I want to build a shed.  What are the requirements and do I need to get a building permit?
  19. I am planning a residential building project.  What are the requirements and do I need to get a building permit?
  20. How do I receive approval to vary from the requirements from the Zoning Code for my development or construction project or similar activity?
  21. I am concerned with the maintenance of a property in my neighborhood.  What types of property maintenance concerns are violations of the City Code?  How do I request assistance from the city to help resolve property maintenance concerns?
  22. What is zoning and what is my property zoned?  Can the zoning be changed?
  23. Can you tell me where my property lines are? On the City web site it looks like my house is located on or near one of my property lines.

1. I’m a business owner and want to build a new facility in Portage.  What is the process?
The Department of Community Development provides a full range of services to the business community.  If your business is contemplating a new or expanding facility in Portage, the Department of Community Development will provide the support needed to see your project through to completion.

To assure that your projects proceeds on schedule, a four step Development Review process is followed that begins with 1) Development Plan Approval, 2) Building Plan Approval, 3) Construction Inspections and finally 4) Final Occupancy Approval.  The City of Portage Development Review Team is ready to work with your team through the four step process.  The Development Review Team meets on a weekly basis to review ongoing projects that keeps work moving along in a timely manner.  This comprehensive approach to planning and executing projects enables businesse owners to save time and minimize costs.  Team members work with designers and builders to solve complex issues and ensure that project planning, zoning, engineering, utility and fire safety details are consistent with standards adopted by the City of Portage.

In business, time is money and it is important to know that the Department of Community Development is working expeditiously for you to provide a thorough, consistent and efficient process for the review and approval of your important project.  For further information on the Development Review process, click here or contact the Development Officer at 269-329-4474

2. What type of business incentives are available from the City of Portage? 
The City of Portage has several business incentives and innovative financing tools available to businesses with business (re)investment.  These tools include:

The most commonly used business incentive is the Industrial Tax Abatement for eligible businesses.   For further regarding the incentives and financing tools listed above, please contact the Department of Community Development at (269) 329-4477.

3. What construction codes (building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical) does the City of Portage administer and enforce?
The Michigan Construction Code Act 230 of 1972 was amended in 1999 to create the Stille-DeRossett-Hale Single State Construction Code Act.  This action created a single state building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical code for the State of Michigan.  All communities within the State now utilize the same construction code and standards which are updated on a three year cycle.  The current construction codes include:

  • The 2009 Michigan Residential Code
  • The 2009 Michigan Building Code
  • The 2011 National Electrical Code with Part 8 Technical Amendments*
  • The 2009 Michigan Mechanical Code*
  • The 2009 Michigan Plumbing Code*

*Provisions for one- and two-family dwellings are included in the 2009Michigan Residential Code.

4. Is a building permit required for my project?
Most construction projects require a building permit to ensure compliance with the Portage Zoning Code and Michigan Construction Codes.  With regard to zoning requirements for one-family residential building projects, please review One-Family Zoning Regulations.  Before the construction, enlargement, alteration, moving or demolition of a building or structure, an owner, or the owner's builder, architect, engineer, or agent, shall submit an application in writing for a building permit.  A permit is not required for ordinary repairs or maintenance.  Ordinary repairs to structures do not include the cutting away of any wall, partition or portion thereof, the removal or cutting of any structural beam or bearing support, or the removal or change of any required means of egress, or rearrangement of parts of a structure affecting the exit requirements.

5. Is an electrical permit required for my project?
A person shall not equip a building with electrical conductors or equipment or make an alteration of, change in, or addition to, electrical conductors or equipment without receiving a permit to do the work described. Work should not be started until a permit has been issued.  Electrical permits are not required for the following:

  • Repairs and maintenance: Minor repair work, including the replacement of lamps or the connection of approved portable electrical equipment to approved permanently installed receptacles.
  • Radio and television transmitting stations: Provisions of the code do not apply to electrical equipment used for radio and television transmission, but do apply to equipment and wiring for power supply and to the installation of towers and antennas.
  • Temporary testing systems: A permit is not required for the installation of any temporary system required for the testing or servicing of electrical equipment or apparatus.

Click here to view additional information on electrical work and permits. 

6. Is a plumbing permit required for my project?
A plumbing permit is required for the erection, installation, enlargement, alteration, repair, removal, conversion or replacement of any plumbing system regulated by the plumbing code. Work should not be started until a plumbing permit has been issued.

Plumbing permits are not required for the following:

  • The stopping of leaks in drains, water, soil, waste, or vent pipes. However, if any concealed trap, drainpipe, water, soil, waste, or vent pipe becomes defective and it becomes necessary to remove and replace the drain or pipe with new material, then the work is considered new work and a permit shall be obtained and inspection made as provided in the code.
  • The clearing of stoppages or the repairing of leaks in pipes, valves, or fixtures, and the removal and reinstallation of water closets, if the repairs do not involve or required the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes or fixtures.

Click here to view additional information on plumbing work and permits.

7. Is a mechanical permit required for my project?
A mechanical permit is required for the erection, installation, enlargement, alteration, repair, removal, conversion or replacement of a mechanical system governed by the mechanical code. Except for replacement of minor parts, mechanical work shall not be started until a permit for such work has been issued.

Mechanical permits are not required for the following:

  • Portable heating or gas  appliances that have inputs of less than 30,000 BTU's per hour.
  • Replacement of any minor part that does not alter approval of equipment or make the equipment unsafe.
  • Portable ventilation equipment and appliances.
  • Portable cooling units.
  • Portable evaporative cooler.
  • Steam, hot or chilled water piping within any heating or cooling equipment regulated by the code.
  • Replacement of any part that does not alter its approval or make it unsafe.
  • Self-contained portable refrigeration unit that is not more than 1.0 horsepower.

