Alcoholic beverage

For businesses that are involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages, a Liquor License or Beer Permit is necessary. These permits are issued by the state Alcoholic Beverages Division. Information and applications for new or renewal permits can be found on the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages website. In addition to the electronic filing of the application the city has additional requirements which must be met before new or renewal licenses/permits are issued. A checklist of city requirements specific to alcohol permits can be obtained at the City Clerk's office.

Selling alcohol outdoors on private property requires an outdoor service area permit. A dancing permit is required for dancing in connection with the sale of alcohol. Applications for these permits and a requirement checklist can be obtained from the City Clerk's office.

Contact: City Clerk's office

More information: http://www.iowaabd.com 

Animal

All pet animals over the age of four months, and dogs and cats under the age of four months that are no longer nursing from their mother, are required to be licensed or have a City ID tag. To obtain a City license for pets over the age of four months, proof must be presented in the form of a current rabies certificate to the Animal Care and Adoption Center. The owner of a dog or cat less than four months of age which is no longer with its dam but which is too young to be immunized, shall be issued a temporary ID tag. Temporary ID tags will automatically expire five months from the date of birth of the dog or cat. Service animals also require an animal license, but are exempt from fees if the owner is legally disabled and the animal assists them.

Animal license form 

General animal regulations

Urban chicken policy

Urban chicken application

Contact: Animal Control and Adoption Center 

Banners

Public Right-of-Way (specialty banners on light poles) - A permit is required for display of banners on public right-of-way. Banners are selected by the City based on factors that are reasonably related to the governmental functions of the City, including the City's interest in welcoming visitors and providing information to the community about community activities and events.

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Banner permit application

Private Property - Other than the specialty banners affixed to downtown light poles for special civic and charitable events, Iowa City businesses are allowed only very specific types of banners in limited situations. A permit is required for display of banners on private property. A business can apply for a "Grand Opening" banner. The permit expires after 30 days and the banner must say "Grand Opening." A new business can have a banner up as a temporary identification sign until their permanent sign is installed. The banner can only have the name of the business; it cannot have any advertising message such as "Now Open."

If a business has a parking area of more than 200 spaces, Identification Banners can be affixed to the light poles at 80 foot intervals. There are very specific regulations pertaining to these types of banners and they do require a permit. The permit can be granted for one year and is renewable if the banner signs are in good condition or are replaced with new banner signs.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Bicycle

A bicycle permit may be obtained by completing an application and submitting it in person to the Iowa City Police Department (410 E. Washington Street). A registration sticker is given to the applicant at that time. There is no fee for this permit.

Contact: Iowa City Police Department 319-356-5275

Bicycle permit application

Birth certificate

Contact: Johnson County Recorder 319-356-6093

Building

Building permits are required for construction of all new buildings. Permits are also required for all room additions, garages, porches and decks. Additionally, a building permit must be obtained for storage sheds with a floor greater than 144 square feet, fences greater than 6 feet high and basement remodeling.

Building permits are not required for storage sheds with a floor area smaller than 144 square feet, re-roofing of single-family dwellings if no sheathing or rafters are being replaced, re-siding of single-family dwellings, or construction of concrete patios, driveways, or sidewalks. If the property is in a historic or conservation district or is a historic landmark building, building permits may be required for re-roofing or re-siding a single family or duplex dwelling. Please contact Building Inspection Services to determine if a building permit is required. Even if permits are not required, there are regulations pertaining to these excepted items, so please contact the Building Inspection Services at 319-356-5120 before beginning your project.

Permit fees are based on the total value of the project (labor plus materials).

There are penalties for failure to obtain a building permit. They can include doubling the permit fee or issuing a citation for municipal infraction.

The Building Inspection Services maintains files on Iowa City properties, many of which contain floor plans or blueprints. These files are open to the public and can be a resource when considering remodeling or adding on to a structure.

The Building Inspection Services also keeps records on the number and type of building permits that are issued each year. Permits for the current year and for the past 10 years.

