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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Comprehensive Plan?

    The Comprehensive Plan is a ten-year blueprint for future growth of the City. It examines relevant information such as population projections, the pattern of existing development, the suitability of land for development, the capacity of public facilities to serve future development, and the financial capacity of the City to make improvements to those facilities. It establishes official City policies toward land use and growth. It includes a Future Land Use Map that regulates the general type of land use that is allowed (commercial, industrial, residential etc.) and the maximum density (living units per acre) or intensity (square feet of building area) of those uses. The State of Florida requires all counties and municipalities to adopt comprehensive plans. All land use decisions made by the City must be in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.

    Read Comprehensive Plan

  • What is zoning?

    Zoning is an urban planning tool. It refers to laws that govern how land in different districts or zones can be developed and used.  Zoning is used by local governments to manage growth, shape the form of new development, prevent incompatible uses and protect community character.

    There are many different zoning classifications. One area might be zoned “single-family residential” while another is “office” or “commercial.” Each classification has rules which specify the types of uses permitted and setbacks, building heights, parking requirements, and other standards for new development.

  • How do I tell what my property is zoned for?

    The City has an “Address Lookup” Tool available at this link: http://addresslookup.lakelandgov.net/addressinfolookup.aspx  Just enter your address and information about your property, including your zoning district, should appear, including if your property is within the City limits or not.  If your property is not within City limits, it is probably in unincorporated Polk County and you should call their Planner on Call service at 863-534-6084 to find out your zoning district. 

  • I want to install a fence. What do I need to do?

    The City of Lakeland requires a building permit for a fence, which can be found here: https://www.lakelandgov.net/media/3865/fence-permit-application.pdf

    You will need a site plan showing the property boundaries, the house and any accessory structures (pool, shed, etc.) and clearly outline where the fence is going, how tall the fence is, and what material the fence will be made from.  The site plan can be hand-drawn as long as it is detailed enough (please include a north arrow or show the abutting roadways).  In residential districts, fences are limited to 6’ in height.  A fence up to 4’ tall can be placed anywhere on the property; however, a fence between 4’ and 6’ must be set back 15’ from the front property line and 5’ from a street side property line.

  • Can the zoning on my property be changed?

    Zoning is a legislative action that requires the approval of the local governing body, the City Commission. Before the City Commission can consider rezoning a property, the request first must be heard by the Planning and Zoning Board. The Planning & Zoning Board is an advisory group of citizens who are appointed by the City Commission to make recommendations on land use matters. If a request for rezoning is recommended for approval by the Planning & Zoning Board, it will then move forward to the City Commission in the form of a proposed ordinance. If approved by the City Commission, it will then be codified into law.  

    Rezoning is a lengthy process, but may be allowed if:

    • The proposed zoning change is consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code;
    • There was an error or oversight during the original zoning process; or
    • Since the zoning was adopted, changes have occurred in the area around the property which merit a reconsideration of appropriate uses; and
    • The requested zoning is not markedly different from the classification of adjacent properties that have similar characteristics and share a common street frontage.

    More commonly, property owners seek variances requesting a special exception to some portion of the zoning law.

  • What is a variance?

    A variance is a special exception, granted on a case-by-case basis, that allows a property owner to do something that would otherwise not be permitted under the Land Development Code. To obtain a variance, a property owner typically must demonstrate that literal enforcement of the terms of the code would result in undue hardship and that approval of the variance would not be contrary to the public interest. The hardship must relate to the land itself, rather than personal circumstance, and must be unique, or nearly so, rather than shared by many surrounding properties. The hardship should also not be self-imposed.

    Variances are generally project-specific and do not grant blanket relief from specific development standards. If granted, a variance is attached to the property and may be transferred to future owners. Requests for variances are heard by the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals, a quasi-judicial board of seven citizens appointed by the City Commission.

  • What types of variances may be considered?

    Within the city of Lakeland, variances can only be granted for dimensional requirements such as setbacks, building heights, or lot coverage. The Zoning Board of Adjustment & Appeals is not empowered to consider requests for variances to permit a use in a district in which such a use is prohibited under the Land Development Code.

  • What is a site plan?

    A site plan is a scale drawing that shows the parcel boundaries and dimensions for a particular property and the size and location of any proposed or existing improvements. Such improvements include habitable buildings such as residential and non-residential structures, driveways, swimming pools, decks, patios, fences, walls, and accessory structures such as detached garages, carports, sheds, pool houses, and accessory dwelling units. Site plans should also include any easements or other encumbrances which may limit the development of the property.

    A site plan must be included with most applications, including but not limited to, applications for a building permit, fence permit, or a zoning variance.


  • How do I obtain a site plan if I don't have a survey?

    If you do not have a survey, you may still be able to create a site plan for permits (ie. for a fence, shed, driveway). The parcel boundaries and dimensions for your property can be found on the Polk County Property Appraiser’s website using the Property Search tool.

    For single-family and two-family residential properties, please see the following documents which can assist with creating a site plan for projects such as sheds, additions, fences and driveways: Residential Site Plan Guidelines 2023; Fence Site Plan Guidelines; Residential Driveway Site Plan Guidelines. 

    Once you have drawn the parcel boundaries, show the location and dimensions of any existing or proposed improvements on the property. The site plan should be drawn to scale to ensure accuracy. On the site plan, clearly note the proposed changes that you are requesting.

    For building additions or other large projects, a professional site plan produced by an architect, engineer, surveyor, or other design professional may be required.

