Fremont Community Joint Zoning Ordinance

Table of Contents

Chapter 4: Agricultural Districts

Article 1: Agricultural Preservation District (AG-1)

Type of District: Traditional

Section 4-1.01: Purpose and Intent

This District is intended primarily to conserve and protect prime agricultural lands for farming and agricultural uses. It is also the intent of this District to help maintain land values at levels which farm activities can support and to avoid property value increases through speculation for higher density uses, which force prime farm land into non-agricultural uses. The District is established to preserve large, contiguous blocks of agricultural land. It allows maximum freedom of operations for agricultural pursuits by protecting such uses from encroachment of non-agricultural uses. Non-agricultural uses are substantially precluded, and severe restrictions are imposed on allowed development, including new single-family dwellings. While most of the areas included in this zoning district are crop land, the district may also include lands which are presently or may in the future appropriately be used for other types of agricultural production, including livestock production. As an agricultural district, certain impacts such as odors, noise, application of chemicals, and other external impacts typically associated with farming operations shall be recognized and reasonably tolerated provided they do not pose a threat to the general health, safety and welfare of Fremont community residents.

Section 4-1.02: Permitted Uses

The following uses are permitted:


  1. Single-family detached dwelling, subject to the following regulations:
    1. When proposed for a former dwelling site or to replace an uninhabitable dwelling, the 11-point system requirements are waived.
    2. All other proposed dwellings must meet the requirements of the 11-point system outlined below.
  2. State licensed residential care facilities; family homes


  1. General and specialized farming of agricultural products and agricultural activities, including the raising or growing of crops, livestock, poultry, bees and other farm animals, products and foodstuffs. Any building or structure may be located thereon and used for the day-to-day operation of such activities, for the storage or preservation of said crops or animals, products and collection, distribution, or processing, and for the incidental sale of crops, products and foodstuffs raised or grown on said parcel or in said building or structure.
  2. Storage, retail or wholesale marketing, or processing of agricultural products into a value-added agricultural product is a permitted use in a farming operation if more than 50 percent of the stored, processed, or merchandised products are produced by the farm operator for at least 3 of the immediately preceding 5 years.
  3. Cider mills or wineries selling product, in a tasting room, derived from crops grown primarily on site for at least 3 of the immediately preceding 5 years.
  4. Direct marketing of produce in a farm market, on-farm market, or roadside stand; provided they are no greater than 100 square feet in building area.
  5. Seasonal U-pick fruits and vegetables operations.
  6. Seasonal outdoors mazes of agricultural origin such as straw bales or corn.
  7. Food sales/processing of fruits/produce originating on the parcel.
  8. Uses 3 through 7 listed above may include any or all of the following ancillary agriculturally related uses and some non-agriculturally related uses so long as the general agricultural character of the farm is maintained and the income from these activities represents less than 50 percent of the gross receipts from the farm.
    1. Value-added agricultural products or activities such as education tours or processing facilities, etc.
    2. Bakeries selling baked goods containing produce grown primarily on site (e.g., minimum 50 percent).
    3. Playgrounds or equipment typical of a school playground, such as slides, swings, etc. (not including motorized vehicles or rides).
    4. Petting farms, animal display, and pony rides.
    5. Wagon, sleigh and hayrides.
    6. Nature trails.
    7. Open air or covered picnic area with restrooms.
    8. Educational classes, lectures, seminars.
    9. Historical agricultural exhibits.
    10. Kitchen facilities, processing/cooking items for sale.
    11. Gift shops for the sale of locally produced agricultural, and agriculturally related, products.
    12. Gifts shops for the sale of non-agriculturally related products such as antiques or crafts, limited to 25 percent of gross sales.
  9. Confined feedlots and livestock holding facilities (requires Site Plan Review and Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practice’s (GAAMP’s) compliance)
  10. Raising of fur-bearing animals or game birds (requires Site Plan Review and GAAMP’s compliance)
  11. Wireless communication towers of under 75 feet
  12. Wireless communication antennas when attached to a lawful existing telecommunication tower, water tower or other structure

Single Family Detached Dwellings – 11 Point System

One (1) single-family detached dwelling shall be permitted per parcel in the Agricultural 1 (AG-1) District, upon application to and determination by the Zoning Administrator that the proposal has eleven (11) or more points in accordance with the following criteria:

  1. The distance from the proposed dwelling unit to a County primary or secondary road or State or US Highway as measured from the centerline of the road is:

    1. Less than one (1) mile – 2 points
    2. Between one (1) and two (2) miles – 1 point
    3. Greater than two (2) miles – 0 points
  2. The number of occupied dwelling units currently located within one-half mile radius of the proposed dwelling is:

