Expanding a Business -The Physical Site

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As you establish or grow your business, you should review its building needs within the context of your business plan. If you’re ready to expand your physical space by adding to an existing property or building a new site, you will need the proper zoning and building permits. The initial permitting process can often be completed without the assistance of an attorney; however, if the project is large or complex, or if your application has been rejected and/or you are appealing to a governing body (typically, a city or county agency), it may be worthwhile to consult with or retain the services of an attorney.


Zoning permit—A document issued by a governing body to an applicant certifying that the proposed building, structure, or use is consistent with the type of land use (e.g., commercial, mixed, etc.) authorized for or on the land.

Building permit—A document issued by a governing body to an applicant certifying that the proposed building or structure (e.g., such as a restaurant, warehouse, or retail business) is authorized for a certain purpose, size, or number of occupants.

Securing the Proper Zoning and Building Permits

Zoning and building permits are required for both new buildings and building additions. Permit applicants must follow these steps:

Step One

The permitting process is unique in each of Idaho’s cities and counties, so applicants must first determine whether their physical site is situated within city limits or the county. If the physical site is within city limits, applicants should obtain all permits through city offices and adhere to city codes; outside of city limits, applicants should obtain all permits through county offices and adhere to county codes.

Step Two

Once applicants have determined whether they need to adhere to city or county codes, they need to know their city’s or county’s building requirements. The easiest way to learn about the building requirements is to visit or schedule an appointment with a city’s or county’s agent. Each city and county has a department or representative that can provide the legal requirements for prospective builders. These offices are often called Development Services, Planning Division, Planning and Zoning, or some- thing similar. Contact information can often be found on the city or county website. You can also call or visit the city or county office. Information for select locations is provided on the reverse side of this handout.

Step Three

Based on city or county requirements, applicants may need to have a third party inspect the physical site. Applicants will need to budget for this and other costs associated with getting the proper zoning and building permits. Permit fees vary by city and county and can range anywhere from less than $100 to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the permit type and valuation of the structure. All applicants must submit the required permit application, which can be found online or at the city or county office. Building is not allowed to begin until the application is approved by the city or county, which can take an extended amount of time, so plan accordingly.

Step Four

Once all permitting requirements are satisfied and approved, you can start building!

Information You May Need to Provide to City or County Offices

Building Site and Business Information

Professionals Performing the Work 

(with contact information, include phone numbers and email and physical addresses)

Inspections, Permits, and Fees

Zoning and Building Contact Information for Select Locations

For reference only: The following list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, only exemplary. Each city/county in Idaho differs in how they process these policies. No endorsement is intended.










Authors: Katelin Bartles, Student, College of Law, University of Idaho, Christy Dearien, Research Associate, Grant and Project Development, University of Idaho, John Rumel, Professor, College of Law, University of Idaho, Paul Lewin, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho

PLEASE NOTE: This handout does not offer or substitute for legal or tax advice.

This work was supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Award No. 2016-69006-24831 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.