Benton County, Oregon

Making Benton County a Better Place to Live
Printed on Aug 28, 2015 @ 12:25 AM

Benton County Community Development – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I do ____________ on my property?

Step 1: Determine the zoning of your property.

Step 2: Find the chapter in the Development Code that corresponds to the zoning for your property, and read the uses allowed in that zone to determine whether the use you are considering is allowed, and whether special approval is required. "Permitted Uses" means uses that are allowed without special land use approval, but still may require building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and septic system permits. Other uses, such as "Conditional Uses" require special land use approval, as described in the Development Code (PDF).



2. How do I get a permit?

See Benton County permit information.



3. What are my setbacks from property lines?

Step 1: Determine the zoning of your property.

Step 2: Refer to the appropriate chapter in the Development Code for your zone, or see the summary table of setbacks at the bottom of this page.

What if I can't meet the required setbacks?

You might be able to qualify for a Variance. Review the procedure for Variances in sections 53.405 through 53.425 of the Development Code (PDF).



4. What is the zoning of my property?

All land in Benton County has been zoned for various types of land uses. Each zone has a corresponding chapter in the Benton County Development Code, which lists the uses allowed in that zone, the setback distances for structures from property lines, and the minimum size for creating new parcels or lots.

To determine the zoning of a property, locate the property on the zoning map index. If you are unable to locate your property on the zoning map, contact the Planning Division. We can look up your zoning most quickly if you provide us the Assessment Map and Tax Lot Number of your property, but we can also look it up by street address.



5. Do I need a permit for:

...a fence?

Fences less than 6 feet in height do not require a building permit. However, any retaining wall over 4 feet in height requires a permit.

...a shed, shop or other accessory structure?

All structures over 200 square feet in size require a building permit. A structure smaller than 200 square feet does not require a permit provided it is no more than 10 feet in height and is detached from other structures by at least 5 feet. Even if a structure does not require a building permit, it is still required to be built to comply with the Oregon Structural Specialty Code.

...a house?

Yes; both site-built and manufactured dwellings require permits. See Benton County Permit Information.



6. Do I need approval or a business license to operate a business from my property?

Benton County does not require business licenses. However, there are limitations on the establishment of businesses in the county. If the business will be operated from your residence or on the same property as your residence, you must first obtain approval of a home occupation permit if your property is not in a farm or forest zone, and a conditional use permit if it is. (See land use applications). For more information, see the relevant code section 91.20 (PDF). If the business will not be on the same property as your residence, then it can only be allowed if it is one of the uses listed in the zone that applies to your property (see #1 above).



7. Is my property in a floodplain?

You look up the floodplain mapping for your area on the Benton County Zoning Map or you can view the official Flood Insurance Rate Maps directly on the FEMA Map Service Center website. You can also review the hardcopy maps at our office, or provide us with a Township-Range-Section and Tax Lot number, or an address, and we can look up the floodplain information for you.



8. What does it mean if my property is in a floodplain?

Development activities (including construction, land grading, fill placement, etc.) require special review to ensure they will not increase flood hazards to other properties. Additionally, dwellings must be constructed so that the lowest floor is at an elevation of at least one foot above the "base flood elevation" (the elevation to which floodwaters would rise during the theoretical "100-year flood"). Dwellings and other structures must also meet additional standards to minimize the potential for damage during floods. (See Chapter 83 of the Development Code [PDF] for more information.)

Another consequence of having property in the floodplain is that you will be required by your lending agency to obtain flood insurance if you enter into a mortgage on the residence.



9. What do I need to do to divide my property?

Land can be divided for sale through either a partition or a subdivision, depending on the number of parcels or lots created.

Step 1: The first step is to determine the zoning of your property.

Step 2: The corresponding chapter in the Development Code will tell you the minimum size for creating new parcels in that zone. For example, in the RR-2 zone, which is discussed in Chapter 63 (PDF), the minimum size for new parcels is two acres.

Step 3: Divide the acreage of your property by the minimum parcel size to determine the number of parcels you can create. Remember, you can only create whole parcels. So, for example, if you had 7 acres zoned RR-2, you would divide 7 by 2, which equals 3.5. You cannot create half of a parcel, so the number of parcels that can be created is 3. Since you already have 1 parcel, you have the acreage to create 2 additional parcels.

