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City Use Permit Implementation and Inspections Resume

Post Date:05/06/2020 9:28 PM


May 6, 2020




SANDPOINT — The City of Sandpoint launched a use permit program in March, 2020, for non-residential based businesses. The program was put on hold in mid-March as the COVID-19 crisis took hold.  Inspections and permit issuances will resume on May 7th.   A use permit is a public statement of the approved occupant load, terms of use, and contains the signatures from the relevant City officials who have inspected and approved the building for use by the business.

This new permitting program increases public safety by reducing potential hazards and improves efficiency and effectiveness of emergency response by first responders.  It also enables property owners to show that code requirements were strictly and consistently met as demonstrated by code officials’ carefully maintained records.  This gives owners a strong ally if something happens to trigger a potentially destructive lawsuit. 

“Building and fire codes outline the rules and requirements property owners and businesses need to accommodate for specific uses,” said Sandpoint Building Official Christine Kuhlman. “For example, if the building is an assembly use, such as a restaurant, bar or theater, it would likely need more than one exit, as well as a certain style of exit to protect the public in case of an emergency.” 

Building officials are obligated by law to verify appropriate use. “Above and beyond that, we care about the community – that is why we wanted to do something visible,” remarked Kuhlman.


Crews with Selkirk Fire, an entity created under a Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Sandpoint, Westside and Sagle Fire Districts, began performing on-site inspections of non-home-based businesses within the City of Sandpoint two years ago to look for obvious fire hazards that could otherwise be prevented.  The inspections allow crews to see a layout of the buildings and create a map and pre-plans, which makes a big difference in case of fire because many of the buildings in Sandpoint, especially in the downtown core, are interconnected.

Under the use permit program, the fire inspections will also include inspectors from the City’s Building & Planning service group.  All licensed businesses operating outside of private residences within city limits will be inspected this year and issued a use permit.

Selkirk crews began their annual inspections in January and completed 71 inspections to-date.  Officials from the City’s building and planning service group will follow-up with their own inspections at those businesses this month and use permits will be issued following the inspections.  Throughout the rest of the year, joint inspections will be performed at the remaining 700+ licensed businesses which meet the program criteria. 

Use permits will be issued to the businesses for public display after the inspections have been completed and any significant safety hazards identified have been mitigated.  In addition, digital maps of the building and business layouts will be created and entered into the City’s GIS mapping system where they will be available to police, fire and other first responders to inform response efforts in the event of an emergency.

“The use permit program and specifically digital maps and layouts of the businesses in our GIS system is a significant benefit to officer and public safety,” remarked Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon.  “If an officer has knowledge of a business’ layout when responding to a call for service for an open door, they can plan an effective approach and how best to search the building.”

All of the inspections will be performed as part of Sandpoint’s regular business licensing program as a way to “catch up” existing licensed businesses. 

Any new non-home-based businesses located within Sandpoint city limits, including those who do not have a current business license effective April 1, 2020, will be required to apply for a $25 use permit in addition to the business license fee. Upon receipt of the application, the business owner will be contacted by a city official in fire or building and planning to conduct a joint inspection.  The business license and use permit will be issued together so new businesses are highly encouraged to submit their applications in advance of their intended opening date.  Business license applications are available at  They will direct appropriate applicants to the use permit as well.

Businesses that change locations are required to notify the city of the change for their business license and will need to apply for a use permit for the new location.

Selkirk Fire crews will continue with live inspections every year on all Assembly Group A occupancies, which includes the use of a building or structure, or a portion thereof, for the gathering of persons for purposes such as civic, social or religious functions; recreation, food or drink consumption or awaiting transportation.  In addition, they will annually inspect all businesses that store or work with hazardous materials. 

All other non-home-based businesses located in the City of Sandpoint will be inspected on a rotating three-year cycle.  During the two years the inspection is not required, the business will receive a self-certification form in conjunction with its business license renewal.  There will be no fee associated with the self-certification or inspections unless the business has moved to a new location.
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