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Spokane, WA 99260
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

These are some of the most frequently asked questions of the Department of Building and Planning.  More questions and answers will be added to this page over time.

If you cannot find and answer to your question, please use this E-mail form to post your question.  If you put a return email address on the form, we will email an answer to you shortly.

How do I apply for a building permit?

Please see the appropriate brochures:

Other types of permits may also be required for your project.  plumbing or mechanical, change of use, fire sprinkler and alarm systems, grading, demolition, are some of the other common permits required.

What construction codes are in effect in the unincorporated areas of the County?

  • 2012 International Building Code
  • 2012 International Residential Code (for one-and two-family dwellings and multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) and their accessory structures.  The dwellings cannot be more than three stories in height and must have a separate means of egress.)
  • 2012 International Mechanical Code
  • 2012 International Fire Code
  • 2012 Uniform Plumbing Code
  • Washington State Energy Code
  • International Existing Building Code

These codes may be modified, in some instances, by the provisions of the Spokane County Code, Chapter 3.

What design criteria do I use for designing a building?

You can use Table R301.2(1) in the 2012 IRC Plan Review Checklist for Building Provisions.

How long is my permit good for?

Building permits shall automatically expire and become invalid by limitation of time (3) years from the date of permit issuance.  The Director is authorized within his/her discretion to grand (1) year extension of time, for a period not to exceed 180 days.  A request for an extension shall be made by the permit holder in writing and shall be submitted to and received by the Spokane County Building and Planning Department prior to the expiration date of the permit and shall demonstrate just cause for the requested extension.

Other permits not issued in conjunction with the construction or completion of a building or structure shall automatically expire and become invalid by limitation of time 18 months from the date of permit issuance.  Exception:  The above limitations on the validity of permits shall not apply to operational permits issued under the International Fire Code. 

How much will my permit cost?

Fees for all permits are based on Spokane County Building and Planning's "Cost Recovery Fee Methodology".

The adopted fee schedules reflect the costs to the Department for processing the permit, providing land use review, plan review and inspections for the project.  Please refer to the current fee schedules or consult with department staff.

How do I get an address assigned to my property?

Your address is an important tool used by the Sheriff, Police, Fire Paramedics, and delivery services to identify and locate your residence.  The E-911 System will display your address to an emergency dispatcher, even if you are unable to speak.

County Ordinance requires property addresses to be conspicuously displayed on a residence or place of business, or adjacent to the driveway or access road serving the building so that it readily identifies the specific property.

Numbers should be a minimum of four inches in height and be displayed against a contrasting background.  Addresses for buildings more than 100 feet from the public way need to be placed on a sign or post between 3 and 6 feet above the ground and within 25 feet of the right-of-way.

To obtain an address for your property, send us your nine-digit parcel number (found on your property tax statement), along with a site plan indicating the location and dimension of all property lines and all existing and proposed structures on the property.  Also, indicate the location of the driveway intersection with the county road.  Be sure to send us your mailing address and phone number so we can send you the new address or call you if we have any questions.  Our address is Spokane County Department of Building and Planning, Attn:  Addressing, 1026 West Broadway Avenue, Spokane, WA 99260-0050. For additional information see brochure number BP-39 Property Addressing.

What are my setbacks?

Most buildings need to be set back from front, rear, and side property lines, to reduce fire danger and to provide open space.  Single-family front-yard zoning setbacks are generally 20 feet in low density residential zones.  Side-yard and rear-yard setbacks are generally 5 feet for the first 25 feet of building height, plus on additional foot for each foot of building height over 25 feet (25 foot high house = 5 foot setback, 26 foot high house = 6 foot setback, etc.)  Remember, setbacks are measured from property lines, not curb lines.  Zoning setbacks vary by zoning classification, so be sure to check with the Department to verify your property's setback requirements.  Different types of building construction and different types of occupancies in those buildings also have certain fire-safety setbacks; if a building is closer to a property line than a required setback, different construction techniques may need to be employed.  For single-family residential structures and their accessory buildings, a rule-of-thumb to avoid unique construction requirements is to set back the building at least 5 feet from any property lines. 

Where do I get my electrical permit?

Electrical permits for the unincorporated areas of Spokane County can be obtained from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, 901 N. Monroe Street, Suite 100.  The local phone number is (509) 324-2600, Toll-free:  1 (800) 509-8847, TDD:  (509) 324-2653.