    1. Seven (7) or more – 3 points
    2. Four (4), five (5) or six (6) – 2 points
    3. Two (2), or three (3) – 1 point
    4. One (1) or less – 0 points
  3. Utilizing the “Limitations to Agricultural Use” map* at least fifty (50) percent of the parcel proposed for development into residential is classified as being:

    1. Very severe or severe – 4 points
    2. Moderate severe or moderate – 2 points
    3. Slight – 0 points

    *Note: See Appendix 2 under List of Appendices

  4. During the last five (5) years the proposed dwelling site has been:

    1. Not used for crops or is woodland – 2 points
    2. Used for hay, pasture, row crops or other farmland – 1 point
    3. Used for orchard or specialty crops – 0 points
  5. The distance from the proposed dwelling to the nearest feedlot, cattle or hog farm, liquid manure lagoon or storage area (and similar agricultural facilities or operations) is:

    1. Greater than one-half (1/2) mile radius – 2 points
    2. greater than one-quarter (1/4) mile but less than one-half (1/2) mile radius – 1 point
    3. Less than one-quarter (1/4) mile radius – 0 points

Applications scoring fewer than eleven (11) points shall be denied zoning approval. Appeals or requests for variances from specific standards shall be to the Joint Zoning Board of Appeals, which for appeals shall review the determination by the Zoning Administrator for error in application of the above criteria. For variance requests, in addition to the standards required for all variance reviews, the Joint Zoning Board of Appeals shall make findings of fact concerning the following points:

  1. The proposed dwelling will not interfere with or substantially hinder any existing or potential future farming operation or activity within the immediate area.
  2. The proposed dwelling will not significantly alter the land use pattern of the immediate area.
  3. The proposed dwelling is situated upon land generally unsuited for the production of farm crops, considering the terrain, adverse soil or land conditions, drainage and flooding, vegetation, location and size of the parcel involved.

Notwithstanding the above, the Joint Zoning Board of Appeals shall have the right to overturn any denial of zoning application, provided there is demonstrable error on the part of the Zoning Administrator (appeals) or there are extenuating and extraordinary circumstances that can be established as a matter of record by the applicant (variances).

Section 4-1.03: Additional Uses Allowed By Special Use Permits


  1. Agricultural labor housing
  2. State licensed residential care facilities; small group homes provided the facility shall not be within 1,500 feet of another state licensed residential facility


  1. Direct marketing of produce, farm market, on-farm market or roadside stand if the sales area is greater than 100 square feet in building area.
  2. Restaurant operations related to the agricultural use on the site.
  3. Agri-tourism which includes non-agriculturally related uses, such as the following ancillary uses:
    1. Small-scale entertainment (e.g., music concert, car show, art fair).
    2. Family oriented animated activities (e.g., fun houses, haunted houses, or similar) and small mechanical rides.
    3. Organized meeting space for use by weddings, birthday parties, corporate picnics, etc.
  4. Any permitted use that would require designated permanent parking for more than 20 vehicles.
  5. Agricultural service establishments
  6. Cemeteries
  7. Commercial greenhouses and nurseries, when operated primarily as wholesaling operations and with limited retail sales (the sales area is less than 25% of the area of all structures)
  8. Equine boarding stable and training facility
  9. Essential services
  10. Farm market
  11. Municipal and public service activities
  12. Place of religious worship
  13. Shooting, rifle and handgun ranges
  14. Wastewater treatment facilities
  15. Wind Energy System in excess of 150 ft.
  16. Wireless communication tower of 75 feet or over

Section 4-1.04: Permitted Accessory Uses

The following uses shall be allowed as long as they are accessory to a permitted principal use or a permitted Special Use:

  1. Accessory buildings
  2. Home occupations
  3. Small excavations
  4. Roadside stands
  5. Ponds

Section 4-1.05: Accessory Uses Allowed By Special Use Permites

The following uses shall be allowed by a Special Use permit:

  1. Bed and breakfast
  2. Cottage industry
  3. Home-based business

Section 4-1.06: Parcel Standards

The following standards for parcels shall be complied with:

  1. Minimum lot area: 1 acre
  2. Maximum lot area for new parcels: 2 acres
  3. Minimum lot width: 200 ft.
  4. Minimum front setback**: 75 ft.
  5. Minimum rear setback: 50 ft.
  6. Lot width to depth ratio: 1:4
  7. Minimum side setback***: 20 ft.
  8. Maximum lot coverage: 15%
  9. Maximum building height: **** 35 ft. or 2-1/2 stories
  10. Minimum dwelling area: 600 sq. ft.

