Frequently Asked Questions

You can obtain or verify your property's zoning online, by phone at (209)525-6330 or in person at the Modesto office located at 1010 10th Street - third floor. A site address or APN (Assessor's Parcel Number) will be needed for any of these options.

The APN for your property can be found on your tax bill or by contacting the County Assessor. You may view information on individual zoning districts online.
There are varying site area requirements for splitting a property and these site requirements vary depending on the zoning district in which your property is located.

If your property falls in the A-2 (General Agriculture) zoning district, you'll notice there is another number following this designation (i.e. A-2-10, A-2-20, A-2-40). This final number represents the minimum acreage for any new lot created in the district. For example, if your property is A-2-40 (General Agriculture with a 40-acre minimum), any new lot created must have a minimum of 40 acres, therefore, you will need to have at least 80-acres for the division of the property. Another consideration for properties zoned A-2 is whether or not the property is under a Williamson Act contract (see question #14).

If your property falls in a Residential, Commercial, or Industrial zoning district, your ability to split the property will be dependent on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, available public services (water and sewer), access to a public right-of-way, adequate parking, lot coverage, setback, etc... To get more information on specific factors you may review the individual zoning district online. Please note that provisions of the County Subdivision Ordinance may also limit your ability to split property.

A formal application is necessary in order to split any property. A pre-application meeting with a Planner is strongly advised before an application or tentative maps are prepared.
There are many issues to take into account when requesting to rezone a property, including the general plan designation, consistency with the surrounding area, possible effects on neighboring parcels, etc. In order to request to rezone your property, you must submit an application to the planning department. [see forms] Rezone applications must be approved by both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. As with any application, it is recommended that you speak with one of our planners prior to submitting.
Business licenses are required for nearly all business activities that are physically based out of a location in the unincorporated area of the County. You can find the business license form on our forms page. Once approved, a license is good for three calendar years including the year of approval. Be sure to have the property owner's signature on the form and include a copy of your driver's license. A business license may also be required from individual cities in which you conduct your business.

California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development
The ability to add separate living quarters on a property is based on: (1) the zoning of the property, (2) whether or not the property meets the minimum building site area required (including requirements for water, sewer, and parking area), and (3) if the property has any restrictions, such as the Williamson Act.

For properties in the A-2 (General Agriculture) zoning district, the property must have at least twenty acres in order to be considered for a second dwelling. Guesthouses are not permitted uses in the A-2 zoning district. If property is enrolled under a Williamson Act, any use of the property must be accessory and incidental to the agricultural use of the property.
Generally, the addition of living space (bedrooms, bathrooms, etc) with the intent for the house to continue to function as a single-family dwelling is a permitted use as long as the new additions comply with the setbacks of the property. A building permit and review by the appropriate agencies must also be obtained. For more information on building permit costs, contact Building Permit Division at (209) 525-6557.
Mobile homes in lieu of a permitted single-family dwelling must meet the criteria of the zoning district and be completely skirted. For properties within the sphere of influence of a city, the mobile home must have been constructed after June 5, 1976. The mobile home must also meet design criteria to match other conventionally built residential structures (including roof, exterior materials, eaves and overhangs, etc). To place a mobile home as a second permanent dwelling on the property, the property must first meet the criteria for a second dwelling (see question above).
Temporary mobile homes are special permits issued only under three very unique circumstances summarized below. They are NOT permitted as "extra housing" and are not to be rented in violation of the approved use. Temporary mobile homes are only permitted as follows:
  1. On properties zoned A-2 or R-A of at least one acre, for the temporary care of a family member who needs assistance with normal daily activities such as eating, dressing, and bathing, when no other housing is available. A physician's verification form is also required.

  2. On properties zoned A-2 for a full-time agricultural employee when the occupant of the main house works full-time on the property as well.

  3. On commercial or industrial properties where there is substantial outside storage of value.

In each of these cases, the mobile home is renewed on an annual basis and must be immediately removed once the qualifications are no longer met. More information on qualifications can be found in Section 21.72 of the zoning ordinance. Applications for temporary mobile homes can be found here.

The zoning ordinance has specific height limitations for fences in order to insure visibility is maintained. In the front yard, the first fifteen (15) feet behind your ultimate property line, no fence may be constructed over three (3) feet in height. Beyond the fifteen (15) foot front yard area, the fence may be constructed to up to seven (7) feet in height without the need for a building permit.

For corner lots, there is also a side yard setback. In the side yard, the first ten (10) feet behind your ultimate property line, no fence may be constructed over three (3) feet high. (An additional five (5) foot setback is needed for side yards with vehicle openings) Fences constructed over seven (7) feet may be allowed, but require a building permit and engineering.

You may contact Building Permit Division for permit and engineering requirements. The ultimate property line is determined by the General Plan roadway classification. Please contact the Planning Department to determine ultimate property lines.

