Small Business Permit Process Overview

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This page contains information to assist the small business owner. You may be considering starting a home-based business, or you may already own a small business and want to expand, remodel or relocate in Carson City. This information is intended to help you identify critical building and zoning issues, understand some common challenges, and make informed choices to avoid costly mistakes.

What do I need to know before buying or leasing a site for my business?

If you are looking for a new business location in Carson City, there are many things to consider before you buy or lease a site. What, at first, seems like a great value may turn into a huge liability if the building you are considering cannot be altered to fit your business, if it needs major structural work, or if the zoning will not allow your type of business. Don't rely solely on information provided by sales agents, because they may not fully understand zoning regulations or any special requirements your business may have in meeting building codes.

Checking into the details of a property and structure before you buy or lease can save you time and money. The staff at the Carson City Permit Center can help you find current zoning, allowable uses, past land use decisions and requirements, current occupancy classifications, and a history of permits issued for the structure. Be sure to address the following issues:

  • Find out existing restrictions on the site and/or structure and what they could mean in time and money before you make the decision to buy or lease.
  • Check the current occupancy classification of the building for compatibility with your business and verify property zoning. The “occupancy classification” is the “use” of the building or tenant space, as regulated by the adopted construction codes and differs from the “use” designations adopted for zoning purposes.
  • Review past land use decisions to determine how they will impact your proposed business. Look at building records for past permits and code violations.
  • Verify if you have adequate parking for your prospective site that is in accordance with the City’s parking regulations.

Expanding, Remodeling, Changing Your Type of Business

What kind of improvements can I make?

Tenant improvements (TI’s) run the gamut from simple interior alterations to major remodels, and additions. Sometimes they might include exterior site improvements as well. Before starting a TI project, visit the Permit Center counter and speak with a Planner and a Building Plans Examiner to discuss the project to find out about the code requirements that may affect your proposal. The more research you do on the front end of the project the more you are prepared to make important business choices and successfully complete your project.

Tenant improvements may be funded by the property owner or the future business owner. The issue of who should pay for the construction costs and associated fees should be determined prior to signing the lease for the property.

The business owner should enlist the assistance of a design professional to determine the nature and breadth of construction and permit approvals necessary for the site. While this is an initial investment, it usually results in a faster project in terms of construction and City approvals. This lowers the total business start-up cost and allows the business to open more quickly.

How will the Permit Center help?

A Planner will review your proposal to determine if your type of business is permitted at the site you’ve chosen based on its zoning district and land use requirements. You will be informed if you need to go through a land use review. If so, you will be told the time-line and fees, if any, associated with that review process.

A Plans Examiner will provide preliminary information about the fire, life safety, and disabled accessibility issues affecting your project. Requirements for each project vary because each project and site is unique. The more details you provide to Permit Center staff at the beginning, the better we can identify critical design issues and head off potential problems. Educate yourself about code requirements before making a significant investment in your time and money. Listed below are some projects that should be researched before your start them.

  • Altering the exterior of the building or site. This includes signage, storefront glazing, doors, façade improvements, awnings.
  • Altering and remodeling the interior of the space. This includes partitions, walls, ceilings, shelving, displays and counters, lighting, heating and plumbing.
  • Altering access to and around your site. This includes walk-ways, drive-ways, drive aisles and parking spaces.
  • Businesses that make, serve and store food, such as a dine-in restaurant, take-out restaurant, deli counters, bakeries, etc., have a host of special requirements, including waste drainage control.

What if my business is a change of occupancy?

When the occupancy type of a building is changed the adopted construction codes require that the building must meet all current code requirements for the new use. Not all changes in business use constitute a change in occupancy. Consult with a Plans Examiner to determine if this is the case for you. Examples of common changes of occupancies are when a former detached residential dwelling is converted into an office building or other commercial use.

A “Change of Occupancy” applies to the building’s use as regulated by the Building Code. A separate process, required by the Zoning Code (Title 18 ) is used to change the use of the property. While occupancy pertains to how a building is used by the people who work or live there, the zoning classification pertains to how the site’s use affects the adjacent properties.