Step 4: Once you have determined the number of parcels you can create, you should decide on whether you want to do a partition or a subdivision. A partition is the creation of 2 or 3 parcels from 1 parcel, within a calendar year. A subdivision is the creation of 4 or more lots. If you are considering a partition, review Chapter 95 of the Development Code (PDF); for subdivisions review Chapter 97 (PDF). In either case, if your property is inside the Corvallis Urban Growth Boundary, Chapter 100 (PDF) also applies. Before applying for a partition or subdivision, you should have a "pre-application meeting" with a member or members of the Community Development Department. Contact us to set up a meeting.



10. I own two Tax Lots (or I receive two tax bills for separate parts of my property) – does that mean I have two parcels that can be sold separately or developed separately?

Not necessarily. The Benton County Assessment Department may assign multiple tax lots or tax accounts to your property, but that is only for taxation purposes. Whether you have more than one legal parcel depends on the deed history of your property. Read what constitutes a legal parcel: Development Code, section 51.020(40) (PDF).



11.My neighbor and I want to adjust the property line between us – how do we go about doing that?

You would need to apply for a Property Line Adjustment. Generally, property lines may be adjusted as long as required setbacks from structures are maintained and parcels are not reduced below the minimum parcel size.



12. Can I replace an existing dwelling on my property?

There are two scenarios in which a dwelling may be replaced.

Scenario A: If the dwelling is consistent with current zoning regulations that apply to the property, it may be replaced. For example, one dwelling on a parcel is allowed outright in a residential zone, and so replacing the dwelling is consistent with the zoning.

Scenario B: If the dwelling is not consistent with current zoning regulations, but was consistent with whatever regulations existed at the time the dwelling was established, and the dwelling continues to be in a habitable condition. This is called a "non-conforming use", or commonly referred to as "grandfather rights". This situation most commonly occurs on farmland, where the zoning does not allow a dwelling outright.

Under either scenario you will need a building permit or a manufactured dwelling placement permit. Under Scenario B, you will probably also need an Administrative Review to determine eligibility prior to applying for a building permit. Contact the Planning Division for more information.



13. Can I build an accessory apartment/mother-in-law apartment/granny-flat?

The Development Code allows only one dwelling per parcel in residential zones. This does not allow for a second self-contained dwelling unit, whether attached or detached from the main dwelling. It may be possible to have a guest quarters or similar separate living space, provided it is not set up as and does not function as a self-contained dwelling unit. Typically, that means the structure or addition cannot have a kitchen, and further that the property owner sign a covenant (a legal agreement) stating that the structure will not be used as a second dwelling.

For cases of medical hardship where a relative is in need of care (and would otherwise need to be in a care facility), a manufactured dwelling may be temporarily placed on the same property as an existing dwelling. Such a dwelling is allowed to remain as long as the medical hardship continues; however, once the hardship ceases the dwelling must be removed from the property.



14. Is my property in your jurisdiction?

The jurisdiction of the Benton County Community Development Dept. includes all of Benton County outside of the city limits of Corvallis, Adair Village, Albany, Philomath and Monroe. We also provide planning and building services by contract inside the city limits of Monroe. In North Albany, the land that is inside the city limits of Albany is not our jurisdiction but the City of Albany's.

Not sure if you are inside city limits? With a few exceptions, if you are on city sewer service (i.e., you do not have a septic tank and drainfield on your property) then you are inside the city limits. The exceptions are the sewer districts in Alsea and Alpine, and the recently sewered area in the vicinity of South Third Street and 3 Mile Lane in the Corvallis Urban Growth Boundary, and a few properties in the Philomath Urban Growth Boundaries. See also the websites for the City of Corvallis, Adair Village, City of Albany, or the City of Philomath.

Summary Table of Setbacks


  Setback Distance (in Feet) From:
  Road Right-of-Way Roadway (Edge of Road Surface) Rear Property Line Side Property Line
Rural Residential (RR) or Urban Residential (UR)  


25 40 25 8
Accessory Structure 25 40 25 8
Accessory Structure of no more than 500 sq ft, detached from other buildings by at least 5 feet, and no more than 20 ft in height, in any zone. 25 40 3 3

Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) or Forest Conservation (FC)



30 45 30 30
Accessory Structure 20 N/A 20 20
Accessory Structure of no more than 500 sq ft, detached from other buildings by at least 5 feet, and no more than 20 ft in height, in any zone. 20 N/A 3 3


*Note: a dwelling must also be located at least 300 feet from any property zoned Forest Conservation, Exclusive Farm Use, or Multi-Purpose Agriculture.

Fences generally are not required to meet setbacks.