Contact: Building Inspection Services 319-356-5120

Fee schedule

Building permit application

Business license

Iowa City does not require a general business license. However, some businesses are required to obtain a license or permit to operate.

Contact: Economic Development Coordinator 319-356-5248 

Certificate of Occupancy

A Certificate of Occupancy is required for any new structure or for any change in use. The Certificate of Occupancy certifies that at the time of issuance, the structure was in compliance with various ordinances regulating building construction or use and the City Zoning Ordinance. The Certificate of Occupancy is the conclusion of the building permit process, but it is also still necessary even if no building permit has been required or if a change of use occurred. The Building Official can issue a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy for an additional fee if a project is not completely finished by has no life/safety issues.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services, 319-356-5120

Chickens

With a permit, residents who live in single-family homes may have up to four chickens in their backyards. Before the City will issue an urban chicken permit, an application must be completed, and all requirements of the Urban Chicken Policy must be met. The application form includes a consent form that must be signed by all neighboring property owners. The application form and the Urban Chicken Policy can be found at the links below. 
 
Contact: Animal Control and Adoption Center 319-356-5295

Urban chicken policy

Urban chicken application

Cigarettes

A Cigarette Permit is required to sell cigarettes. The application is available online or at the City Clerk's Office.

Contact: City Clerk's Office 319-356-5043

More information: http://iowaabd.com/tobacco/regulation/permits 

City Plaza, Use of

A permit MAY BE required for use of City Plaza for activities such as musical performance. No amplified sound may be generated Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn more

Construction in the Right-of-Way

Any construction activity that requires construction equipment to occupy the right-of-way should be coordinated with the Public Works Department by obtaining a temporary use of a public right-of-way permit. Excavation within the public right-of-way requires an excavation permit from the Public Works Department. A refundable deposit and certificate of insurance is required to ensure restoration is completed.

Contact: Department of Public Works 319-356-5139 or 319-356-5140

Construction trade

In the City of Iowa City, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, fire sprinkler and fire alarm contractors are required to have State of Iowa license. The City requires proof of license and a Certificate of Liability Insurance that lists the City of Iowa City as “additional Insured” from electrical and plumbing contractors before the issuance of any electrical or plumbing permit. The City of Iowa City also requires and issues licenses for water and sewer installers and sign erectors. These licenses are issued through the Department of Neighborhood and Development Services and are renewed on a yearly basis.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Fee schedule

Dancing

A dancing permit is required for dancing in connection with the sale of alcohol. The application and fee is to be submitted to the City Clerk.

Contact: City Clerk's Office 319-356-5043

Death certificate

Contact: Johnson County Recorder 319-356-6093

Deeds

Contact: Johnson County Recorder 319-356-6093

Demolition

A demolition permit is required for the demolition of part or all of a structure. At the issuance of the permit, a permit fee will be collected.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Demolition permit application

Demonstration, rally, picket or protest

If the group wishing to demonstrate or protest is larger than 25 people and wants to use the streets and/or City Plaza and/or the sidewalks, a parade/public assembly permit will be needed unless it is a "spontaneous event." The same is true if the group is larger than 100 people in a park.

Learn more

Design review

Design review is an administrative review that is required for properties in urban renewal parcels; building projects and sign permits within City Plaza; projects that benefit from tax abatement or tax increment financing; multi-family properties within the Central Planning District.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120
Search City Code for ordinance details 

Design review application

Domestic partner registry

The City Clerk's Office maintains a registry of non-married but committed adult partners who choose to declare themselves as domestic partners. Applications for this registry may be obtained from the City Clerk's Office. Along with the application and application fee, there are certain requirements which must be met before the declaration is issued.