What is the frost depth for Spokane County?

Frost depth for the unincorporated areas has been established at 24 inches below finished grade.

What is the basic minimum snow load for Spokane County?

The basic minimum snow load for Spokane County is 30 pounds per foot.  However, areas within Spokane County have snow loads as high as 150 pounds per foot.  To determine your snow load, the elevation above sea level for your building site must be established.  The elevations is used in conjunction with other data contained in "Snow Load Analysis for Washington" produced by the Structural Engineers Association of Washington, which may be reviewed at our offices.

Do I need a permit for a fence?

Fences over 7 feet in height require building permits.

Do I need a fence around my swimming pool?

Residential swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs containing water over 24 inches deep, and installed on the premises of a detached one- or two-family dwelling, or a one-family townhouse not more than 3 stories in height, for the sole use of residents and invited guests, are required to be provided with a fence or barrier that complies with the requirements of the 2012 International Residential Code, Appendix G.

  • The top of the barrier shall be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the pool.
  • The maximum vertical clearance between grade and the bottom of the barrier shall be 2-inches.
  • Openings in the barrier shall not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
  • Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members shall be located on the swimming pool side oft the fence.  Spacing between vertical members shall not exceed 1.75 inches in width.
  • Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches or more, spacing between vertical members shall not exceed 4 inches.
  • Access gates shall comply with the above seven requirements and shall be equipped to accommodate a locking device.  Pedestrian access gates shall open outward away from the pool and shall be self-closing and have self-latching device.
  • Where a wall of a swelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following conditions shall be met:
    • The pool shall be equipped with a powered, safety cover in compliance with ASTM F1346; or
    • Other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching devices, shall be acceptable as long as the degree of protection afforded is not less than the protection afforded by items a) and b) above.

Other requirements may pertain to your specific installation.

Barriers for all swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas, other than those for the sole use of residents and invited guests at a single-family dwelling, are regulated by WAC 246-260, as implemented by the Spokane Regional Health District and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.  For more information see brochure number BP-66 Residential Swimming Pool, Spa and Hot Tub Barriers.

Can I substitute a swimming pool safety cover for the fence?

Covers, which may be used to enclose or cover the pool, are not allowed to qualify as a substitute for the required fence as a means of providing minimum safeguards around the pool area.  In most Codes and Standards, fencing provides a passive barrier that does not require human intervention to be effective and is the preferable barrier for preventing unauthorized entry.  Safety covers, complying with ASTM F1346, are allowed to serve in lieu of alarm requirements on walls serving as part of the required pool barriers, and are also allowed to serve in lieu of required barriers for spas and hot tubs.

How high can a fence be?

The height of fences that obstruct sight is limited to 36 inches within residential front and flanking street yards.  Cyclone and other fences that do not obstruct sight may be 48 inches in these areas.  Fencing is not allowed within the area known as the "clear view triangle" on residential corner lots - contact the Department for further information on the dimensions of this "triangle".

How often can you amend the Comprehensive Plan?

Comprehensive Plan map and text amendments are currently processed on an annual basis - proposed amendments for a given year need to be submitted by March 31st of that year.

What is Radon?

Radon is a natural radioactive gas in the ground.  It comes from the decay or breakdown of uranium, a radioactive element in rocks and soil.  Radon has no odor, color, or taste.

Is there radon in Spokane County?

Yes.  Spokane County is one of six counties in Washington State requiring radon mitigation measures in newly-constructed residences and residential additions.

Do I have to mitigate my home for radon?

If you are constructing a new home and it will have a concrete slab floor or a crawl space then you must mitigate for radon.

How do I apply for a manufactured home permit?

For information on how to obtain a permit to install a manufactured (or mobile) home, please see brochure number BP-3 Manufactured Home Permits.

What hours can construction noise take place?

The following noise disturbances are exempt from the provisions of County Code Section 6.12.010 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or when conducted beyond one thousand feet of any residence where human beings reside and sleep at any hour.

  • Sounds originating from temporary construction sites as a result of construction activity;
  • Sounds originating from forest harvesting and silvicultural activity;
  • Sounds originating from the quarrying, blasting and mining minerals, including, but not limited to, sand, gravel, rock, and clay, as well as the primary reduction and processing of minerals or materials for concrete batching, asphalt mixing, and rock crushers.