The setbacks of your property are dependent on what zoning district it falls under and the General Plan designation for road right-of-way in the area. This will help you to determine your ultimate property line. Generally, for residential districts, the setbacks are five (5) feet from each side and rear property lines, and fifteen (15) from the ultimate front property line. For structures with vehicle openings (such as garages or carports), the setback is twenty (20) feet. On corner lots, the side yard setback (where there is no vehicle access) is ten (10) feet. Check with Planning Department staff for further details by calling (209) 525-6330.
The County cannot physically identify your property line. A private survey service must be contacted. (See also Questions #12 & 13)
To get a general idea of your lot's size and dimensions, you can view the lot on the Assessors Parcel Maps. You can view these maps on their web site. You will need Adobe Acrobat and your Assessor's Parcel Number (APN)

For example, if your parcel number was 012-034-056, You would first look for book 012, then page 034, and finally 056, the parcel itself. You should be able to zoom in on the parcel and see its dimensions and acreage. Keep in mind that the ultimate road right-of-way for setbacks and fencing may vary from that shown on the assessor's parcel map. For this information you should contact the Planning Department at (209) 525-6330.

If you would like your property surveyed you must hire a private surveyor to do the work. Most can be found in the phonebook under Engineering - Civil, Land Surveyors, or a similar description.
The California Land Conservation Act of 1965, commonly referred to as the Williamson Act, is a tax relief measure for owners of farmland. The Act permits a landowner, whose land is used for farming, to sign a contract with the County guaranteeing that the land will continue to remain in farming for a period of at least ten years. In return for this guarantee, the County assesses taxes based on the agricultural value of the land rather than the market value.

It may restrict the allowed uses and buildings on the site that are not incidental to agricultural activities. The contract runs with the property and automatically renews each year. More information on how to enroll in a contract or file a notice of non-renewals can be found on the forms page. If you are uncertain whether or not your property is enrolled under a contract, contact our department at (209) 525-6330.

For a structure to be considered legal, it must have complied with all applicable zoning codes and building permits at the time of construction. In order to obtain verification of this legality, a review of zoning, building permits, and assessor's records must be conducted.

For a summary of the history of a dwelling or building on property you own, contact the Assessor's Office at (209) 525-6461. Copies of these records can only be obtained with authorization from the property owner. For research on individual permits, contact the building division at (209) 525-6557.

Dwellings or buildings that have not been placed legally on a property may not be replaced. They also should not be occupied or used. If you need a letter from the Planning Department demonstrating under what circumstances the structures can be rebuilt (aka a "burn-down letter"), a Dwelling Verification form must be submitted. Dwelling Verification requests involve research by Planning staff and may take up to three weeks to complete.

Check with the nearest City or Community Service District in your area. Sewer and Water Hookups Contact Information
A permit is not required for yard sales, however, no more than two yard sales may be conducted in one calendar year. Yard sales cannot exceed three consecutive days. Two signs may be posted as long as they do not exceed three square feet in area and are posted on private property with consent of the owner during the time the yard sale is occurring. (See ยง21.12.260 Definitions of the Zoning Ordinance for more information)
A business license is only required for the owner of the Flea Market itself. Individual vendors may need to obtain a Peddlers Permit or a Secondhand Dealers Permit from the Treasurer and Tax Collectors Office located on the 2nd floor at 1010 10th Street. Vendors selling food will need to check with the Department of Environmental Resources (209-525-6700) for health and/or inspection requirements.

Social halls may hold weddings and are permitted in the H-1 (Highway Commercial), C-1 (Neighborhood Commercial), C-2 (General Commercial), and M (Industrial) zoning districts, provided the facility has obtained all necessary building, fire, and environmental resource permits, has adequate parking, a business license, and any other applicable permits.

Weddings, and similar events, are permitted in the A-2 (General Agriculture) zoning district when a use permit is obtained, provided they are not located on Williamson Act Contracted land. Factors such as being located within a sphere of influence of a city, parking and traffic, noise, impacts to surrounding properties, and impacts to existing agricultural operations will be considered when processing a request for a use permit to hold weddings in the A-2 zoning district. A formal application is necessary in order to apply for a use permit. A pre-application meeting with the Planning Department is strongly advised before an application is prepared.

No use shall be conducted on any premises in such a manner as to cause an unreasonable amount of noise, odor, dust, smoke, vibration, electrical interference, or other nuisance condition detectable off the site.

Contact the Department of Environmental Resources at (209) 525-6700.
The building permit fees for new homes are calculated by the Building Permit Division and are based on square footage, school and fire district fees, and impact fees for your area. Contact the Building Permit Division for more information at (209) 525-6557. You can also review the document Single-Family Dwelling Building Fees Estimate for more information.
The County does not have a tree ordinance and does not oversee the pruning of any trees located on private property. Street trees located on private property are the responsibility of the property owner.
Yes. A building permit is required for most improvements done to a property. For further information, contact the Building Permit Division at (209) 525-6557.
You may contact the Assessor's office (209-525-6461) to determine the date when the house was built. This date may be an estimate unless specific building permit information is referenced. For further research on building permits, you may contact the Building Permit Division at (209) 525-6557. You can research building permits that exist on a property through our Online Services. Note: Not all permit information is available through Online Services.
The Building Permit Division does not retain the original building plans for homes. To verify square footage, you may contact the Assessor's office at (209) 525-6461.