** 125 feet on state trunk line

*** May require additional setback from agricultural uses

**** Farm buildings or structures may be up to 120 feet in height, provided they are set back from the lot line by a minimum of fifty (50) feet.

Section 4-1.07: Permitted Lot Splits (Quarter/Quarter Zone)

For all proposed divisions or splits within this District, Quarter/Quarter Zoning shall apply. Quarter/Quarter Zoning allows one additional lot per each 40 acres of land. No divisions or splits are available for parent parcels of less than 40 acres as of the effective date of this Ordinance. (The area of one-fourth of a quarter section of one square mile survey section of land is 40 acres, as shown at right.) Once this lot is created, the landowner cannot make any further divisions. If the landowner owns multiple contiguous quarter/quarter sections, then all of the permitted lots can be concentrated on one section. For example, if one owner holds both 40 acre parcels, the two available new parcels could be placed in either section, as shown at right. However, when any proposed lot includes tilled or tillable soil, the location of the new parcel is subject to approval via the Site Plan Review process. The Joint Planning Commission shall have the authority to waive the lot area and width requirements during the Review process if the intent of the proposed new parcel is to reestablish a single-family residence on a former dwelling site or to replace an uninhabitable dwelling.

  1. A split and combination (transfer) of vacant property to an adjacent parcel shall not be considered an allotted land division or split under this Ordinance. Transferred parcels need not meet lot size and dimension requirements. However, remnant (donor) parcels shall meet the minimum frontage and lot size requirements.
  2. The creation of a new conforming parcel from a parent parcel shall allow for the construction of a residence on either or both resulting parcels, if vacant, subject to the 11-point rule.
  3. The splitting off and creation of new parcels larger than the maximum lot size (other than the remnant parcel) is permitted only for non-residential purposes. The new parcel(s) must have recorded a deed restriction designating the parcel as “non-buildable for residential purposes”, the parcel shall not be the subject of a request to the JZBA for variance relief from the applicable quarter/quarter zoning, size and frontage requirements, and shall not be developed with any residential structure. Provided, however, that if the Joint Zoning Ordinance is subsequently amended to allow for such a use, such as with a change from the current agricultural district to a residential zoning district, then the restriction no longer applies.
  4. In those cases where the property proposed to be divided is less than forty acres but more than ten acres, and the following conditions are both met, one new parcel meeting the minimum/maximum lot size and frontage requirements can be created out of the original parcel.
    1. No new building sites are created, i.e., the new smaller parcel already has a viable home or replaceable dwelling located within the proposed parcel boundaries.
    2. The remaining agricultural land will be reserved for agricultural use, and the owners are willing to record a deed restriction to that effect, as described in section 4-1.07(3) above.
  5. Further, where proposed divisions meet the standards of quarter/quarter zoning, or section 4-1.07(4), above, but where in order to encompass existing buildings and required setbacks proposed boundary lines would result in a parcel larger than the maximum allowable lot size, such divisions may be approved by the appropriate body. This section is not to be construed as allowing larger than maximum sized parcels merely for convenience or to meet a desire for more property.
  6. The above regulations shall not cause the lot of record to be split in a manner which would violate the requirements for access and other applicable provisions contained in the Michigan Land Division Act, Act 288 of 1967, as amended. Any provision of this Ordinance notwithstanding, the applicable jurisdiction is not responsible for any violations of this Ordinance or the Land Division Act.

Section 4-1.08: Agricultural Buffer

Any side or rear yard of any parcel used for non-farming use and abutting agriculturally used land in the AG-1 District shall be a minimum of fifty (50) feet and shall contain an agricultural buffer. In lieu of a natural open space area, fencing, densely planted vegetation or other similar barrier compliant with the “General Provisions” regulations may be used to reduce the agricultural buffer, but the buffer shall not be less than 25 feet in width.

Section 4-1.09: Waterfront and Wetland Setbacks

  1. A one hundred (100) foot waterfront setback shall be required for septic systems on lots adjacent to a lake, river, creek or stream. Such setback shall be measured from the ordinary high water mark of the body of water to the nearest point of the system.
  2. Within this waterfront setback, a minimum twenty-five (25) foot greenbelt shall be maintained parallel and immediately adjacent to the bank or ordinary high water level. Within the greenbelt, the Zoning Administrator may approve clearing of a space of no greater than ten (10) feet in width, selectively trimmed and pruned to allow for the placement of walkways, and/or for a view of the waterway. The walkway shall be perpendicular to the water. Individual trees may also be removed which are in danger of falling and damaging structures or blocking a navigable waterway.
  3. Grading or removal of vegetative cover shall not be permitted within twenty-five (25) feet of a wetland.