What is an egress window and when is it required?

An egress window is an operable window, which provides a means for emergency escape or rescue in residential occupancies Basements in dwelling units and each sleeping room below the fourth story need to have at least one (1) operable window or door which meets the requirements for emergency escape or rescue, and opens directly to the exterior of the building.  For more information and size requirements, see brochure number BP-59 Basic Requirements for Emergency Escape and Rescue Windows.

How can shoreline regulations impact my property?

State requirements limit activities that can occur within 200 feet of designated shorelines.  Generally, structures must be set back at least 50 feet of the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM); natural vegetation within 50 feet of the OHWM must be left in place (although a view corridor can be permitted); private docks are allowed, subject to certain limitations; generally, bulkheads are not allowed, unless there is evidence or erosion; and no fill can be placed within the 200' shoreline jurisdiction.  Exemptions can be issued for some development, such as private docks - contact the Building and Planning Department to determine if your project might qualify.  For more information see brochure number BP-63 Shorelines Development.

What are Critical Areas?

There are four types of 'critical areas' designated by County Ordinance:  wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, geo-hazard areas, and critical aquifer recharge areas.  The County's Critical Areas Ordinance is intended to help protect and preserve these limited natural resources.  The County's Critical Areas Ordinance is intended to help protect and preserve these limited natural resources.

What requirements apply within Critical Areas?

The Critical Areas Ordinance contains numerous requirements to help protect designated critical areas.  The most prevalent include setback-and use- restrictions.  Briefly, for wetlands, "buffer" setbacks can range from 25-200 feet, depending on the classification of the wetland; Fish and wildlife habitat requirements regulate uses within 1/4 mile of "point" locations (dens and nests) of priority species and require "buffers" ranging from 25-250' of riparian areas adjacent to flowing rivers and some creeks; Geo-hazard areas requirements regulate development on slopes of 30% or greater and Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas limit allowable uses within designated areas to help protect groundwater quality.  Please contact the department for further information to determine if these Critical Areas could impact your project.

Where can I find information about minimum lot sizes in Spokane County?

Minimum lot sizes in Spokane County are dependent on the zoning of property and can range from 40 acres per dwelling unit to more than 15 dwelling units per acre depending upon the respective zoning designation.  Generally speaking, minimum lot sizes outside the Urban Growth Area Boundary are 5 acres or larger and areas inside the Urban Growth Area Boundary can be as small as 5,000 square feet.  Variables to minimum lot size may be achieved through cluster developments, but in no case does a cluster development result in more lots or density that that specified by the respective zoning designation.  Minimum lot sizes and the development standards are found in the Spokane County Zoning Code.

Food Establishment Permits

Any person wishing to serve or distribute food in Spokane County must obtain approval or a permit to operate issued by the Spokane Regional Health District.  For new establishments, permit applications must be submitted at least fourteen days prior to the projected date of opening or a penalty fee of 100% of the permit fee will be assessed.  Construction plans must be approved before beginning construction, or an additional 50% of plan review fees will be charged.  For change of ownership of an existing establishment, applications must be submitted far enough in advance to allow adequate time for processing and approval prior to the ownership change.  Permit processing time may vary according to the type of operation and/or changes proposed.

Septic System (Liquid Waste) Inspections and Permits

Septic system designs for single family homes, small businesses, and apartment buildings (systems less than 3,500 gallons per day) are reviewed for compliance with regulations, permitted, and inspected after installation by the Spokane Regional Health District.  Fees vary based on the size and type of system.  The Washington State Department of Health and the Washington State Department of Ecology enforce regulations for large sewage systems.  Generally, building permits for structures involved with septic systems cannot be issued without a Health District release.

What is Construction Stormwater Permit Coverage?

If your construction project cumulatively disturbs one or more acres of land through clearing, grading, excavating, or stockpiling of fill material, you may need construction Stormwater Permit Coverage from the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE).  This applies even if the project is being constructed in phases of less than one acre.  Spokane County cannot determine whether Permit Coverage is necessary.  It is your responsibility to apply for coverage.  For more detailed information visit the Department of Ecology website or call (360) 407-6437.