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Building Inspection and Code Enforcement

Keeping tabs on the safety of commercial and residential structures under construction in Columbia Falls is the responsibility of the City’s Building Inspectors. The City’s Building Inspection and Code Enforcement services are provided through the City of Whitefish by contract.  You can reach the building inspector at buildingdepartment@cityofwhitefish.org or by calling (406)863-2410.

For all Building, Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing permits, the process begins at the City of Columbia Falls by contacting  Public Works Clerk Alex Vissotzky (406) 892-4432 or via email at vissotzkya@cityofcolumbiafalls.com  or City Clerk Barb Staaland at (406) 892-4388.

Building Permit Packet

Electrical, Plumbing & Mechanical Permits Applications

The City Council adopted Ordinance 771 in February 2018 that added Chapter 18.411 Accessory Apartments. This chapter provides for the addition of an accessory apartment with an administrative conditional permit under these requirements:

18.411 ACCESSORY APARTMENT

18.411.010 Accessory Apartment Conditional Use Permit Standards

  1. An accessory apartment is limited to 800 square feet. The accessory apartment may be located within the primary residence such as attic or basement. If an accessory apartment is located in a detached garage or stand-alone structure, it shall be located rear of the front of the house.
  2. Lots or parcels where accessory apartments are proposed shall be compliant with minimum lots sizes and the accessory apartment shall meet setbacks for accessory structures. Only one accessory apartment is allowed per lot of record.
  3. Accessory Apartments shall be rented for a period of not less than one month unless the property owner has received an Administrative Conditional Use Permit for Vacation Rentals pursuant to Chapter 18.445.
  4. One off-street parking space must be provided for the accessory apartment in addition to the parking required for the primary dwelling, in accordance with the parking and loading provision of this title.
  5. An accessory apartment that will exceed 800 square feet is subject to a Conditional Use Permit pursuant to Chapter 18.210.

Before you add an accessory apartment – OBTAIN THE REQUIRED PERMITS – BUILDING, ELECTRICAL, PLUMBING

Changing an existing garage or a portion of your house into an apartment takes considerable planning and may be cost prohibitive. There are many websites with information such as: https://www.garageconversion.org/garage-conversion-gallery/convert-garage-into-apartment/

“Converting a garage into an apartment isn’t an easy task and unless you’re a professional it isn’t something you want to undertake. Many times when homeowners attempt to convert a garage into an apartment, they end up with an illegal garage conversion.  Knowledgeable contractors will know the proper coding and set up your garage into an apartment correctly. Having it converted legally to an apartment depends on the size of your property and the location of the garage on the property to determine minimum setbacks from your property line.The distance from the nearest sewer line, water supply, power lines, interior finishes such as flooring and cabinets can also make a big impact on the price. The average garage to apartment conversion cost varies widely between $40,000 and $70,000.”

Please contact the Planning/Zoning Department before undertaking an accessory apartment project whether you are converting an existing structure or building a new structure.  We can help you comply with the conditional use requirements.