Section 4-1.10: Location of Parking and Parking Area Requirements

  1. Required off-street parking facilities shall be located on the same lot as the building they are intended to serve.
  2. See Chapter 3, “General Provisions” of the Ordinance for general parking area requirements.
  3. The amount of required off-street parking spaces for individual uses shall be determined in accordance with the following table:
Use Parking Requirements (UFA = Usable Floor Area)
Agricultural labor housing 2 per dwelling unit
Single-family detached dwellings 2 per dwelling unit
Bed and breakfast establishment 2 plus 1 per guest room
State licensed residential care facilities, family homes 1 per each 3 individuals computed on the basis of the licensing limits of the facility
State licensed residential care facilities, small group homes 1 per each 3 clients computed on the basis of licensing
Agricultural operations including general farming, truck farming, fruit orchards, nurseries, greenhouses and usual farm operations 1 per employee, plus 1 per each truck
Agricultural services establishments 1 per each two hundred (200) sq. ft. of UFA area, and 1 space for each service vehicle
Agricultural Tourism and Seasonal Agricultural Use For agricultural tourism and seasonal agriculturally related uses one space for each 200 square feet of retail area and one space for every 2000 square feet of outdoor related activities such as agricultural mazes, petting farms, outdoor play equipment, etc.
Cemeteries 2 spaces
Commercial greenhouses and nurseries, when operated primarily as wholesaling operations and limited retail sales 1 space for each two hundred (200) sq. ft. of UFA, plus 1 space for each two thousand (2,000) sq. ft. of exterior sales area
CAFO 1 space for each service vehicle
Cottage Industry Will vary depending on type of industry
Equine boarding stable and training facility 1 per each 2 stalls; parking spaces shall be sized to accommodate vehicles plus trailers
Essential services 1 space for each service vehicle
Farm market 1 space for each two hundred (200) sq. ft. of UFA, plus 1 space for each two thousand (2,000) sq. ft. of exterior sales area
Home-based businesses No more than 2 spaces associated with business vehicles
Place of religious worship 1 for each three (3) seats in the main worship unit
Municipal and public service activities 1 space per each service vehicle
Raising of fur bearing animals or game birds 1 per employee
Roadside stands 2 parking spaces
Shooting, rifle and handgun ranges 1 per shooting station
Wastewater treatment facilities 1 space per employee, plus 3 for visitors
Wireless communication antennas when attached to a lawful existing telecommunications tower, water tower, or other structure 1 space for service vehicle
Wireless communication towers of under 75 feet in height wholly owned and used by a federally licensed amateur radio station operator 1 space for service vehicle
Wireless communication towers of 75 feet or over 1 space for service vehicle

Section 4-1.11 : Signs

  1. The following signs are permitted in the AG-1 District:

    1. Agricultural Tourism and Seasonal Agricultural Use Signs: seasonal signs may be erected for limited periods of time during the year when retailing activities for a particular farm product is available to the public in accordance with the standards listed in this ordinance for temporary signs.
    2. One (1) monument sign of up to sixteen (16) square feet is permitted for lawful Special Land Uses. Signs shall not exceed eight (8) feet in height. One (1) non-illuminated wall sign of up to sixteen (16) square feet may also be permitted.
    3. One (1) sign of up to eight (8) square feet for a home occupation, home-based business, cottage industry, bed and breakfast, or roadside stand.
    4. Political signs of up to six (6) sq. ft.
    5. Non-illuminated real estate signs of up to six (6) sq. ft. provided they are removed within ten (10) days after lease or sale of property.
    6. Non-illuminated trespassing, safety, directional, caution or announcement signs each not exceeding two (2) square feet in area or signs announcing the sale of produce each not exceeding six (6) sq. ft. in area.
    7. Name plates less than two (2) sq. ft.
    8. Road name signs and other signs established by state, county, city or township units of government when necessary for giving proper directions or otherwise safeguarding the public.
    9. Non-advertising signs under two (2) sq. ft. erected by any organization, firm or corporation that are needed to warn the public of dangerous conditions and unusual hazards including: caving ground, drop-offs, high voltage, fire danger, explosives, severe visibility limits, etc.
  2. Standards

    1. Signs shall be set back from the road right-of-way and from side property lines a minimum of ten (10) feet.
    2. Sign design shall respect the rural character of the District. As examples, sign colors should be natural and subdued and sign materials should be natural looking (e.g., wood and field stone vs. glossy metals and plastics).
    3. See Chapter 3, “General Provisions” for more sign regulations.