Just Because "They" Say It,
Doesn't Always make It So

Most of you probably are not aware that I am now a farmer. That's right. I am going to be on the ground floor of solving the world's energy needs. I am going to be growing Switchgrass or as we in the farm industry call it, grassoline. I have signed a contract with The University Of Tennessee to produce switchgrass for their experimental biofuel  plant in Vonore. That said, here's the rub.

Last year, I built a small shed on the farm to store some of the equipment and supplies needed for the production of switchgrass. It's a small building measuring 16'x16' but just about right for my needs. Last week I received a call from the Loudon County Building Commissioner, Bill Cox, advising me that I needed to come to his office to get a building permit for my storage building. I explained to the building commissioner that this was an agriculture structure on agriculture land and therefore did not need a building permit. Mr. Cox informed me that even though it was was an agriculture structure on agriculture land, I still needed to get a permit. I politely told Mr. Cox I would get with him.

I was sure I remembered in the zoning regulations there was a permit exemption for agriculture structure on agriculture land. A quick look through the regulations proved my memory.

Loudon County Zoning Regulations
7.030. Building Permits

This Resolution shall not be construed as authorizing the requirement of building permits for the erection, construction, or reconstruction of any building or other structure on land now devoted to agricultural uses or which may hereafter be and for agricultural purposes.

I forwarded a copy of the regulation to the building commissioner hoping to clear up the matter. A week later, I had not heard back from Mr. Cox so I sent a follow up email to get an update.


Just wanted to follow up on our discussion pertaining to the permit requirements for my little barn on the farm. I had sent you a copy of the Loudon County Zoning regulations that exempts agriculture use from permit requirements.

Just wanted an update on status.



I received a reply from Mr. Cox that stated:


You are correct; I cannot legally require building permits for agricultural structures.  However, it has been the county’s policy to issue such permits, primarily to inform the property owner of the setback requirements.

Bill Cox
Loudon County Building Commissioner

Apparently, Mr. Cox had ask for and received a legal opinion from an attorney pertaining to the issuing of permits for ag use and the lawyer confirmed the law. No permit required. Obviously past practice has been to require a permit for agriculture structures which was contrary to state and local laws. Hopefully this practice will now end.

Moral of the story? Don't be afraid to ask questions. Just because a government official tells you something, that doesn't always make it so.