Sheds/Accessory Structures in Residential Areas


The following information can also be downloaded in a pdf format by clicking on the following link: Sheds/Accessory Structures in Residential Areas

A building permit IS REQUIRED to put any shed/accessory building on your property. Sheds/accessory structures built elsewhere and moved to your yard and/or prefab sheds also require a permit.

At any time during the planning or construction of your shed/accessory building, you can visit the Building, Safety & Zoning staff or call them at (920) 262-4060 if you have questions.

Code requirements for sheds/accessory structures in residential areas can also be viewed in Section 550 of the City of Watertown Code located at the following link: .

Process Overview

1.    Determine Zoning:  Before building or placing a shed on your property, you will need to determine if the zoning restrictions on your lot allow for a shed. Zoning staff will be able to tell you the zoning of your property and if there are any special conditions which may affect your project. If your project requires special handling, our staff will inform you of the requirements and next steps.

 You can find the zoning for your property on the City of Watertown GIS site (

 For information on how to find the zoning of your property, please click the following link:

Who to contact with questions: Building Safety & Zoning Department, (920) 262-4060.

2.    Determine any restrictions: Is your project subject to any deed restrictions/subdivision covenants or any other title restrictions? (Your home owner’s association, developer or real estate broker may be able to assist you with this determination and any needed guidance.  The City does not have any record of these restrictions.)

3.    Find out if your proposed shed/accessory building meets the size and placement requirements

Allowable accessory structures

  • One attached or detached garage and two (2) accessory structures are permitted by right.
  • A conditional use permit is required for: 
      1. A combination of accessory structures exceeding a total of 1,000 square feet; or
      2. More than two accessory structures.

Size: The maximum height that your shed/ accessory building can be is fifteen (15) feet, measured from the ground to a point midway between the eave and top of the roof.


  • A shed/accessory building must be a minimum of ten (10) feet away from your house or other structures on your property.
  • A shed/accessory building should be at least three (3) feet from the rear or side lot lines of your yard.
  • If your lot is on a corner, it is considered to have two “front yards” (yards that abut a street).  Please contact Building, Safety & Zoning staff to find out quickly and accurately where you can build your shed and the size it can be.

 With these requirements in mind, make a drawing (site plan) of your entire lot showing all existing and proposed structures. Show the dimensions of the lot, the shed, the house, and any other structures. Also show the distances from the shed to the lot lines and the distances to all other structures. The site plan must be drawn to scale.

 4.    Apply for a permit:  You need a permit to put any shed/accessory building in your yard. Sheds that are built elsewhere and moved to your yard and prefab sheds also require a permit with a drawing/site plan showing the dimensions of the building and where on the property it will be placed.

Complete the Residential Building Permit Application and submit it to the Building, Safety & Zoning Department.  This initial submittal can be done in person, via email or mail.  Once the application is received by the Building, Safety & Zoning Department, please allow up to one (1) week for review. Once the application has been approved, staff from the Building, Safety & Zoning Department will call you to let you know the permit has been approved and is ready to be picked up.  They will also let you know the cost at that time.

Per City of Watertown Code Section 253-20 fees are calculated as follows (*Please DO NOT submit fees until the Inspector has contacted you that the permit has been approved - he will let you know the cost at that time): 

1)     $55 Plan Review Fee

2)     $0.25 per sq. ft. for the first 5,000 sq. ft. (Minimum of $25.00) and $.05 per sq. ft. for an area in excess of 5,000 sq. ft.

Plan review fee + square footage fee = cost of building permit (payable in cash or check made out to “City of Watertown”).

Where to go:

Building Safety & Zoning Department
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
City of Watertown Municipal Building
106 Jones Street
Watertown, WI 53094

What to include:

  1. Residential Building Permit
  2. Site Plan discussed in Step 2
  3. A copy of the building pamphlet or a set of construction documents (typically obtained by the supplier you are purchasing the structure from).

5. Pick up and pay for the permit: Be sure to display the yellow card in a window where it can be easily seen from the street.

6.  Start the work

7.  Call for an inspection: You may ask Building, Safety & Zoning staff or click here for when inspections for your accessory building will be required.  When calling for inspections, please call the main Building, Safety & Zoning Office number at
(920) 262-4060 and schedule your inspection with the secretary.

It is your responsibility to schedule all required inspections during and after construction.

8.    Completion: After your final inspection, unless the inspector has contacted you with any required alternations, your project will be considered complete and the permit will be considered closed.  At this point you may remove the yellow card from the window.

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