Starting a Home-Based Business

What do I need to know about locating a new business in my home?

A home-based business or “home occupation,” as referenced in the Zoning Code, is a business or commercial activity that is conducted from a single family attached or detached dwelling, duplex, apartment, or mobile home and is clearly incidental to the residential use of the dwelling. A Planning permit is not required for Home Occupations. However, all home occupations must conform to criteria established in Section 18.05.045 of the Municipal Code. Click here to download the Home Occupation criteria.

Do I have to pay a City Business License Fee for a Home Occupation?

Yes, a Business License, including a signed and completed business tax registration form and tax payment, is required by the Business License Division for all businesses, including Home Occupations.

Business Signage

A Sign Permit is required to put a sign on your building or property. The type of business and zoning district for your business location will determine the permitted size and location of your sign. If you need information regarding the size and location of your signage allowances, please call (775) 887-2180 to speak with a Planner, or refer to the Carson City Municipal Code, Title 18 Appendix, Development Standards, Division 4. You can download a Sign Permit Application by clicking here.

A building and/or electrical permit may be required and in some cases design drawings and calculations for the support of the signage may have to be prepared by a licensed architect or engineer. The location and weight of the sign determines the extent of documentation required.

Sign projections such as awnings or marquees require Building Division plan review. Those that project over the public way also require an encroachment permit from the Engineering Division. Utility and drainage easements on a property may also impact potential sign locations. 

Permits and Review Services

What permits will I need and what will they cost?

Carson City’s Permit Center is funded from fees charged on all construction projects to cover the cost of providing the development and construction approval service. The City is mandated by State and City law to provide the services in order to ensure that projects are built in conformance with land use, building safety and health regulations.

What type and how many permits you need will depend on the scope of your project. When you apply for your permits, you will be asked for a realistic estimate of your project's value, including the fair market value of all labor and materials. This information is compared to a City approved table of construction values for similar projects (for additional or new square footage). Permit fees may be calculated based on the valuation of your project.

Permit fees may include:

  • Planning Land Use Approval Fees – If the property on which your business is going to be located does not conform to the existing use or zoning district, zoning application approvals may be required and associated fees may be assessed. Any zoning issues must be resolved before submitting for a building permit.
  • Plan Check and Review Fees – These fees are common to all construction projects and must be paid when your plans are submitted to the City.
  • Construction Permit Fees – These fees fund the inspections the City will perform while your project is under construction. Depending on types of permits required for your project, fees may include those for structural, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, fire safety, erosion control, utility connections, sidewalk and driveway permits.
  • Water and Sewer Connection Fees – The Department of Public Works collects water and sewer connection fees. These are one-time fees collected with construction permits. The monthly use fees relating to these facilities are collected separately with the utility bill for the subject property. The water and sewer connection fees are based on the estimated domestic and irrigation water usage for the project. If a previous tenant has paid water and sewer connection fees for the space, then a new tenant only has to pay the difference between the use already paid for and the proposed use. For example, if a coin-operated laundry is now proposed in a space that has paid water and sewer connection fees for a full service restaurant, then the new tenant would only be responsible for paying additional connection fees based on the difference between what the estimated water usage would be for the laundry compared with what water usage was already associated with the previous business. Public Works Engineering staff can be reached at (775) 887-2300 to assist you in determining the water and sewer connection fees that would be due for the proposed project.

Who reviews my project?

Carson City’s Permit Center is located at 108 E. Proctor Street. The Center brings together all staff needed to review you project. Depending upon the scope of the project, the following work groups may be required to review your project.


The Planning Division assists you by checking the following information:

  • Is the property where you are locating your business appropriately zoned for the use?
  • Does the site meet the required number of parking spaces to operate the business?
  • Are you making any exterior building or site landscaping changes?
  • Do you want to put a sign up for your business?

Once the Planner has determined the answers to the questions above, they will be able to direct you regarding what type of Planning permit approvals you may need, if any, before you can open for business.

Major Project Review

Major Project Review (MPR) is a "one stop" review process established primarily for applicants wishing to develop multi-family residential, commercial, and industrial projects in Carson City. Major Project Review is free of charge and is required for all multi-family projects and non-residential construction over 50,000 square feet.

