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Zoning

Location is key. When starting your business the first step in making sure your plan is feasible, is to determine if the location is appropriate for your business, based on our zoning specifications.

We take pride in maintaining healthy growth of our county, which is why we maintain specific zoning specifications, to ensure a functional and flourishing community. We maintain 5 base zoning district types: Commercial, Industrial, Multi-Family, Residential, and Other/Special.

Use the following Zoning Verification map to determine if opening your business is possible at your intended location. For more information regarding specific zoning regulations, visit our Zoning section or review the complete zoning ordinance (Chapter 90 of the Columbia County Code).

Zoning Verification

Please use the interactive map to determine the zoning district for where you intend to start your business.

 

For complete detail regarding the property’s zoning requirements, or if you want to explore the possibilities of rezoning, please visit our Zoning section for further information.

Overlay Districts

In addition to the base zoning districts, the County employs a number of overlay districts to provide additional protection to high visibility areas of the County and require increased design standards. The requirements of these districts are applied to any non-residentially zoned property in addition to the requirements of the underlying zone.

The three main Overlay Districts are:

  • Evans Town Center Overlay District, encouraging the creation of a unique town center that promotes links between public, medical, retail, and service uses;
  • Node Protection Overlay Districts, established at major intersections where additional growth is expected and desired;
  • Corridor Protection Overlay Districts, established along major arterial roads to protect these primary transportation corridors with thorough standards for screening, landscaping, and aesthetics.

 Whether you feel the property you wish to start your business at is in one of these Overlay Districts, or you would like to learn more about them, please visit our Zoning section for further information.

Building Permit & Site Plan Review

Depending if you are looking to enter an already established storefront or build one from the ground up, different levels of site plan review and building permits will be required.

Given the varying specifications of each unique business, our Planning Department is available for consultations at any point throughout the process. Understanding the full project scope and how it can be affected by building and development requirements is crucial to assessing a project’s feasibility, timeline, and cost.

Contact the Planning Department to schedule an appointment via email or (706) 868-3400.

You can also visit the Site Plan Review & Building Permit section for further information and links to necessary applications.

Occupational Tax (Business License)

All businesses with a physical location in the unincorporated area Columbia County are required to pay Occupational Tax, commonly referred to as a business license. The fees are based on the number of employees and range from $100.00 to $2,250.00.

Commercial Business

All businesses operating from a commercial location and are required to complete an occupational tax application, verification of lawful presence and private employer affidavit.

The application will be reviewed by Planning, Department of Health, Fire Marshal and Water Utility Environmental Compliance. The review typically takes one week to complete.

Mobile Business and Home Occupations

Businesses that do not operate from a commercial location are considered home occupations. This includes mobile businesses that are not operated from a commercial location. The business is required to complete an occupational tax application, verification of lawful presence, private employer affidavit and home occupation compliance.

The application will be reviewed by Planning and Water Utility Environmental Compliance and typically takes one week to complete.


Additional Licenses & Permits

Alcoholic Beverage Licenses

The Columbia County Alcoholic Beverage Code was modified May 19, 2015. Please be sure to review the code before applying for a license. Licensees are required to maintain a copy of the code on their premise.

To obtain an application for an alcoholic beverage license, please contact the Licensing and Permits department via email or (706) 312-7301.

Temporary Alcoholic Beverage Permits

A temporary alcoholic beverage permit must be issued for any function at which alcoholic beverages are sold to the guest directly (cash bar or tickets) or indirectly (alcoholic beverage provided with the cost of admission or membership). An officer of a business with the authority to bind that business or the individuals putting on the function must apply for the temporary permit.

The completed application must be received at least 21 days prior to the date of the function.

Download the Temporary Alcohol Beverage Permit.

Once the permit is issued from the county, the applicant must then apply to the State of Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR). The most recent guide to DOR event permits was published November 18, 2015. DOR Alcohol and Tobacco may be reached via email at atdiv@dor.ga.gov, or 1 (877) 423-6711.

Massage Operator’s License

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners adopted Ordinance 16-07 creating a massage operator's license (MOL) that is required for all businesses that provide massage services. This license is in addition to the occupational tax. All applications are presented to the Planning Commission for approval. The process typically takes several weeks to complete, depending on the timing of the application and the meeting schedules.

Massage Operator’s License Application

Massage Ordinance

Inspections & Reviews 

Water Utility Environmental Compliance Review

All Occupational Tax Applications are reviews by Water Utility Environmental Compliance for to ensure compliance with Federal, State, and local regulations for compliance of backflow prevention devices, grease interceptors, lint interceptors, reclaim tanks, hair interceptors, oil/grit interceptors and oil/water separators. Backflow protection is required on all water services such as commercial domestic, irrigation, and fire service. The devices are required to have an annual test performed by a Backflow Assembly Tester approved in the State of Georgia. All food establishments are required to have grease interceptors installed.

As the requirements vary widely depending on the business, location, and other factors, the timeline for their review may vary. Some items that may be inspected are, but not limited to:

  • The commercial domestic, irrigation, and fire water service line will require backflow preventer installation, testing or repair/replacement.
  • The sewer service or plumbing will require a grease interceptor installation, testing or repair/replacement. This includes, but is not limited to, restaurants, cafeterias, cafes, fast-food outlets, schools, fraternal organizations, churches, hospitals and daycare centers.
  • The sewer service or plumbing will require an oil/water interceptor installation, testing or repair/replacement.
  • The dumpster drain may require an oil/grit interceptor installation, testing or repair/replacement.
  • For existing commercial businesses, verify backflow test and /or Fats, Oils, and Grease manifest are current.

For more information, visit Water Utility: Engineering & Inspections or contact Environmental Compliance may be contacted via email or (706) 863-6928.

Health Department

All Commercial Occupational Tax Applications are reviewed by the Health Department to determine if on county water/sewer and to determine if permitting by health department will be required.

As the requirements vary widely depending on the business, location, and other factors, the timeline for their review may vary. Some items that may be inspected are, but not limited to:

  • It must be determined if the business is served by county sewer or if it will be served by an on-site sewage system (septic tank). If county sewer is not available then suitability of an on-site sewage system must be examined.
  • It must be determined if the business is served by county or city water or well water. If on well water state and local testing of the water supply may be required.
  • Most food service businesses will require a permit from the Health Department or Ga Dept. of Agriculture. The business owner should contact the Health Department for information regarding plan review and requirements. The applications for food service establishments can be found online at: https://dph.georgia.gov/food-service
  • Public Swimming Pools: require a permit from the Health Department. The business owner should contact the Health Department for information regarding plan review and requirements. Information pertaining to public swimming pool requirements can be found online at: https://dph.georgia.gov/pools
  • Tourist Courts: The business owner should contact the Health Department for information regarding plan review and requirements. Information pertaining to tourists court facilities can be found online at: https://dph.georgia.gov/hotels-motels-and-campgrounds

For more information, the Health Department may be contacted via email or (706) 868-3330.

Fire Marshal

All Commercial Occupational Tax Applications are reviews by the Fire Marshal for fire and life safety code compliance.

As the requirements vary widely depending on the business, location, and other factors, the timeline for their review may vary. Some items that may be inspected are, but not limited to:

  • Potential fire hazards for occupants or firefighters in the event of an emergency;
  • Fire suppression and alarm systems;
  • Exit and emergency lights;
  • Mechanical and electrical rooms;
  • Fire rated walls.

For more information, the Fire Marshal may be contacted via email or (706) 868-3420.