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Start a Business

Starting a Business in Leavenworth

Welcome to the City of Leavenworth!  Leavenworth is a tourist destination that attracts millions of visitors each year due to its Old World Bavarian-Alpine theme as well as the abundance and variety of year-round recreational opportunities afforded by the mountains and rivers that surround the city. The purpose of Leavenworth’s Codes as they relate to business (particularly the Old World Bavarian Architectural Theme, Sign, Lighting Standards, and Business Regulations codes), are to protect the public good.  For instance, by furthering Leavenworth’s Old World Bavarian-Alpine theme, we all ensure the continued vitality of our economy through an asset which forms the basis for Leavenworth’s thriving tourist industry.  The regulations are not intended to prohibit business operations, but enhance the overall character of the city.  Compliance with the city’s codes enables businesses to thrive here and forms a key part of the overall attractiveness of the city – thereby contributing to the economic well-being of all residents and business owners in Leavenworth.

If you are thinking about or planning to open a new business in the City of Leavenworth, there is some important information you should know:

Make sure the business is allowed in the Zone District.  The City’s Zoning Code regulates the types of businesses which can be established within the various zoning districts.  There are three Commercial Zones in the city (Central Commercial, General Commercial, and Tourist Commercial) where most business activity occurs.  Depending on your business and requirements for your business, you may need to check with City staff to see if you can locate your business in a zone.  Please contact Development Services Staff at 509-548-5275 to discuss your plans.  City staff realizes that your business inquiry may be proprietary and exercises the greatest discretion.

Overnight or Vacation Rentals. Overnight, weekend, vacation, or any other type of accommodation rentals which are for a period of less than one month are NOT allowed in any of the Residential Zone Districts of the City or its Urban Growth Area – including Multifamily Residential, RL-6, RL-10, and RL-12 zones. In many cases and where allowed (located in the Commercial districts), homes which become rentals are required to perform physical alterations (such as fire sprinkler systems and parking improvements) to occur and require City licensing. The Washington State Department of Health also regulates overnight rentals.  Please visit http://www.doh.wa.gov/ for State licensing requirements.  If you have a question regarding use of a property as a rental of less than one month duration, please contact Development Services Staff at 509-548-5275.

Changing the use of an existing building or business space.  The City’s Zoning Code regulates the types of businesses which can be established with the various zoning districts.  Changing the use of a building or business space (for example changing what was a retail store into a restaurant) may also require review and permitting for items such as building code requirements (exits, occupancy, sprinklers, restrooms, barrier free / ADA compliance, etc), and parking. Please contact Development Services Staff at 509-548-5275 to discuss your plans.  A pre-application meeting with the City may be required.

Signage.  Signage within the City is regulated by the City’s Sign Code (LMC 14.10).  We recommend consulting with our staff or the Design Review Board early in the process of planning your business for developing signage in compliance with Code.

Business Licensing.  “Business” includes all activities, occupations, trades, pursuits or professions located and/or engaged in within the City with the object of gain, benefit or advantage to the taxpayer or to another person or class, directly or indirectly. Each business location is a separate business. Different activities, occupations, trades, professions or pursuits, although carried on at a single physical location, are deemed separate businesses, each requiring a separate business license. Such “different activities” shall be determined by the City and shall include, but not be limited to, businesses with differing names and/or signage, businesses in one location with differing owners, and businesses carried on at the same location under the direction of the same business owner which are differing in nature.  Examples of types of businesses which require a City license include, but are not limited to:

  • Retail shops, restaurants, offices, and services.
  • Home offices.  A Home Occupation permit may also be required depending on the use.
  • Trades and construction companies located outside of the City, but performing services in the City (such as contractors, plumbers, painters, and handy-men).   Licensing through Washington State Labor and Industries may be necessary prior to approval of a City license.  Sub-contractors working under a legally licensed general contractor may not require a separate City license.
  • Peddling (“Peddler” means any person, either as principal or agent, who carries goods, wares, services and merchandise, articles, things or personal property of whatsoever name, nature or description from house to house, place to place, or upon any street, highway or public place within the city for sale or any person who goes from house to house, dwelling place to dwelling place or upon any street, highway or public place within the city, soliciting or taking orders for the purchase or sale of goods, wares, services or merchandise, articles, things or personal property of whatsoever name, nature or description to be delivered in the future) is allowed by permit in the Residential Zone Districts of the city ONLY.
  • Transient Businesses such as temporary fireworks or fruit stands.  (“Transient business operator” means any person either as principal or agent who sells goods, wares, services or merchandise at a fixed location on private property not within a permanent structure or building.)  Transient businesses are strictly regulated by Leavenworth Municipal Code, including but not limited to the following:
    • Utilities shall be provided by conventional permanent (underground) connections. Portable generators for electrical power shall not be permitted.
    • Transient businesses shall be subject to design review and sign approval procedures (structures and signs must be compatible with the Old World Bavarian Alpine Theme)
    • A transient business shall be a related business to the principal business on site and be an allowed use as defined by the zoning code. As an example, if the primary business is the sale of food, the transient business shall sell only food. If there is no principal business on site, a transient business shall be allowed per the permitted uses allowed in the appropriate zone.
    • A transient business must be conducted out of a structure that is no smaller than 64 square feet and no larger than 120 square feet. A Washington State licensed architect or a Washington State licensed engineer stamped plan of the structure shall be submitted to the City.
    • A transient business shall not be allowed to operate out of any motor vehicle or trailer whether or not the vehicle or trailer is operational.

Please contact City Development Services Department staff if you have any questions about starting a business.

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