Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Are duplexes allowed in residentially-zoned areas?
Duplexes are not allowed in the RS-2 or RS-3 zoning districts. Duplexes are allowed in RS-1 if granted a conditional use approval by City Council. To be eligible for conditional use approval, the RS-1 lots must meet the following conditions:
- Have a lot area equal to or exceeding 10,500 square feet
- Have a lot width equal to or exceeding 75 feet
- Be located on either a navigable waterway or residential arterial/collector street
- Are permits required for boat slips, boat houses, and bulkheads?
A permit* is required for new or reconstructed boat slips, boat houses, boat docks, and bulkheads. Prior to issuance of a city permit, the applicant must provide document ensuring approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources State Lands Division.
*Boat slips, boat houses, boat docks require a Building Permit (SubType: Marine Accessory).
*Bulkheads require a Site Permit with the "Wall, Retaining Wall, Bulkhead Permit" portion completed.
- Are there insurance discounts available for new construction?
The State of Alabama mandates insurance discounts for homes that have been issued a "Fortified Designation" as provided by the Fortified Home™ Program. Compliance with Orange Beach construction standards will qualify a home for a "Gold Fortified Designation', but only if the home is verified by approved third party inspections. Roof replacement in Orange Beach may qualify the home for a "Bronze" designation when third party inspections are performed. Flood Insurance discounts are also available due to the City's participation in the Community Rating System.
- Are there wetlands on my property?
In order to determine whether there are wetlands located on your property, please contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 251-690-2658 or the Alabama Department of Environmental Management at 251-304-1176.
- I am the property owner, can I do the work myself?
Permits are still required even if the property owner does all of the work and does not hire a contractor.
FOR RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION:
State law requires residential construction to be performed by a licensed residential home builder. The property owner can request an exemption to that law. This exemption allows the owner of the property to act as his/her own builder even though he/she does not have a license.
You may build or improve your own residence, but it must be for your use and occupancy. It may not be built or improved for the purposes of selling. If you place the residence for sale within one year after the construction is complete, the law will presume that you built it for sale, which is a violation of this exemption.
You may not hire or compensate anyone to supervise the building or improvement of the residence. It is your responsibility to make sure that subcontractors employed by you have the proper licenses required by state law and a State of Alabama business license issued through any county in the state. Your construction must comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, building codes, and zoning regulations.
By claiming exempt status, the property owner waives his/her rights for protection under the provisions of the Home Builders Licensure law. In the event of litigation involving activities resulting from the granting of a permit, the property owner may not make demand of any money from the Homeowner's Recovery Fund, established by the Home Builders Licensure law.
To qualify for this exemption, the property owner must review, complete, and return the Home Builders Licensure Law Exemption Affidavit (PDF) to the Building Department before the permit is issued.
FOR NON-RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION:
Property owners are exempt from the licensing requirements of the State of Alabama General Licensure Law pursuant to Section 34-8-1 when acting as their own contractor and providing all materials and supervision for the construction. Any of the work contracted out must comply with the definition in this chapter for general contractor. Section 34-8-7 (a)(3). The property owner should be fully aware of the State Laws, and remain in compliance with the requirements for exemption to permit as an owner. Section 34-8-9 (amended 2006).
- The property owner should understand that by claiming exempt status, they waive their rights for protection under the provisions of the General Contractors Licensure law and that in the event of litigation involving activities resulting from the granting of this permit.
- The property owner should also understand that permits for subcontractor work in electrical, plumbing, gas, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration must hold valid licenses from the appropriate state board of contractors.
- Any permit obtained by an owner acting as his/her own contractor may be subject to a review and approval by the Alabama General Contractors Licensure Board.
- The property owner must review, complete, and return the General Contractors Licensing Law Exemption Affidavit (PDF) to the Building Department before the permit is issued.
- Can I clear vegetation or place fill on my vacant lot?
Forestry mowing or hand clearing vegetation is allowed as long as jurisdictional wetlands are not impacted. Removal of protected trees with a 6-inch or greater diameter at chest height is prohibited without a tree removal permit. Fill placement on a vacant lot is prohibited unless a building permit has been issued or is actively in review at the Community Development Department.
- Can I park a recreational vehicle or motorcoach on a vacant lot?
Occupied recreational vehicles (RV) are allowed only in recreational vehicle parks and designated areas of mobile home parks. Unoccupied recreational vehicles may be parked at an owner's residence or business but cannot be connected to water and sewer utilities. Recreational vehicles may be used by a homeowner while he/she is building a residence. The RV must be hooked up to water and sewer/septic tank, and the owner must have garbage service. The RV cannot be occupied longer than 6 months while the residence is under construction.
- Do I need a permit for a storage shed?
