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Rationale for 25 foot / 7.5 meter rear yard setback

Alison Luoma

Hi there!

I am working on approvals for a plan of subdivision. The developer is proposing a 6.0 metre (approx. 20 feet) rear yard for a 'wide, shallow lot' low density development. The municipality wants to retain a 7.5 metre (approx 25 feet) rear yard.

Does anyone know what is the rationale of the 7.5 metre (25 feet) rear yard? Why have muncipalities opted for this as a standard?

I am also looking for examples of municipalities that have permitted smaller rear yards for low density developments.



We permit 20 foot rear yards in Fairfield, California (near Sacramento). Of course, despite California's reputation as the epitome of sprawl, development here tends to be much denser than most areas of North America. In our RLM 4.5 districts, we even permit 15' rear yard setbacks.

We also permit 15' rear yards in our "wide shallow" development prototype


The magic of rear yard setbacks

We find that small yards are a detriment to having trees.

Builders will typically clear the lot pad and at least 10 feet outside of the foundation line. If you have a 10 foot setback, all existing trees are gone.

New large tree species can gradually cause foundation problems and pavement problems if planted within 10 feet.

We find now that some engineers are requiring all vegetation to be removed within 20 feet of the foundation or paving area.

Streetscape aesthetics suffer when two incompatibly styled buildings or houses are next to each other without a suitable landscape buffer of moderate sized trees and planting.

Accessory buildings in rear yards that may store flamables should be at least 10 feet away from other habitable structures, and if they are 10 feet square, this would require at least a 20 foot rear yard. It would seem reasonable to have at least a 5 foot buffer for such storage building and the neighbor's property line (resulting in a 10 foot separation to the neighbor's similar storage building rights), thereby resulting in a 25 foot rear yard.

In the old days, a detached 20 foot long garage and 5 foot rear buffer probably resulted in a 25 foot rear yard also.

A 25 foot high house would probably need a 25 foot rear yard to assure reasonable sunlight hours for vegetable gardens and clothes lines.

Fifty feet from back door to a neighbor's back door is close enough.

Twenty five feet to the out-house is just about close enough, and shouldn't be any closer!