Steuben County, Indiana Permitting Process: A Comprehensive Guide

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Are you a resident of Steuben County, Indiana, looking to build or renovate on your property? If so, understanding the permitting process is crucial to ensure compliance with local regulations. In this article, we will break down the permitting process in Steuben County, answering questions such as what projects require a permit, the types of permits available, and how to navigate the application process. Let’s dive in!

Projects Requiring a Permit

It’s important to determine whether your project requires a permit before commencing any construction. While it’s obvious that building a new home necessitates a permit, other projects like adding a deck, building a fence, or installing a pool also require permits in Steuben County. However, certain projects, such as slabs, uncovered patios, temporary signs, agricultural fences, and cosmetic changes, do not require a permit. For a comprehensive list of projects that require permitting, visit the Steuben County government website.

Zoning Considerations

Aside from obtaining permits, understanding the zoning regulations specific to your property is crucial. Steuben County’s zoning ordinances govern aspects such as land uses, setbacks, lock coverage, square footage requirements, and more. To determine your property’s zoning classification, you can use Beacon, a free online tool provided by the county. Beacon allows you to access information about your property, including its zoning classification. Once you have this information, you can refer to the Steuben County zoning ordinances applicable to your property.

Special Exceptions

If your proposed project falls outside the parameters laid out in the zoning ordinances, you may need to apply for a special exception. This is where you will work closely with the plan and build department staff to understand the process and provide any additional information required.

Types of Permits

In Steuben County, there are two primary types of permits: building permits and improvement location permits (ILP). Building permits are required for construction projects, while ILPs are necessary for properties located within city limits or extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJs) that have their own zoning and building requirements.

City of Angola, as an example, issues its own building permits and ILPs. On the other hand, the towns of Hamilton, Fremont, Clear Lake, Orland, and Hudson follow the county’s building ordinances but have their own zoning requirements, thus issuing their own ILPs.

Application Process

Once you have determined the type of permit you need, it’s time to navigate the application process. If you’re working with a contractor, they may complete this process on your behalf. However, it’s essential to understand the steps involved to ensure a smooth application.

Step 1: Highway Department

For construction projects that involve installing a new driveway, your first stop will be the Highway Department. They will guide you through the driveway permit process, unless your property relies on a private septic system.

Step 2: Waste District

Your next visit will be to the waste district overseeing your property. The waste district will review any well or septic needs related to your project.

Step 3: Health Department

The Health Department will review any additional well or septic needs not covered by the waste district.

Step 4: County Surveyor

The County Surveyor will check the distance to ditches and drainage structures on your property to ensure compliance with regulations.

Step 5: Plan and Build Departments

Finally, you will arrive at the Plan and Build Departments, where you will complete the permit application form. The applicant fills in the top portion of the form, while the city and county departments mentioned above will complete the rest. Along with the application, you will need to submit detailed site and building plans, which are vital for approving various aspects of your project, such as setbacks, septic grinders, well placements, and other details.

Special Circumstances

In some cases, special circumstances may impact your construction project. It’s crucial to be aware of these circumstances and address them accordingly.

Flood Plains and Wetlands

If your property is located in a flood zone, it will need to meet specific elevation requirements. This requires obtaining a flood plain analysis regulatory assessment to establish the base flood elevation. All construction must be two feet above the base flood elevation, also known as the flood protection grade.

For properties with wetlands, the Army Corps of Engineers will need to delineate the wetlands. Steuben County’s zoning ordinance mandates a setback of 25 feet from wetlands.

Proximity to the Airport

Properties located within the first inner rings of the airport’s airspace require sign off from the airport to ensure that the development does not interfere with airport operations. If your property falls within this range, ensure you obtain the necessary approval before proceeding with your project.

Construction and Inspection

Once you have obtained the necessary permits, construction can commence. Remember to prominently display the permit on your site within 24 hours of issuance.

The building permit will outline the inspections required at various stages of construction. The applicant must schedule these inspections at least 24 hours in advance, excluding the final inspection. Final inspections are scheduled once the project has received sign-offs from all relevant departments. The building department will issue a certificate of occupancy once the project passes the final inspection, indicating that it meets all necessary requirements.


Understanding the permitting process in Steuben County, Indiana, is essential for anyone planning a construction or renovation project. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you will be better equipped to navigate the process, ensuring compliance with regulations and avoiding unnecessary delays. Remember to always consult with the appropriate departments and seek professional guidance when necessary. Now, go forth and build with confidence in Steuben County!

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