Contact: City Clerk's Office 319-356-5043 

Domestic partnership application

Domestic parnership termination form 

Drivers license

Contact:  Iowa City Drivers' License Station - Iowa DOT 319-338-5294

Easement for use of the sidewalk/public Right-of-Way

In order to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the City Council may grant an easement for the use of a sidewalk or public right-of-way to make local businesses accessible to persons with disabilities if physical limitations prevent the necessary accommodations on private property. The Department of Neighborhood and Development Services should be contacted about specifications for accessibility. If an easement for the use of the sidewalk or public right-of-way is the preferred option, a written request with construction drawing must be submitted to the Department of Public Works for City Staff review and City Council approval.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120; Public Works 319-356-5140

Electrical

An electrical permit is required when adding any new wiring, or when adding any additional load to an existing building or structure.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Fee schedule

Electrical permit application

Fire alarm

A fire alarm permit is required for the installation of a new fire alarm system or any addition to an existing system.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Fire alarm permit application

Fire sprinkler

A fire sprinkler permit is required for the installation of any new fire sprinkling system or the addition of sprinkler heads to an existing system.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Fire sprinkler permit application

Flood plain

A flood plain permit is required before any structure can be placed on a lot located in a flood plain. 

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Flood plain permit

Grading

A grading permit is required before any grading can be done on a lot with slopes of 25 percent or greater, or lots in the 100-year flood plain or lots containing wetlands.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Fee schedule

Grading permit application

Health

The Johnson County Department of Public Health regularly inspects businesses that affect public health. Construction and remodeling plans for hotels and motels and licensed daycare centers must be approved by the County Health Department. Hotels and motels are inspected regularly and licensed daycare centers are inspected annually. Swimming pools inspected by the County Health Department include: public swimming pools and spas; hotel/motel pools and spas; public schools; and community facilities. An annual inspection fee is required. Approval for swimming pool construction and remodeling is obtained from the State Department of Public Health. Tanning facilities, tattoo establishments, and funeral homes are annually inspected to determine compliance with state regulations. An annual inspection fee is required.

Contact: Johnson County Department of Public Health 319-356-6040

Home occupation

Home occupations in Iowa City are regulated to allow only those businesses or uses that are limited in extent, do not detract from the residential character of the neighborhood and are clearly subordinate to the residential use. Certain types of businesses are specifically prohibited as home occupations. These include adult business uses, veterinary clinics and kennels, commercial recreational uses, commercial parking, restaurants, and medical/dental offices (except for psychiatrists, psychologists, chiropractors and physical/massage therapists). Also prohibited is any type of vehicle or small engine repair or large appliance repair. The home occupation cannot take up more than 25 percent of the total floor area of the principal structure and there can be no indication from the exterior of the dwelling that there is a home occupation on the premises. A small sign of no more than one s.f. is allowed. A permit is required if the business is one in which clients come to home such as a basement hair salon. The permit fee is $35. If you are thinking of opening a business in your home, please contact Neighborhood and Development Services at 319-356-5120 to make sure your business is permitted.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services (319) 356-5120

Home occupation permit

Housing moving

A housing moving permit is required before moving any structure from one lot to another over any City street or alley.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120 

Search City Code for ordinance details

House moving permit

Information table, City Plaza only

If your information table will be on the City Plaza, please fill out an information table permit application.

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Information table permit application

Marriage license

Contact: Johnson County Recorder 319-356-6093

Mechanical

A mechanical permit (formerly known as the heating permit) is required for installation of a new furnace of air conditioning duct work.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Mechanical permit application

Fee schedule

Motor vehicle registration

Contact: Johnson County Treasurer 319-356-6091

Outdoor service area

An outdoor service area is an area for the sale of alcohol on private property. This privilege can be applied for electronically at the Alcoholic Beverages Division website. The City has additional requirements which must be met before final approval of the application. A checklist of these requirements can be obtained from the City Clerk’s Office.

Contact: City Clerk's Office 319-356-5042

More information: http://www.iowaabd.com

Parking lot, private property sales on

A temporary use permit is required for any temporary outdoor use on a lot other than the principal use intended on that lot.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120 

Search City Code for ordinance details

Temporary use permit application

Parade

A parade/public assembly permit is required for use of public grounds for events in city streets or events in City Plaza if group has more than 25 people.

