Starting or Expanding a Business

Boundary County welcomes commercial development and encourages entrepreneurship, especially those enterprises that expand the economic base of the county and make better use of the county's existing resources, including human resources. Because of the rural nature of the county, there exists no zoning specifically dedicated to commercial use; instead, the county has adopted the "Rural Community/Commercial" zone district designation, which allows for both commercial and residential development, the "Commercial / Light Industrial" zone intended for non-residential use as the name suggests (located by the airport: residential use in this zone is limited to an owner or caretaker residence only) and the "Industrial" designation for more intense uses.

Because of the nature of the community, there are few areas of the county zoned Rural Community/ Commercial; these areas lie generally in the Naples, Three Mile, Eastport and Porthill areas. The only areas zoned industrial are near the Boundary County Airport, located at Three Mile, and a small area north of Naples.

These zone district designations do not apply within the incorporated city limits of Bonners Ferry or Moyie Springs, which have their own zoning departments and zone district designations. If you are considering establishing a business within the incorporated city limits of Bonners Ferry, call City Hall at (208) 267-3105, in Moyie Springs, call the City Office at (208) 267-2598.

County requirements for establishing a business within the Rural Community/Commercial, Commercial / Light Industrial and Industrial zone districts is relatively simple and administrative requirements are few. Boundary County does not require business permits or licenses in addition to those required by the State of Idaho to operate. Prior to establishing a business within areas zoned for commercial use, however, the developer must submit a site plan for review by the Planning and Zoning Commission which shows property lines, existing and proposed structures, ingress and egress routes, parking areas, storage areas and additional details as needed to clearly depict the nature and scope of the proposed operation.

Once approved, commercial zoning certificates may be issued for structures to be built. General standards for commercial and industrial uses can be found in Section 10 of the Boundary County Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance, and standards for specific uses, including parking space requirements and signage, can also be found in Section 10. The fee for a commercial site plan review and zoning certificate is $50. If a business located in an area zoned for commercial use is expanded or if the nature of the business changes, a new application for site plan review must be filed.

For the sake of clarity, the Boundary County Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance defines commercial structure use as a structure intended primarily for the conduct of retail trade in goods and services and industrial use as the use of a parcel or development of a structure intended primarily for the manufacture, assembly or finishing of products intended primarily for wholesale distribution. In the Rural Community/Commercial zone district and Commercial / Light Industrial district, businesses fitting the commercial definition are allowed as a permitted use while industrial uses must be processed as a conditional use; in the Industrial zone district both commercial and industrial uses are allowed as permitted uses, however, residential use in this zone is limited to an owner or caretaker residence only.

As said, there are few areas of Boundary County zoned for commercial or industrial use. This does not, however, limit the establishment of such enterprises in other areas of the county. Commercial or industrial uses can be considered in any other zone district in the county through the conditional use permit application process.

To determine what this zoning is, it is necessary to contact the planning and zoning department (208) 267-7212 and provide the tax parcel number. Each zone district designation includes a list of uses which can be considered for conditional use permits; any use not listed as a use by right, permitted use or conditional use may be considered as a special event or temporary use.

Conditional use permit applications are similar to a commercial site plan review except that public notification and hearings are required. If a use is deemed to be a conditional use, one public hearing is held before the Planning and Zoning Commission, which has the authority to approve, deny or modify the request, or defer decision authority and forward to the county commissioners for a second public hearing. The public hearing is held before the Board of County Commissioners, who have the authority to approve, deny or modify the application. These processes are explained in detail in Section 7 of the zoning and subdivision ordinance. The public notification and hearing process is defined in Section 19.

The fee for a conditional use permit application is $90, and also requires reimbursement for the cost of mailings to surrounding property owners.

Once approved, a conditional use permit remains valid for the life of the use, subject to the terms and conditions established in the permit. Expansion of a business enterprise or a change in use allowed by a conditional use permit requires submission of a new permit application; should the use granted by a conditional not be established or be discontinued for a period of two years, the permit is deemed to lapse.


Prior to making a decision to purchase or expand an existing business in Boundary County, it is recommended that the Planning and Zoning Department be contacted to determine if the business is operating under a conditional, special event, or temporary use, and what the terms and conditions of the allowed use are. Any change in use is subject to the aforementioned requirements. Many businesses in Boundary County were established prior to the adoption of the current zoning and subdivision ordinance and are considered non-conforming uses of record; such use may continue, but may not be expanded or altered without a variance approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The fee for a variance application is $90 and public notification and hearing is required.

View various application forms and related fees available online at If you are uncertain as to the type permit required, please call (208) 267-7212 or write Planning and Zoning, PO Box 419, Bonners Ferry, ID 83805, or fax to (208) 267-7814.

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