The answer may be yes.

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors adopted an updated version of the zoning ordinance. One of the most common responses I get is “I didn’t know the County had zoning”. The previous version was adopted in 1994. It had several amendments to it over the years but was in need of an overhaul.

permit to build in clarke county iowa

Notice of Adoption of Updated Zoning Ordinance and Land Use Regulations

This is notice of and updated ordinance adopted by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.  The new ordinance #31 and entitled the Clarke County Zoning Ordinance and Land Use Regulations was adopted following a public hearing and 1st reading on June 26, 2017.   This ordinance updates the existing zoning ordinance (#10), subdivision regulations (#11), tower/antenna ordinance (#12), and the Trailer Park amendment to the zoning ordinance.  It adds language that is consistent with the Code of Iowa and modern terminology and effectively repeals the existing ordinances above.  The new ordinance also codifies the existing airport zoning ordinance (#12) into the new ordinance.  The new ordinance also adds new sections pertaining to wind energy conversion systems, solar energy conversion systems, and flood plain management.  The floodplain management section will be added as an amendment in 2018, following the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s adoption of the draft flood maps as official products.  Finally, the ordinance includes applicable maps, including an Official Zoning Map.

To See Full Copy

The above ordinance applies to all land use decisions in the unincorporated areas of Clarke County, Iowa after the effective date of the ordinance (the date of publishing of this ordinance).  This is only a summary.  An official copy of the ordinance is available from 9 AM to 4 PM Monday-Friday at the Clarke County Zoning Administrator’s office in the Clarke County Courthouse at 100 S. Main Street, Osceola, Iowa 50213.

Zones Imposed

All parcels in Clarke County’s unincorporated area are subject to the terms of this ordinance, including the provision of land use zones within the county. Each zoning district includes regulations as to the type, size, and use of property and conditions upon which variances to these zones can be made.  The official zoning map shows the locations of the zoning districts.

Schedule of Fees

Fees pertaining to permits and actions required by this Ordinance shall be in accord with the Schedule of Fees: Clarke County Zoning Ordinance, as adopted and amended by the County Board of Supervisors. A copy of the schedule of fees shall be on file in the office of the Zoning Administrator.

Violations and Penalties

It shall be unlawful to locate, erect, construct, reconstruct, enlarge, change, maintain or use any building or land in violation of any regulation in or any provisions of this Ordinance or any amendment or supplement thereto adopted by the Board of Supervisors of Clarke County.  Any person, firm or corporation violating any regulation or any provision of the Ordinance, or of any amendment or supplement thereto, shall be guilty of a County Infraction.  A violation of this Ordinance may be brought, at the option of this County, as either a civil proceeding (Civil Infraction) or as criminal misdemeanor offense (Criminal Infraction) as provided by the Iowa Code and herein.


The County may seek any relief allowed by law, including:

  1. Civil Infraction.  A civil infraction may be punished by a civil penalty by entry of a personal judgment against the person of the defendant of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00) for the first offense and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) for each repeat offense.  Allowable relief includes both the imposition of a civil penalty and the imposition of other alternative forms of relief, remedies and sanctions.  The court may direct that a payment of the civil penalty be suspended or deferred under conditions imposed by the court, except that the court may not suspend or defer payment of a penalty provided herein.
  2. Criminal Infraction.  This Ordinance does not preclude a peace officer from issuing a criminal citation for a violation of his Ordinance or regulation if criminal penalties are also provided for the violation, nor does it preclude or limit the authority of the County to enforce the provisions of this Ordinance by criminal sanctions or other lawful means.  An Infraction is punishable as a Criminal Infraction herein, prosecuted as a simple misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) or by imprisonment of not more than thirty (30) days.  Each and every day during which said violation continues shall be deemed a separate offense.  Such criminal violation may be charged by a peace officer pursuant to the rules of criminal procedure, upon a violation of this Ordinance.

Additionally, in case any building is or is proposed to be located, erected, constructed, reconstructed, enlarged, changed, maintained or used, or any land is, or is proposed to be, used in violation of this Ordinance or any amendment or supplement thereto, said Board of Supervisors, the County Attorney of Clarke County, Zoning Administrator, or any adjacent or neighboring property owner who would be specially damaged by such violation, in addition to other remedies provided by law, may institute injunction, mandamus, abatement or any other appropriate action, actions, proceeding or proceedings to prevent, enjoin, abate, or remove such unlawful location, erection, construction, reconstruction, enlargement, change, maintenance, or use.

Failure to obtain the proper permits, including zoning and flood plain permits, prior to erection, construction, reconstruction, enlargement change, or use of any building, structure, or land; and/or prior to commencement of development, as defined in the Definitions, will result in a penalty. The penalty shall be equal to the amount of the required permit application fees as established by resolution of the Board of Supervisors plus any costs incurred in the enforcement of this provision.  In necessary, a Stop Work Order will be issued.

Is there an Agriculture exception?

In accordance with the provisions of Chapter 335 of the Code of Iowa, as amended, no regulation or restriction adopted under the provisions of this ordinance shall be construed to apply to land, farm houses, farm barns, farm outbuildings, or other buildings, structures, or erections which are primarily adapted, by reason of nature and area, for use for agricultural purposes while so used; provided, however, that such regulations or restrictions which relate to any structure, building, dam, obstruction, deposit or excavation in or on the flood plains of any river or stream shall apply thereto.  It shall be the responsibility of any person or group claiming that certain property is entitled to exemption on the basis of this section to demonstrate that the property is used for agricultural purposes.  It shall be the policy to seek voluntary compliance of the provisions of this Ordinance for agricultural uses, specifically, the minimum yard requirements of the applicable zoning district.

What does the ordinance consider agriculture?

Agriculture:  The use of land for purpose of producing or causing to be produced agricultural products, including vegetables, fruit, trees, and grains; pasturage; dairying; animal and poultry husbandry; forages; and beekeeping and the accessory uses for treating or storing the produce, provided that the operation of such accessory uses shall be secondary to that of the regular agricultural activities.  The raising of animals and plants primarily for the purpose of the personal use and enjoyment of the owners or occupants of the subject property, and not for the purpose of selling such animals, plants or products therefrom for a profit in the marketplace, shall not constitute agricultural use. “Agriculture” shall not include any auction sales yards, recreational facilities, rural or urban areas used primarily for residential or recreational purposes, commercially operated stockyards or feedlots, and areas used for the production of timber, forest products, nursery products or sod. “Agriculture” shall not include a contract where a processor or distributor of farm products or supplies provides spraying, harvesting or other farm products.

If there are any questions on building permits don’t hesitate to check with Byron Jimmerson at [email protected]

Byron Jimmerson
Clarke County Zoning Administrator