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Learn more

Parks, Use of

Learn more

Piano

A permit is required to place pianos on the right-of-way for use by the public.

Contact: Engineering Division 319-356-5140 

Piano permit application

Planting in the right-of-way (area between sidewalk and street)

Tree planting: A permit is required from the City Forester prior to planting a tree in the right-of-way. A primary requirement is the distance between the sidewalk and curb which should be at least six feet. Other requirements are provided on the permit. There is no fee for the permit. City Forestry staff maintain the trees within the right-of-way.

Flowers, shrubs, other plant materials: A permit is not required to plant flowers shrubs or other plant materials in the right-of-way, as long as they don’t grow any taller than two feet above the curb height. There must be two feet of clearance between the curb and the outer most spread of the plant’s branches/limbs and the same distance between the sidewalk and the plant. Property owners are responsible for making sure no shrubs or plants interfere with pedestrians or vehicular traffic.

Items planted in the street right-of-way become the property of the City and could be excavated at any time if there is a need. There is no compensation to the property owner for loss of plantings if this occurs.

Contact: City Forester 319-356-5100

Planting permit application

Private property, sales on

A temporary use permit is required for any temporary outdoor use on a lot other than the principal use intended on that lot.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120 

Search City Code for ordinance details

Temporary use permit application

Plumbing

A plumbing permit is required when any new pipe or fixture is added to a structure.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Plumbing permit application

Fee schedule

Public grounds and streets, Use of

A parade/public assembly permit is required for use of public grounds for events in city streets or events in City Plaza if group has more than 25 people.

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Learn more

Rental

All rental property in Iowa City is required to have a rental permit. All rental properties that are within single family homes, duplex structures, and multi-family structures (three or more units) are inspected every two years. Life-safety and fire-safety items, along with general maintenance requirements, constitute the majority of violations cited. All violations cited by an inspector must then be corrected in a timely manner by the landlord or property manager. After all violations have been corrected, the rental permit is again issued.

Contact: Housing Inspection Services 319-356-5130

Restaurant, food or vending machine

A permit is required for any kind of food-related business, including grocery stores, restaurants, food carts, catering, certain home-based products, and vending machines. Building and equipment plans must be received and approved by the Johnson County Department of Public Health before construction or remodeling occurs. Food operation licenses are nontransferable; therefore, a new permit must be obtained if a change in ownership and/or change of location occurs. After a permit has been issued, the County Health Department conducts annual inspections. An annual license renewal fee is required.

Contact: Johnson County Department of Public Health 319-356-6040

Rezoning

In the event a business location is desired on property that is not suitably zoned, the City may, in some cases, grant a rezoning. The City's decision to grant a rezoning will be based on the comprehensive plan, compatibility of the proposed zone with nearby zones; the adequacy of the city infrastructure and services in the area; and public input. To discuss a potential rezoning, contact Urban Planning of Planning and Community Development, (319) 356-5240.

After consulting with staff, an application and fee must be filed with the City Clerk. After the application is filed, the staff prepares a report evaluating the proposed rezoning and makes a recommendation to the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve or deny the application. The Planning and Zoning Commission has two public discussions at which citizens and property owners have the opportunity to comment on the proposed rezoning. The Planning and Zoning Commission then makes a recommendation to the City Council. The City Council holds a public hearing on the issue. If the Council decides to approve a rezoning, three readings of the ordinance are required before final approval. The rezoning process takes approximately 12 weeks from the time the application is filed to the final decision of the City Council.

Contact: Urban Planning 319-356-5240

Sign installer's license

Any company installing signs in Iowa City is required to obtain a sign installer’s license. In order to issue a license, we need a completed application, a Certificate of Liability Insurance that shows the City of Iowa City as Additional Insured (minimum $500,000 ) and the $50 fee.

Contact: Building Inspection Services 319-356-5120

Sidewalk cafe

A sidewalk cafe is an area for the sale of alcohol, food or beverages on City-owned property. A number of requirements must be met before the application and application fee can be processed by the Public Works Department.

