Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions that the Planning Department addresses:
Q: Where can I find the zoning district designation for a specific property?
A: If you know the general location of the property, view the Zoning Map (pdf). To look up a specific address or parcel identification number (PIN), view the Interactive Map. For additional assistance, contact the Planning Department.
Q: How do I know if a property with a Wheaton postal address is located in the City of Wheaton?
A: Generally, a Wheaton postal address with a direction contained in the address number (for example, 25W460 or 0N410) is not within the corporate limits of the City of Wheaton. Zoning information from DuPage County can be found online or by calling (630) 407-6700.
Q: What do the zoning district abbreviations (R-1, C-5) mean?
A: Each abbreviation refers to a specific zoning district which is regulated by an individual article or chapter contained in the Zoning Ordinance. For a listing of the title of each district, see Article 3.1 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf).
Q: Can a specific property be rezoned?
A: Rezoning must follow the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (pdf). If you have further questions about the potential to rezone a particular piece of property, contact the Planning Department.
Q: Does Wheaton have a historic district? Is the Northside Residential Overlay District a historic district?
A: No. Wheaton has no historic district or historic protections of property. The Northside Residential Overlay District regulations only modify some zoning “bulk regulations” to encourage building design elements consistent with existing development. For more information on the Northside Overlay District, see the map of the district or Article 28 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf).
Single-Family Setbacks/Bulk Regulations
Q: What are the setbacks for this single-family property?
A: The Planning Department's Single Family Bulk Regulations handout lists how building setbacks are determined for most single-family properties.
Q: My plat of survey shows a platted building line. Is this the required setback along the street?
A: The City does not observe platted building lines in determining zoning setbacks. All setbacks from streets are based on an averaging calculation with existing structures. For more information, see the Single Family Bulk Regulations handout.
Q: How can the setbacks of neighboring properties be determined?
A: Applications for building permit are required to provide documentation of existing setbacks of neighboring properties. If a plat of survey is being prepared or updated for a property, the surveyor should be directed to show the existing street setbacks of neighboring properties on the plat. The City has plats of survey on file for many properties and can check to see if current plats are on file for a specific address. For more information, contact the Planning Department.
Q: Where are “setbacks” measured from/to?
A: Setbacks are measured from property lines to the foundation/wall/porch post of a building or other structure. Because the location of property lines cannot be determined from sight alone, the City requires a Plat of Survey prepared by a surveyor to determine setback dimensions.
Q: Is the setback the same as an easement?
A: No. Setbacks and easements overlap, although both require structures to be located outside of certain areas on private property. The Zoning Ordinance requires all structures or uses to be “set back” a minimum distance from property lines. An easement, which typically runs along a property line, designates an area where a utility or service provider has the right to access and use private property to locate and maintain a utility service line or installation. No structures can be placed in the easement without approval from all service providers with a right to the easement. For information on building in utility easements, see the Planning Department's handout Approval to Build Within Utility Easements.
Q: How is FAR (floor area ratio) calculated?
A: The FAR is calculated as defined under “Floor Area, Gross” in Article 2 of the Zoning Ordinance. See Article 2 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf) or the Single Family Bulk Regulations handout.
Q: Does Wheaton have an impervious surface regulation? What is included in the lot coverage calculation?
A: Wheaton does not have an impervious surface regulation. “Lot Coverage” only regulates the expanse of roofed structures on a property. Patios, sidewalks, and most other hard surfaces are not included. Driveways are regulated by Article 22.3.2 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf).
Q: Can I build a detached garage behind my house?
A: Yes, provided there is adequate space for a driveway to reach the garage. For more information on the regulations for detached garages, see the Planning Department's Detached Garages handout.
Q: What is the maximum size for a detached garage?
A: Detached garages are limited to 700 square feet on the ground level (but cannot cover more than 30 percent of the rear yard area, measured from the rear wall of the house to the rear property line). This size typically accommodates up to a three-car garage. A special use permit is required to construct a larger detached garage. For more information, see Article 24.3 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf).