  • Can I put a manufactured home on my property?

    Manufactured homes come in two types: Mobile homes and Modular homes.

    Mobile Homes are built on a chassis and the chassis remains when the home is set up.  For construction purposes, Mobile homes are considered vehicles and are not built to the Florida Building Code.  Mobile homes are only allowed inside legally established mobile home parks in the City of Lakeland.  You cannot have a mobile home outside of a mobile home park.

    Modular Homes are designed, built, permitted and inspected to the Florida Building Code and must be installed on permanent foundations (e.g. poured footers, stem walls & engineered slabs, just like site built homes).  Modular homes are allowed in the City with an approved building permit as long as they meet the design criteria (see “What are the design criteria for a home?” FAQ).

  • What are the design criteria for a home?

    Because the City takes pride in being a desirable place to live, there are design criteria that must be met when permitting and constructing a house.  In the Urban Areas, an entry feature is required.  Entry features can be either a porch or a stoop, and information about the requirements for a porches and stoops can be found in Figures 3.4-5 and 3.4-6 in the City’s Land Development Code, which can be found here: https://library.municode.com/fl/lakeland/codes/land_development_code?nodeId=15775  Also, in Urban Areas, attached garages with garage door openings that face the primary street shall be placed at least five feet behind the front façade of the house.

    In the Suburban areas, attached garages with garage door openings that face the primary street shall be: 1. Placed no farther than 15 feet from the front façade of the principal structure. For the purpose of measuring this distance, the principal structure shall include living area and/or the entrance feature; and 2. Limited to no more than 60 percent of the overall width of the front elevation.

    To find out whether your property is in the Urban or Suburban area, contact the Planner on Demand at 863-834-7526.

  • I want to build a duplex. Where can I build one?

    Duplexes are not allowed in the Single-family residential zoning districts (RA-1, RA-2, RA-3 or RA-4).  Duplexes (called Two-Family in the City’s Land Development Code, which can be found here: https://library.municode.com/fl/lakeland/codes/land_development_code?nodeId=15775) are permitted by right in the RB zoning districts and are Conditional Uses in the MF and O-1 zoning districts.  Conditional Uses require Concept Plan review by the Development Review Committee (for more information click here.)  Once Concept Plan is done, you will have to apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), which requires a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Board and two hearings before the City Commission.  If the City Commission approves the CUP application for the duplex, your next step is to apply for a building permit.  The fees for a Conditional Use Permit application can be found here: https://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/community-economic-development/planning-zoning/zoningfees/

    Duplexes must meet the city’s design criteria (see the “What are the design criteria for a home?” FAQ).

  • I want to split my property into two lots. How do I do that? OR I want to combine my property with another. How do I do that?

    Subdividing (splitting) and combining property is done by the Polk County Property Appraiser located at 225 N Wilson Avenue in Bartow or at 930 E Parker Street, Suite 272 in Lakeland.  You can call them at 863-534-4777 to find out their application process.  The City will review your application to make sure everything is legal in regards to the current rules and regulations for lot size, width, etc.

  • I want to build a mother-in-law suite separate from my house. How do I do that?

    Accessory Dwelling Units (commonly called mother-in-law suites) can only be constructed in the Urban areas of the City of Lakeland.  To find out whether your property is in the Urban area, contact the Planner on Demand at 863-834-7526.

    Section of the Land Development Code has rules and restrictions regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), including limits on the size and location.  You can find the Land Development Code here: https://library.municode.com/fl/lakeland/codes/land_development_code?nodeId=15775.

    ADUs require compatibility approval by the Planning and Zoning Board, and approval by the Historic Preservation Board if the property is located within a Historic District.  Section the Land Development Code outlines the approval process for ADUs both inside and outside of Historic Districts.

  • How do I apply for a ______? (Variance, Conditional Use Permit, Zoning Confirmation Letter, Building Permit, etc.)

    To apply for a zoning action, such as a Conditional Use, Planned Unit Development, ADU, etc. follow the instructions here: http://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/community-economic-development/planning-zoning/zoningfees/how-to-apply/

    To apply for a Variance, follow the instructions here: http://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/community-economic-development/planning-zoning/zoningfees/variances/

    To apply for a Zoning Confirmation Letter, follow the instructions here: http://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/community-economic-development/planning-zoning/zoningfees/zoning-verification-request/

    For any of these applications, you will need to create a log in to our iMS system, enter all the information and pay the required fees.  If you require assistance with the application process, please contact Christy Loughlin at 863-513-9239.

    To apply for a Building Permit, follow the instructions here: https://lakelandgov.net/departments/community-economic-development/building-inspection/permit-requirements/       

    If you need assistance applying for a building permit, please contact a permit technician at 863-834-6012.

  • Can I operate a business from my home?

    Home-based businesses are permitted in accordance with Section 559.955 of the Florida Statutes. Employees of the business must reside in the residential dwelling, except that up to a total of two employees or independent contractors who do not reside at the residential dwelling may work at the business. The activities of the home-based business shall be secondary to the property's use as a residential dwelling.

    A home-based business may operate in a completely enclosed structure or a detached accessory structure. The home-based business may not conduct retail transactions in a structure other than the residential dwelling; however, incidental uses and activities associated with the business may be conducted elsewhere on the residential property.

    For a full listing of the development standards and other requirements for home-based businesses, please see Section 5.10 of the Land Development Code.

    All businesses operating in Lakeland must be registered with the state and pay an annual Business Tax to the city.