Contact: Public Works Department 319-356-5139

Sidewalk retailing (2009)

Ordinance No. 09-4336 provides that a Sidewalk Retailing Permit may be issued to individual retailers allowing placement of merchandise on the sidewalk. This permit will be in effect from March 1 through October 31, Thursdays through Sundays from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Under this provision, a permit may be issued to any individual retailer who completes the application, provides proof of liability insurance naming the City as an additional insured, and abides by the rules for sidewalk retailing established by the City Manager.

Learn more

Sidewalk, Temporary use of (e.g. sidewalk sales)

A temporary use of sidewalk permit is required if you want to use the sidewalk for commercial purposes, such as sidewalk days.

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Learn more

Site plan

A site plan permit is required before any development activity on a lot except for a single family or duplex.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Search City Code for ordinance details

Site plan permit application

Sign

Most commercial and industrial signs visible to the public from a street or public right-of-way require a sign permit. A sign permit is required for any new signs or any change in the face or structure of an existing sign. At the issuance of the permit, a permit fee will be collected. Certain types of signs, such as roof signs and swinging signs, are prohibited. A few types of signs do not require a permit, although the size and placement of the size may be regulated.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Fee schedule

Sign permit application

Sound

Amplified sound permits are required for those wishing to produce amplified sound in the City Plaza. Amplified sound is defined as a sound that is increased in intensity by electrical, electronic, mechanical and other non-human means. 

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Sound permit 

Special exceptions

Each zoning district contains a list of permitted and provisional land uses that may be established on a property if the zoning requirements, such as building height and parking spaces, are adhered to. Each zoning district also contains a list of special exceptions. Special exceptions are not permitted by right in a zone, but after review by the Board of Adjustment, they may be allowed if there are no negative impacts on nearby properties or if any negative impacts may be ameliorated. If a special exception is needed, the Urban Planning office should be contacted for a consultation. An application and application fee must be filed with the City Clerk. After the application is submitted, the staff reviews and makes a recommendation to the Board of Adjustment. The Board of Adjustment holds a public meeting on the item then approves, approves with conditions, or denies the special exception. The process takes approximately one month from the time the application is filed to the final decision of the Board of Adjustment.

Contact: Urban Planning 319-356-5240

Streets and public grounds, Use of

A parade/public assembly permit is required for use of public grounds by a group of more than 25 persons for events such as parades and runs on public streets or events in City Plaza.

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Taxicabs

A permit is required to own and/or operate a motorized vehicle furnished with a driver and carrying passengers. Includes taxicab, limousine, pedicab and horse-drawn vehicles. A number of requirements must be met before the application and application fee can be processed by the City Clerk.

Visit www.icgov.org/taxi for more information. 

Contact: City Clerk's Office 319-356-5040

Temporary use

A temporary use permit is required for any temporary outdoor use on a lot other than the principal use intended on that lot.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120

Temporary use permit application

Vending

  • Ambulatory vendor 

An ambulatory vendor permit is required if you want to sell food or other goods while moving about the City Plaza in downtown Iowa City.

Contact: City Manager's Office 319-356-5010

Learn more

  • Mobile Downtown food cart vendor

If you are interested in setting up a food cart on the plaza downtown, you will need a mobile food cart vendor permit.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120 

Mobile Downtown food cart vendor application

  • Mobile food truck vendor

If you are interested in operating a mobile food truck in Iowa City, you will need a mobile food truck vendor permit.

Contact: Building Inspection Services 319-356-5123

Mobile food truck vendor administrative rules

Mobile food truck vendor application

Zoning

The City of Iowa City has designated various areas throughout the city as appropriate for industrial and commercial uses. When looking for a business location, it is suggested that these areas be considered first. The Department of Neighborhood and Development Services supplies general information on zoning and allowable land uses in various zoning categories. Most information is available over the phone or in person free of charge.

Contact: Neighborhood and Development Services 319-356-5120