FAQ

How do I get approval to remove a tree on my property?
A tree permit may be required to remove a tree on your property.  There is no charge for a Tree Removal Permit or inspection.  Tree permits are NOT required for Ash trees, dead trees, orchard style fruit trees, and trees under eight inches in diameter (unless it is in a designated woodland area).  If you are unsure about the viability, size, or type of tree you have, contact the Planning Department.  If your tree does not fall under any of these categories, request a permit by either calling (248) 796-4156 or submitting the Tree Removal Application form (pdf). If calling, leave your name, address, phone number, number of trees for possible removal, location of trees and reasons for removal.  Staff will inspect within two days, and you will receive a written response in the mail.  We require removal by a City licensed tree contractor.  The Planning Department has a list of Licensed Tree Contractors which may be obtained by contacting (248) 796-4156.  

Can I build on my vacant property or lot?
The Planning Department can determine conformance with Zoning Ordinance requirements for minimum lot area and width requirements (based on the property’s zoning).  We can also verify the existence of wetlands on the property that could potentially pose a problem for construction.  Regarding existing recorded development restrictions or easements, please contact the Oakland County Register of Deeds Tract Index Division at (248) 858-0596.  You will need to provide them with a parcel ID number (or Sidwell number) to obtain information recorded against the property. Back to top

Can I split my property to build another home?
Per The City Code of Southfield, Michigan, to determine if your property could be split, the newly proposed properties would need to meet several criteria:

  1. Does each of the proposed properties meet minimum lot area and width requirements as set forth in the Southfield Zoning Ordinance (based on the property’s zoning)?
    1. If NO, we would conduct an analysis of all developed properties on either side of the subject street between the two nearest cross streets.  If 51% or more of these parcels do not meet required lot width AND do not meet area requirements, your property may be split granted that the proposed properties are greater in width and area than the average of the properties sampled.  If it is not, we would not support a split of the property. 
    2. If YES, we would then conduct an analysis of the area properties to determine if the newly proposed properties would be “in character” with the surrounding properties.  If they meet or exceed the average lot width and area, The City Planner could support a split of the property if the answer to item #2 below is NO.
  2. Do the newly proposed property lines affect required building setbacks of existing structures situated on the subject parcel? 
    1. If YES, the existing buildings must be demolished, waivers from the Zoning Board of Appeals must be obtained, or we would not support a split of the property.
    2. If NO, we could potentially support a split of the property if the answer to Item #1 above is YES.

To apply for a Land Division, please contact the City Assessor’s Department at (248) 796-5230.  Back to top

What is the zoning of a specific property?
You may check the zoning of a property by contacting the Planning Department.

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What is the process to occupy a building or tenant space within the city?
Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Contact the Planning Department.  You will need to provide either the property address (or Sidwell number) of the building you wish to occupy as well as the square footage you are interested in (for a tenant space within a building).  The Planning Department will verify that the existing zoning and parking can accommodate the proposed use and associated parking required. 
  2. Obtain a Business License if needed.
  3. Proceed to the Building Department.  If you will be making improvements to the interior of the building which would require permits, you may proceed with the permit process.  If you are not intending to alter the building, you will need to contact the Building Department to schedule special inspections.  Your goal is to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy which will be issued when the building or tenant space has passed all required inspections.
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Do I need a business license from the city?
That depends on the type of business that you operate.  You can refer to the Municipal Ordinance if your company is mandated by code to be licensed or contact the City Clerk’s Office.  Otherwise, contact the Business Development Department to register your business. Back to top

Do I need site plan approval for the change I am proposing to my commercial property?
In general, any change which may alter the site plan or changes/additions to the exterior of the building will require site plan review by the Planning Department.  This includes, but is not limited to, building additions, changes to existing parking layout, generator or equipment placement on the ground, new structures, façade changes to the building, etc.  Please contact the Planning Department to determine if the changes proposed will require site plan approval and the appropriate process.  See our Commercial Permitting Process Guidelines (pdf) for further information. Back to top

Do I need site plan approval for the change I am proposing to my residential property?
All new construction (including building additions) requires submittal of two site plans to the Planning Department that locates all trees over 8” diameter within 100’ of construction.  See our Residential Permitting Process guidelines pdf) for further information. Back to top

How do I request a zoning verification letter?
Please either e-mail or fax a sample letter of the information you are requesting to the Planning Department.  Be sure to include property address or Sidwell number.  The fee is $50.00, checks made payable to the City of Southfield and can be mailed to our office. Back to top

What new projects are going on in Southfield?
You may find ongoing projects within the City by contacting the Planning Department or Business Development Department.  We can mail or e-mail you a detailed list which is updated monthly.  Back to top

Can I operate a business out of my home?  
Currently, the City of Southfield Zoning Ordinance does not have provisions for in-home businesses, thus they are not permitted.  However, if you are inquiring about child daycare or group home uses in your home, please contact the State of Michigan Bureau of Regulatory Services at (248) 975-5050.  Back to top

  • In 2009, the Planning Department completed over 170 commercial and residential site inspections.

  • Planning Department and Business Development staff members boast a combined total of 100 years of Planning, Landscaping, and Community Development experience.

  • In March 2006, the City of Southfield was certified as one of the first Redevelopment Ready communities at a ceremony officiated by Governor Jennifer Granholm.