Planning & Development

Frequently Asked Questions-Planning & Zoning

What is zoning?

Zoning is a set of rules that regulate the location and use of structures on land in the Town of Skaneateles, outside the incorporated Village of Skaneateles, dividing the Town into land use districts. There are limitations on the allowable use, building size and lot coverage, setbacks from property lines, parking and signage, etc. for each district.

How is my property zoned and what limitations apply?

The zoning of your property can be determined by locating your parcel on the Zoning Map of the Town of Skaneateles and referring to the allowable use and dimensional tables, available at the Planning and Zoning Department or on line at You can also call us at 685-1384 for assistance.

How do I obtain relief or a waiver from the zoning rules?

First, call or visit the Planning & Zoning office and talk with a staff member. Sometimes we can suggest alternatives that may eliminate the need for a waiver. If not we will explain the Zoning Board of Appeals process. Information is also available in the Planning & Zoning office.

What are the rules for fences?

Fences up to six feet in height are permitted in all districts as long as they are not within 100’ of the lake line. When located within 100’ of the lake line, they can be no higher than four feet and must allow at least 50% visual penetration (open design). All fences must be set back a minimum of one foot from the respective property line, with the finished (good) side facing the neighboring property. A copy of your survey and fence specifications will be required to apply for a permit.

Does the Town of Skaneateles have a noise ordinance?

No. Complaints regarding noise should be directed to local law enforcement.

Can I convert a part of my house or detached accessory structure to an in-law

Such an apartment is considered to be an accessory apartment and allowed on lots in any zoning district, provided the lot has at least two acres and the apartment occupies the lesser of 1,000 square feet or 30% of the floor space of an owner-occupied structure containing a principal use that is single-family residential or nonresidential. If the apartment is located in an accessory structure on owner-occupied property it can be no larger than 1000 square feet. The Planning Board may grant a special permit allowing accessory apartments on a lot of less than two acres provided the structure is not within 100 feet of the lake line and the accessory apartment complies with Onondaga County Health Department regulations and other applicable regulations in the Zoning Code.

Is the lake line the same as the shoreline on any given day?

No. It is the shoreline of Skaneateles Lake when the lake level is at 865.02 feet (National Geodetic Vertical Datum 1929 or NGVD), the legally established elevation to which the City of Syracuse may raise the level of the lake. (The corresponding level using City of Syracuse datum is 863.27 feet.) All surveys and site plans must show and reference the NGVD datum if property has lake frontage.

Can I store an unregistered and inoperative motor vehicle outside on my property?

No. Town zoning rules permit the outdoor storage of one unregistered vehicle provided it is not wrecked, abandoned, in a state of major disassembly or disrepair and capable of being moved under its own power.

Can I operate a business in my home?

Yes. Low-impact business uses on residential properties in all zoning districts are permitted if they are in compliance with the criteria and standards found in the Town Zoning Law under home occupations. Examples of the criteria and standards include but are not limited to: business use must be incidental and secondary to the use of the dwelling for residential purposes and conducted in a manner that does not give the outward appearance of a business, business may only be conducted by members of the family residing in the dwelling plus no more than two nonresident employees and no more than 1,000 square feet of floor space occupied by the home occupation. “Home occupation” does not include barbershops, beauty parlors, commercial stables, riding academies, kennels or restaurants. Please call the Planning and Zoning office for more information.

Can I keep horses on my property?

Any lot containing five acres or less is allowed one horse per acre. The Town Zoning Law regulates setbacks for the storage of manure and new structures housing animals.

Does the Town of Skaneateles regulate docks, moorings and other floating objects in the lake?

The Town regulates permanent docks, including floating and articulating docks that remain in the lake for more than eight months of the year. Depending on the type of permanent dock, permits from the NYSDEC and Army Corps of Engineers may also be required. The Marine Services Unit of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, regulates moorings and other floating objects. They can be reached at (518) 474-0445 or at

Who should I call if my neighbors mooring or other floating object is encroaching onto my property?

The Onondaga County Sheriffs Office at (315) 435-3095 should be contacted for enforcement.

What is a subdivision?

The division of any parcel of land into two or more lots, plots, sites, or other division of land, with or without streets, for the purpose of immediate sale, lease or building development. The minimum lot size required for a conventional subdivision is two acres. The lot to be subdivided must have a minimum of four acres of land. To calculate the lot size, wetlands, road rights-of-way, utility easements and one-hundred-year floodplains, if applicable shall be excluded.

What is a resubdivision?

A change (including a lot line adjustment) in a subdivision plat filed in the office of the County Clerk which a) affects any area reserved for public use; b) affects any street layout shown; or c) reduces the size of any lot shown on the filed plat.

What is a lot line adjustment?

A modification of lot boundaries affecting any lot shown on an approved and filed plat in which a portion of one or more lots is added to an adjoining lot or lots without increasing the total number of buildable lots. This is not a subdivision but requires an amending map to be approved and signed by the Planning Board Chair and filed in the office of the County Clerk.

What is a lot merger?

A change in lot configuration that combines contiguous lots that are held in the same ownership by eliminating but not changing any lot lines.

Other questions?

Call the Planning and Zoning Office at (315)685-1384 (8:00 a.m. -4:00 p.m.)