Q: How is the maximum height calculated for a detached garage?
A: The Zoning Ordinance restricts the height of the garage by limiting the volume of the second story or attic-level space. The one-and-one-half story garage height limit is based on a measurement of the attic floor area of the garage where there is a 4-foot or greater clearance between the attic floor and the bottom of the roof rafters. The floor square footage of this area cannot exceed 60 percent of the ground floor area of the garage. For more information on the regulations for detached garages, see the Detached Garages handout.
Q: Can I build a coach house or separate living space above a detached garage?
A: A coach house or secondary living space above a detached garage is considered a separate dwelling unit and therefore cannot be constructed in a single-family residential district.
Q: Can I build a home office in a detached garage?
A: A Special Use Permit is required to conduct a home occupation in an accessory building. For more information, see Article 24.9 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf).
Q: Can I expand my driveway?
A: Driveways for private property at single-family houses are limited to a width of 20 feet for up to a two-car garage and 26 feet for a three- or more car garage. Additional paving is allowed in a front or corner side yard provided the total paved driveway surface does not exceed 30 percent of the required yard. For more information, see Article 23.3.2 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf).
No permit is required for expanding a driveway on private property. However, approval from the City is required for expanding a driveway beyond the maximum width. Please submit a plat of survey showing the proposed expansion to the Building Department for approval before proceeding.
A permit is required for any modifications to a drive approach (also called the “apron,” or the area of the driveway in the public right-of-way, typically between the sidewalk and street). See Sec. 58-71 of the City Code.
Q: Is a setback required for a driveway?
Starting/Opening a Business
Q: Can I operate a business out of my home?
A: Certain types of businesses can be conducted as a home occupation. Provided the business operates in conformance with the Home Occupation Standards contained in Article 24 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf), no approval from the City is required. For more information, see Articles 24.8 to 24.11 of the Zoning Ordinance (pdf).
Q: What is the difference between an Administrative Variance and a Non-Administrative Variance?
A: An Administrative Variation can reduce any setback requirement by 25 percent, not to exceed 5 feet. Any other variation permitted by the Zoning Ordinance is processed as a Non-Administrative Variance.
An Administrative Variance is a simple process requiring review and approval from neighboring property owners and City staff. See the Administrative Variation Application (pdf) for more information.
A Non-Administrative Variance requires a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Board and review and approval by the City Council. See the Non-Administrative Variation Application (pdf) for more information.
Q: Are garage sale signs permitted?
Q: Can a “For Sale” or “Open House” sign be placed down the street from a house for sale?
A: No. Such signs can only be placed on the property that is for sale and cannot be placed in the right-of-way. For more information, see Article 23.3.9 of the Zoning Ordinance.
Q: What are the City regulations for political/campaign signs?
A: See Article 23.3.10 of the Zoning Ordinance.
Q: Can contractors post signs when they are doing work at a house?
A: No. Contractor signs are not permitted.
Q: Can I post a sign for my home business?
A: A small nameplate is permitted. See Article 23.3.5 of the Zoning Ordinance.
Q: Can my property be subdivided?
A: A single-family residential property can be split into two parcels by City Council plat approval provided both newly created lots meet both the Zoning Ordinance (based on the zoning district) and Subdivision Code minimum lot size and dimension requirements. If an existing house is retained, the house and any accessory structures must be located on and meet all zoning size and setback requirements of one of the newly created lots.
Q: My house is built on two platted lots. Can I sell one to allow someone to build a house on the vacant lot?
A: In certain cases this can be done, but in most cases the property will need to go through a re-subdivision process, which includes filing a Subdivision Application with the Planning Department and review by the Planning and Zoning Board and plat approval by the City Council. If an existing house is retained, the house and any accessory structures must be located on and meet all zoning size and setback requirements of one of the newly created lots. For more details on the regulations, see Article 3.4B of the Zoning Ordinance.
Q: Can I build a brick mailbox?
A: Brick mailboxes are prohibited by the City Code due to the increased danger of serious injury if struck by a vehicle.