However, the MPR process may be used by anyone to provide a preliminary comprehensive review of development plans and to eliminate the need for an applicant to individually contact City departments and other agencies to obtain information relevant to the approval of their project. This review process allows an applicant, with some time and effort on their part, to ascertain what will be required to gain approval of their project during the City's permit approval process. It also solicits most requirements and recommendations of the various City departments in a coordinated and comprehensive fashion.

Click here for more information on the Major Project Review process and applications at the Planning Division MPR webpage. 


The Engineering Division is responsible for ensuring that new development projects comply with applicable regulations and provide the necessary public infrastructure including, but not limited to: water, sewer, streets, sidewalks, storm and sanitary sewers, streetlights, landscaping along street frontages, and traffic signals.

In addition to reviewing, approving and inspecting the public infrastructure necessary for new development, the Engineering Division is also responsible for the following:

  • Flood Zone Information.
  • Grading Permits – The purpose of the Grading Permit is to ensure that private property is graded so that it will drain properly, not impact adjacent properties and not create erosion problems. Improper grading can result in localized flooding, landslides and differential settlement. These problems not only affect the graded property, but can also impact adjacent properties and downstream drainage systems.
  • Encroachment Permits – Encroachment permits are used to allow temporary or permanent encroachment into the public right of way, such as fencing or signs.


The Building Division is responsible for reviewing and inspecting private sector buildings for compliance with fire and life safety provisions of state and locally adopted codes, as well as the state mandated disabled accessibility and energy regulations. The Building Division offers several types of plan review services:

  • Regular Plan Review is for projects that required substantive review.
  • Coordinated Plan Review brings together staff from Building, Planning, Fire, Public Works, Environmental Management and the Health Department in a seamless review process. This process ensures consistency of review comments and saves a significant amount of time. First cycle review times are established at the initial meeting between the applicant's design team and the City's review team.


The Fire Department is responsible for reviewing and inspecting buildings for compliance to fire codes, fire standards and local ordinances.

  • Site Review is only required for new construction or for any addition to an existing building. Fire Apparatus access roads, water flow required and hydrant locations are checked in this review. It is recommended that this process be completed before submitting construction plans to the Permit Center. Site review is conducted by appointment only. To schedule a site review, call (775) 887-2210 for an appointment.
  • Fire Architectural and, when applicable, Hazardous Materials plan review services are performed in conjunction with the Building Division plan review. Compliance with all fire and building codes adopted by the State Fire Marshal as well as applicable local ordinances are checked in this review.
  • Life Safety Systems plan review shall be conducted when required by codes as determined during the Fire Architectural Plan review process. Life Safety systems include fire suppression, fire alarm, and hazardous materials systems. An “Installation Permit” issued by the Permit Center is required for each system. Also, life safety systems have to be installed by appropriately licensed professionals per State law.


The Health Department is responsible for reviewing and inspecting a select group of buildings or businesses for compliance with health regulations and other local ordinances.

  • The Health Department reviews plans for food establishments, child care facilities, schools, institutions, hotels & motels, public swimming pools, spas or water attractions, mobile home parks, individual sewage disposal systems, domestic wells, and tattoo and permanent make-up facilities.
  • A site review may be helpful for new construction or for any addition to an existing building. It is recommended that this process be completed before submitting construction plans to the Permit Center. Site reviews are conducted by appointment only. To schedule a site review, call the Health Department at (775) 887-2190 for an appointment.
  • Health code review services are performed in conjunction with the Building Division plan review when any of the above mentioned facilities are constructed or improved.
  • Additionally, a compliance review may be required even when a Building Permit is not necessary. Compliance with all state laws and local ordinances are checked in this review. Please contact the Health Department at (775) 887-2190 for further information. 

Contact Information:

Permit Center

108 E. Proctor Street
Carson City, Nevada 89701              
Building: (775) 887-2310
Business License: 887-2105
Engineering: 887-2300
Planning: 887-2180

Office Hours

Monday through Friday,
excluding holidays
8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
(Closed through lunch)
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