Setback Requirements

General Information

Codes regarding building structures on lakefront property vary widely from municipality to municipality. An important fact to remember when planning to build on lakefront property is, it doesn’t matter how beautiful your idea for a landscaped pool right by the lake may be. If the city says it’s not allowed, it’s not allowed.

It’s always best to research what your municipality’s codes are regarding setbacks before planning an elaborate building project so you know what the constraints will be ahead of time. Many Florida city/municipality code listings can be found on this site:

Listed below are lakefront setback requirements for the City of Orlando.

City of Orlando – Setback Requirements

Sec. 68.305. – Other Setbacks.

(a) Side yard setbacks in residential areas shall be a minimum of 5 feet from the property line, unless a zero-lot line is proposed. If a zero-lot line unit is proposed, a single 5-foot side yard is required.

(b) Side driveways extending along the property line to a recessed garage are permitted and encouraged within the side yard setback.

(c) Rear yard setbacks in residential areas shall be a minimum of 15 feet from the rear property line, except for garages, where the minimum setback shall be 0 feet for alley-accessed garages, and ancillary units, where the minimum setback shall be 6 feet.

(Ord. of 5-10-1999, § 10, Doc. #32070)

Sec. 63.280. – When Boundary Determination Standards Apply.

The standards contained in this Part for determining the normal high water elevation or boundary of any natural surface water body or wetland shall apply wherever the requirements of this Chapter necessitate that the location of such elevation or boundary be determined, such as for building setback requirements, septic tank setback requirements, and the jurisdictional boundaries for all regulated activities of regional water management districts.

(Ord. of 9-16-1991, Doc. #25100)

Sec. 63.281. – Evidence of Elevation or Boundary.

The Normal High Water Elevation or Boundary shall be determined by the appropriate reviewing authority (the City Engineer for water bodies, and the Planning Official for wetlands) through compilation of relevant available evidence, specific to a particular water body or wetland, which should include the following when available:

Botanical Indicators. The presence of water for sufficient periods of time precludes the existence of terrestrial plant communities and tends to establish conditions whereby shoreline plant (hydrophytic) species inhabit the nearshore and shoreline areas. Since these communities tend to change slowly, they are widely utilized to accurately distinguish the uplands from those lands susceptible to the normal inundation of a specific waterbody or wetland. The normal high water elevation or boundary is typically indicated by that point where upland, terrestrial plant communities tend to terminate and shoreline (hydrophytic) plants are established as the prevalent plant community(ies). The hydrophytic species list established by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) shall be used to characterize the aquatic habitat, as well as shoreline areas of a waterbody or wetland. Additional plant species may be used where they are shown to be relevant to a particular situation.

Physical Indicators. Physical indicators of normal highwater elevation include any observable physical feature along a given shoreline resulting from the presence of water in a given waterbody for sufficient periods of time so as to leave a physical line, mark, or other distinguishable feature including, but not limited to water marks on trees, on older docks and sea walls, and on older bridges and abutments. In order to accurately establish the normal high water elevation, the affidavits and like testimony of long-time residents living near a particular waterbody and other acceptable collateral evidence may be used as an acceptable indicator.

Geomorphological Indicators. The normal, sustained presence of water along a given shoreline of either lakes (still waters) or streams (flowing waters) tends to leave specific, surficial indications of that normal, sustained presence, such as deposits of organic silts, peat and muck, natural beach ridges, scarps, and levees. These deposits and other indicators may be multiple, depicting historical sustained low water elevations, average elevations, and high water elevations. The normal high water elevation is typically indicated by the most landward scarp, beach ridge or level found along a particular shoreline, and is likewise indicated by the highest or most landward silt, peat or muck deposits, or the most landward stratification of those deposits.

Water Level Records. Water level elevations obtained and recorded by any governmental agency, registered land surveyor, or others whose records are verifiable by the reviewing authority may be used to determine the normal high water elevation. These records shall be accorded less weight than other individual indicators provided herein unless such records cover a period of at least 15 years.

Controlled Lake Elevations. Where lake elevations are controlled by properly engineered structures, the normal high water elevation is presumed to be one-half foot above the control elevation. Where a normal high water elevation established by this method conflicts with the other indicators contained herein, the reviewing authority shall determine the elevation or boundary. The determinations should include, when available, all of the indicators contained herein, but may include additional hydrologic surveys or engineering studies when required or permitted by the reviewing authority.

(Ord. of 9-16-1991, Doc. #25100)

Sec. 63.282. – Changes in Elevation or Boundary.

Indicators which determine the landward extent of water may change through time by the natural or man-induced occurrence of accretions, relictions, and avulsions. Therefore, the prior determination of a normal high water elevation or landward edge or boundary for a particular waterbody or wetland at a particular time shall not preclude later determinations of such then-existing elevation or boundary. Such elevation or boundary shall have no significance with respect to sovereign ownership, or with respect to establishing vertical control or stormwater frequency elevations.

(Ord. of 9-16-1991, Doc. #25100)

Sec. 63.283. – Application for Change in Previously Determined Elevation or Boundary.

Whenever an applicant for a building permit, zoning approval, variance or other approval under this Chapter wants to change a previously determined normal high water elevation or boundary, the applicant shall prepare and submit a written report containing a proposed elevation or boundary and indicating the procedures used to determine such elevation or boundary to the appropriate reviewing authority. This report shall include the following:

Description of Water Body or Wetland. A general description of the water body or wetland, including the location, existing or proposed control structures, and an accurate description of the bench mark used.

Evidence of Changed Elevation or Boundary. A summary of elevations or boundaries related to botanical evidence, physical evidence, geomorphological evidence and water elevation records as defined in Section 63.281 (above) shall be submitted and certified by a Florida registered land surveyor. The summary shall include elevation readings at no less than three different locations to be used for projecting the normal high water elevation on lakes having a surface area of ten acres or less and elevation readings at no less than five different locations to be used for projecting the normal high water elevation on lakes having a surface area of more than ten acres. At each location, elevations or boundaries should be determined using as many of the previously described indicators as possible. Elevations should be based on Orange County Datum and should be calculated to the nearest tenth of a foot.

Review of the Application. Upon acceptance and review of the report referred to herein, the reviewing authority shall determine the normal high water elevation or boundary for a particular waterbody or wetland. Review of determinations rendered hereunder shall follow and be subject to the appropriate procedure, if any, applicable to the review of the original proceeding from which the elevation or boundary determination arose (i.e., building permit application procedure, zoning variance procedure, septic tank permit application procedure, etc.). This Chapter shall not be construed to give rise to any right to an interlocutory or intermediate appeal of the determinations of the reviewing authority.

Sec. 63.294. – Areas Adjacent to Retained Wetlands.

Buffer Zone Required. A buffer zone shall be established surrounding each retained wetland in order to assist in the control of stormwater run-off. Minimum building setbacks shall be required from the boundary of each retained wetland as follows (see also Chapter 58, Part 1, Figure 2):

Setback from protected wetland: 100 ft.
Setback from other retained wetland: 50 ft.

The buffer zone surrounding a wetland in the “Protected Wetland” category should be retained in natural vegetation wherever practical, and may include retained transitional or altered wetlands which are counted toward satisfying the requirements of this Part. The use of heavy equipment shall be discouraged in these buffer zones so as not to disturb natural vegetation.

(Ord. of 9-16-1991, Doc. #25100)

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