A Building Permit (SubType: Accessory Building) is required prior to constructing or placing a shed on your property. Please review the Accessory Structure Requirements & Guidelines (PDF) or contact Community Development for any further questions.
- Do I need a permit to cut/prune a tree on my property?
The city has a tree protection ordinance that restricts the removal of certain sizes and types of trees. Prior to removing or pruning a tree, please contact Community Development to verify whether the proposed work requires a Tree Removal Permit*.
*The Tree Removal Permit is part of the Site Permit application on the Permit Portal.
- Do I need a permit to repair my home or business following a storm?
Following a disaster, the City must provide damage estimates to the Federal Government in order to be eligible for Federal grant money. Acquiring a permit for all repair work assists the City in demonstrating eligibility for Federal assistance. Do not begin permanent repairs following a declared disaster until your property damage has been assessed and recorded by the City and a repair permit has been issued.
- How can I get a copy of an elevation certificate?
- Is my lot located within a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designated Special Flood Hazard Zone?
You can verify whether your property is located within a flood zone by utilizing the Orange Beach Interactive Floodplain Map or the ADECA Interactive Flood Map. Community Development has current and archived Flood Insurance Rate Maps on file and is available to assist you in determining whether your property is located in a flood zone, provide determination letters, and to answer any questions you may have. Contact the Floodplain Administrator by phone or email.
When building in an "AE" flood zone, the finished floor of the structure must be elevated a minimum of 2 feet above the Base Flood Elevation. When building in a "VE" flood zone, the lowest horizontal structural member of the structure must be a minimum of 3 feet above the Base Flood Elevation. Community Development also maintains Elevation Certificates for structures constructed within a Special Flood Hazard Area.
- What are the Community Development hours of operation?
The Community Development Department is open from 7 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
- What are the minimum required setbacks for a new single-family dwelling?
For single-family residential-zoned properties, the required front setback is 30 feet; the required rear setback is 20 feet; and the required side setbacks are 10 feet. Setbacks are applied from the property line.
- What are the zoning requirements for fences?
The maximum height for fences on residential properties is 6 feet. Fences located within the front yard setback (30 feet from front property line), cannot exceed 4 feet in height. Fences shall be installed with the finished side facing the adjoining property or public or private right-of-way. Fence posts must be located on the inside of the fence facing the property on which the fence is located. Posts and supporting members may be viewable if the fence has a shadowbox design or uses panels across the front and back to give the fence a finished appearance on both sides. There are no setback requirements for fences, and a permit is not required.
- What type of fill is permitted to use at my construction site?
A Stormwater Permit* must be obtained from Community Development before placement of any type of fill.
White beach quality sand is accepted in all areas of the city, however the placement of clay and dark colored fill is restricted in certain areas. A sample of the proposed fill material must be submitted to the Community Development office prior to issuance of a Stormwater Permit.
*The Stormwater Permit is part of the Site Permit application on the Permit Portal.
- When do I need a permit?
Permits are generally required for all work on new and existing structures and systems other than maintenance. The best way to determine if a permit is required is to call the Building Department at 251-981-2610 before you begin any work.
- How do I get a permit?
All Building Department permit applications are processed through the Orange Beach Permit Portal. Within this portal, you may apply for permits, upload construction plans and other documents, check application review status, pay for permits, request inspections, and much more. The portal is compatible with most tech devices - phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. You can log in anytime and anywhere - from your office, home, or even from the jobsite. The portal is most compatible with the Google Chrome internet browser.
- Who can get a permit?
If the property owner is paying a contractor to do the work, the contractor should submit the permit application, copies of their licenses, detailed scope of work, and required documents. However, it is the property owner's responsibility to make sure permits are obtained. Always ask to see the permits before the work begins.
Permits may only be issued to the property owner or the owner’s contractor.
- How much does a permit cost; when and how do I pay?
Refer to the Permit Fee Schedule (PDF) for the cost of permits.
Permit fees can only be paid after the permit application is approved (with the exception of Plan Review Fees*). The applicant will receive a notification email when the status is "Approved, Awaiting Payment."
The applicant can submit payment by credit or debit card online via the Orange Beach Permit Portal: Click on MAKE A PAYMENT on the MY ACCOUNT page, select the permit(s) to pay, enter payment information, and click SUBMIT. There is a 3% convenience fee that applies to all credit and debit card transactions.
Payment by check or cash can be submitted in the Community Development office at 4101 Orange Beach Blvd, Orange Beach, AL 36561. Make all checks payable to "City of Orange Beach."
No work should begin on the project until after the payment is processed by Community Development staff and the permit status is "Issued."
*Plan Review Fees are due at the time of application and are non-refundable. To pay Plan Review Fees on the Permit Portal, click on VIEW MY REQUESTS on the MY ACCOUNT page, click on the permit number, click on MAKE A PAYMENT, enter payment information, and click SUBMIT.