Land Based Project FAQs

What is a Land Based Project?

A land based project uses land for urban agriculture, gardening, or beautification, whether for profit or as a community based activity.

What qualifies as a side lot?

Eligible vacant lots must share a property line with a residential property you own. The house must be occupied and the side lot must be 7,500 square feet or less to qualify. Your home may be across the alley from a side lot, but not across the street. Lots are purchased through the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

How do I combine properties?

If you own properties that are next to one another on the same block, it’s often a good idea to consolidate your parcels before you apply for a permit. The owner must be current on all payments or payment plans to the City of Detroit. Visit the Assessor’s Office at 2 Woodward Avenue, Suite 804 to combine parcels. Call 313-224-3024 before visiting to check on what to bring.

Parcels across the street from one another or interrupted by an unvacated alley cannot be combined. However, unused alleys can be officially vacated in order to combine it and the parcels on each side. Alley vacations require petition signatures from all property owners next to the alley and City Council approval. Contact Department of Public Works at 313-224-3970.

Why do I need a permit?

A permit is required to register and record your project with the City. A permit protects your rights as a property owner to use your land in a legally allowable way. Note, you do not need a permit if you are doing a project on a side lot next to your house or business, as long as you have combined your parcels.

How does zoning affect my project?

Zoning defines what land uses are allowed on every parcel in property in Detroit. Zoning rules are designed to make sure that neighboring properties have compatible uses. For example, so that a school or home is not next door to a factory. Some types of land uses: may always be allowed in some areas of the city (By Right uses); may be allowed in some areas only under strict conditions (Conditional uses); or may never be allowed in some areas in Detroit (Not Allowed uses). When it comes to land based projects, there are no uses that are allowed by right in every area of Detroit, so it is important to check to make sure your desired land and project are compatible .

How do I look up my zoning district?

Every property in Detroit falls into a zoning district such as residential, commercial, or industrial zone. You can look up your zoning at .

Is there a way I can avoid the conditional land use process?

Generally projects that are over one acre in size are more likely to be conditional land uses in many neighborhoods. When purchasing land, you may be able to choose a different property where your project is allowed by right, which would allow you to avoid the conditional land use process. Alternatively, when permitting, you may be able to change your project so that it is allowed by right on a property you already have. BSEED’s Zoning Division can help with advice.

What is “Fair Market Value”?

Fair market value for a property is determined by a professional who looks at “comparable values” of other similar properties that have been sold. This means prices may be higher in an area where market demand is increasing land costs nearby; prices also may be higher for commercial or specially zoned properties.

How do I decide which use is principal (as opposed to accessory uses)?

Using an urban garden as an example of a primary use, the garden could have a variety of accessory uses such as a shed, garage, farm stand, or hoophouse. In this case you would look at the zoning restrictions for “urban garden.” For another example, if there is only a hoophouse on the lot, the hoophouse is then the primary use.

When are you required to engage with your neighbors?

Engagement of the community surrounding your project is not required by the City unless your project is a conditionally allowed urban agriculture project. However, it strongly encouraged because it will lead to a more successful project longterm and better relationships. There are two types of projects that require you to engage with your neighbors:

If your land based project is an urban garden (agriculture less than or equal to 1 acre in size) that was permitted on a conditional use basis, or an urban farm (agriculture more than 1 acre in size), then you must provide your name, address, and telephone number to neighboring property owners or tenants and/or the first nearest property owner or tenant at least 30 days before you start doing site work.

If your land based project involves uses that are considered conditional, and will require a Special Land Use Hearing in order to receive a permit, then the City will send a letter to all addresses within a 300 feet radius of your project, no less than 15 days prior to your scheduled hearing date. The letter includes:

  • Your project’s address
  • The time, date, and location of your hearing
  • Your/ your organization’s name
  • A brief description of your project and proposed use
  • An invitation for them to express their opinion of your project.
  • They can do this in writing before the hearing, or in person by attending the hearing.

Two kinds of projects require you to engage your neighbors: Urban gardens permitted on a conditional use basis, and all urban farms that are more than 1 acre. You must provide your name, address, and telephone number at least 30 days before you start doing site work to neighboring property owners or tenants and/or the first nearest property owner or tenant.

Who should I contact regarding land Based project?

City Contacts



Phone Number

Why Contact?

Coleman A. Young Municipal Center (CAYMC)

2 Woodward Ave.


For most matters municipal 

Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED)

2 Woodward Ave.

4th Floor

Development Resource Center: 313-224-2372

Zoning Office: 313-224-1317

Plumbing: 313-224-3157

Have questions about permits, inspections, and special land use hearings

Detroit Land Bank Authority (Land Bank)

500 Griswold St. 

Suite 1200


Buying DLBA land through their different programs (i.e. Side Lot Program)

Detroit Building Authority (DBA)

1301 3rd Ave.

 3rd Floor


Buying commercial real estate properties 

General Services Department (GSD): Community Managed Open Space

18100 Meyers Rd.


Licensing park land through the  Community Managed Open Space Program (i.e. parks)

Department of Public Works - Traffic and Engineering (TED)

2633 Michigan Ave. Detroit, MI, 48216


Working with street traffic flows 

Department of Public Works - City Engineering Division, Maps & Records

2 Woodward Ave, 

6th Floor


Working within the city’s Right of Ways (i.e. vacating an alley)

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD)

735 Randolph St. 

1st Floor


Drainage charges; stormwater infrastructure procedures 

Detroit Parks & Recreation (DPR)

18100 Meyers Rd. 


Licensing land through the  Community Managed Open Space Program

Office of the Assessor

2 Woodward Ave. 

Suite 804


Paying property taxes

City Planning Commission

2 Woodward Ave. 

Suite 208


Have questions about the zoning or if your project is not allowed as defined by the zoning ordinance 

Detroit Public Safety Headquarters

1301 3rd Ave. 


Need to make a complaint 

Board of Zoning Appeals

2 Woodward Ave. 

Suite 212


Have questions about the zoning appeals process

Detroit City Clerk’s Office, City Council Committee Section

2 Woodward Ave. 

Suite 200


Questions concerning the review and approval of land sales (i.e. alley vacation)

Detroit Public Library

Main Branch: 

5201 Woodward Ave


You can contact the main branch for information on your local library 

District Managers at the Department of Neighborhoods (DON)

To participate in the Community Partner program, you must be recommended by your City Council member or district manager and approved by the Land bank to participate. Contact your District Manager to find out more information. 


District 1

Crowell Rec. Center

16630 Lahser


District 2

Northwest Activities Center

18100 Meyers


District 3

Farwell Rec. Center

2711 E. Outer Drive


District 4

Samaritan Center

5555 Conner


District 5

Butzel Family Center

7737 Kercheval


District 6

Patton Rec. Center

2301 Woodmere


District 7

Adam Butzel

10500 Lyndon



Community Partners

Use these resources for additional help with your Land Based Project, including plot plans, site design and maintenance tips.


Keep Growing Detroit


Detroit Future City


The Greening of Detroit


Michigan Community Resources


Michigan Chapter of the ASLA



Step by Step Process