Click here to view additional information on mechanical work and permits. 

8. If a homeowner is doing the work is a permit (building, electrical, plumbing or mechanical) still necessary?
Yes.  The State of Michigan allows two entities the authority to obtain a permit for a residential construction work: A contractor licensed by the State of Michigan or the homeowner if that is their place of residence and they will be performing the work.

9. Do I need a permit to construct a driveway or work in the public right of way?
Yes, driveway permits are issued by the Department of Community Development.  Please contact the Building Services Division at (269) 329-4477 with questions. Permits to work in the public right of way are issued by the Department of Transportation and Utilities .  Please contact the Transportation Divison project manager at (269) 329-4422 with questions.

10. I am a State of Michigan licensed contractor, how do I become registered to perform work in your city?
Complete the City of Portage Contractor License Registration/Renewal Information form and provide it with a photocopy of your contractors license to the Department of Community Development.  For convenience, the form can also be mailed or faxed.

11. Do I need a permit for a new roof?
A building permit will be required in the event that you wish to replace more that four sheets of decking or any structural component during the roofing activity.  No permit is required to remove and replace shingles only. Click here for information on how to obtain a residential building permit.

12. Do I need a permit for a fence?
No permit is required for a six-foot high or lower fence located on non-lakefront residential property. Consideration must be given, however to be sure that the new fence does not create a vision obstruction for vehicles or pedestrians.  Specific rules apply to fencing in the rear (lakefront) yard for lakefront properties. Click here to read more information.

13. What are the fees for permits and other applications processed by the Department of Community Development?
The Department of Community Development reviews and approves a wide variety of permits and applications.  Follow these links to review listings  of permits and applications and associated Construction Fees and Planning and Development Fees

14. When do I have to get a sign permit?
A sign permit is required prior to the installation of a new wall sign, freestanding sign, directional sign, non-accessory billboard sign and for most temporary signs.  In addition, changes to existing wall and freestanding sign faces require a sign permit prior to making sign modifications.

15. What type of housing assistance is available through the City of Portage?
The city offers assistance to income-eligible Portage home owners with emergency repairs and housing rehabilitation in order to maintain decent, affordable housing and to promote neighborhood quality.  In addition, the city offers residents of Kalamazoo County assistance with the purchase of affordable houses within target Portage neighborhoods. Click here for more information regarding the City of Portage housing programs.

16. Do I need a permit to run a business from my home?
The city permits businesses to operate from a home under certain circumstances.  For more information on the standards for Home Occupations, and to obtain a permit application, click here.

17. Do I need a permit to have an outdoor promotional event for my business?
The city permits commercial outdoor promotional events under certain circumstances.  For more information on the standard for Business Special Events, and to obtain a permit application, click here.

18. I want to build a shed.  What are the requirements and do I need to get a building permit?
Construction of all sheds requires a building permit to determine compliance with the City of Portage Zoning Code and Michigan Residential Building Code.  Review the“Guidelines for Accessory Buildings” brochure and the“How To Obtain A Residential Building Permit”brochure.

19. I am planning a residential building project.  What are the requirements and do I need to get a building permit?
Most construction projects require a building permit to ensure compliance with the Portage Zoning Code and Michigan Residential Building Code.  With regard to zoning requirements for one-family residential building projects, please review One-Family Zoning Regulations.

20. How do I receive approval to vary from the requirements from the Zoning Code for my development or construction project or similar activity?
The City of PortageZoning Board of Appeals meets once per month to hear and act on applications for variances from the requirements of the Zoning Code. A Zoning Board of Appeals Application must be completed and submitted to the Department of Community Development for consideration by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

21. I am concerned with the maintenance of a property in my neighborhood.  What types of property maintenance concerns are violations of the City Code?  How do I request assistance from the city to help resolve property maintenance concerns?
The City of Portage Neighborhood Support Program seeks to improve the livability of Portage neighborhoods.  Being a good neighbor and properly maintaining property in accordance with the City Codes is an important part of maintaining a high quality of life for those who work and live in our community.  Click here or call 269-329-4477 for more information regarding the Neighborhood Support Program, a description of common ordinance violations, and how to report a concern to the Department of Community Development.

22. What is zoning and what is my property zoned?  Can the zoning be changed?
Zoning is the primary tool used to regulate the use of land in most communities.  Zoning classifies land uses into certain categories referred to zoning districts.  Some uses are permitted by right while others, referred to as special land uses, require review and approval by the Planning Commission.  The zoning districts are then geographically displayed on a map of the community areas determined appropriate for the various types of land uses.  Each zoning district has its own set of regulations that control the intensity of development by regulating, for example, minimum lot sizes, setback distances, maximum lot coverage, building height, accessory signs and the number of off-street parking spaces. 

Information regarding zoning for all properties located within Portage city limits is available on the City of Portage GIS/City Maps page or by contacting Community Development staff at 269-329-4477.  A review and consultation with staff can provide information regarding current and planned future land use for specific areas, which may help clarify potential uses within zoning districts, or if a potential change in zoning is feasible. View the City of Portage Comprehensive Plan.

23. Can you tell me where my property lines are? On the City web site it looks like my house is located on or near one of my property lines.
The best way to determine the exact location of property lines is to locate the property line markers (or monuments) that were installed at each property corner at the time the property was platted or surveyed.  Property lines indicated on the City of Portage GIS/City Maps page are for reference purposes only and may not be precise in relation to structures on your property.  It is the responsibility of the property owner to make sure that minimum setbacks from property lines are maintained according to zoning district regulations for new construction or alterations to existing structures.