Pocatello Planning & Development Frequently Asked Questions

What is the zoning for my property?

Zoning varies throughout the city and does not always coincide with the kinds of uses you may see in a specific area. To find out the zoning of a specific property, please call the Planning and Development Services Department at 208-234-6184.

Can I have a second dwelling unit in my home?

Duplexes—or two units in one structure—are permitted in all residential zoning districts as long as you have a large enough lot, can meet required setbacks, and can provide at least four off-street parking spaces. You must also meet all building and safety codes. Lot size requirements are based on the underlying zoning; to check whether yours is large enough, please call the Planning and Development Services Department at 208-234-6184.

How close can I build to my property line?

Setbacks, or the distance between buildings and property lines, differ depending on zoning designation and the type of building. Setbacks range broadly and vary based upon the underlying zoning of your property. To check your setbacks, please call the Planning and Development Services Department at 208-234-6184.

How long does it take to get a building permit?

Residential building permits usually take 5 or fewer working days from the time the application is received until the permit is issued. Commercial permits take up to 10 working days. If workloads are heavy (such as often happens during peak construction periods) or permit applications are incomplete, missing needed drawings or other information, these time periods may be longer.

Do I have to have grass in the curb strip?

Curb strips greater than 3 feet must remain landscaped. If your curb strip is less than 3 feet wide, you have the option of filling it with concrete. Rocks and bark are not permitted, as they can spill onto the streets and sidewalks. The city encourages grass, flowers, and trees, both for the aesthetic appeal and to help deal with water run-off. A list of approved “street trees” is available at City Hall, 911 North 7th.

What is the difference between a regular house and a boarding house?

In a normal single-family or single-household residence, a maximum occupancy of 1 family or 3 unrelated individuals is allowed. A boarding house is allowed greater occupancy of up to 6 unrelated individuals, but must have an approved boarding house permit and license.

How do I know if a house has approval from the city to operate as a boarding house?

The city requires that all licensed boarding houses post a sign on the front of the building that contains information for a local site manager and a license number. If there is no such sign and activity suggests a boarding house is operating, chances are that it is not a legal boarding house.

Does the city shutdown illegal boarding houses?

The city enforces the boarding house ordinance on a complaint basis. If a complaint is received about a possible boarding house, an investigation will be conducted and if necessary the property owner will be asked to bring the property into compliance by either reducing the number of occupants or obtaining a boarding house permit. While we try to be as thorough and consistent as possible in enforcement, there may be boarding houses being operated that we do not receive complaints about and, therefore, have not been subject to code enforcement actions.

What are the most common reasons people call in boarding house complaints?

The most common reason people call in complaints is due to the number of vehicles at a home. If there are more people living in the home than there are parking spaces available, residents and visitors are forced to park in front of other people's properties on a regular basis. Therefore, to avoid any unfounded complaints about overcrowding at your home, be aware of your parking habits and of the parking habits of your visitors. If they are regularly parking in front of other people's homes, don't be surprised if your landlord receives a letter from the city about possible overcrowding.

Can any house be converted to a boarding house?

Only single-family houses and duplexes in eligible zoning districts may apply for boarding house status. For example, around the University the Whittier Neighborhood is located in an eligible zoning district. However, the lower campus neighborhood and upper University areas are not.

I'm concerned about the junky property down the street. Are there laws about this sort of thing? Where can I complain?

Yes, the city has a Property Maintenance Code; you can call the Code Enforcement hotline at 208-234-6287 or report potential code violations online.

Why does my house have a “code enforcement” case, when my neighbor's house is worse than mine?

Code enforcement cases are generated by both neighborhood inspection surveys and receipt of individual complaints, and can be based on a variety of different codes. For information on your specific case, please contact the Code Enforcement Officer who wrote the letter/citation for the details of your case.

Help, we're receiving notices of violation from the city's Code Enforcement Division. Can you help us somehow?

Yes, if your household income is less than the average for our city (for instance, currently for a family of 4 that would be $39,350 per year), the Renewal Program may be able to assist you in making all necessary home repairs (even inside your home). Loans are very affordable and easily fit most family budgets. City staff will help you find the lowest bidders and oversee the work.

I've heard the City sometimes buys property in the central neighborhoods. Would you buy mine?

It's true the City is interested in the donation and/or purchase of residential properties that might accommodate new infill housing to be built by Pocatello Neighborhood Housing Services or Habitat for Humanity. However, unless a property is considered non-conforming under the city's Zoning Ordinance (e.g., a business in a residential zone), only properties that are seriously deteriorated, vacant, and not habitable can be considered.

Aren't you guys the same as Pocatello Neighborhood Housing Services?

No, Pocatello Neighborhood Housing Services (PNHS) is a local non-profit organization that assists homeowners in the Central Neighborhoods of the city. They represent a partnership between neighborhood residents, the business community, and government, and they have an independent governing board. The city's Community Development Block Grant funding assists with a number of their programs. However, city and PNHS efforts are closely coordinated and city officials/staff work closely with PNHS.

The sidewalks in front of my home are dangerous. Can the city help with the repairs?

In Pocatello, the rights-of-way (sidewalks, curb/gutter, planting strips) are the adjacent property owner's responsibility. To help owners, however, the city does offer some assistance. For very low income persons in the Central Neighborhoods, a 100% grant may be available. For others, a combination grant/loan program may be available. Outside of the Central Neighborhoods, a loan program (presently at 6%, although subject to change without notice) is available and is payable over 3 years.

Help…I need an emergency repair at my home. Can you help?

Yes we can, if you are a low to moderate income homeowner facing an imminent threat to life or safety (e.g., leaking roofs, plumbing/electrical emergencies, inoperable heating system). You can apply to the Renewal Program for emergency assistance. Loans are very affordable and easily fit most family budgets and city staff can help you find the lowest bidders and oversee the work.

I've heard the city provides special services for Senior Citizens. What help could I get for me or my elderly parents?

While in many cases the city can offer housing repair assistance, we do not directly offer additional services to senior citizens. However, we do provide Community Development Block Grant assistance to SouthEastern Idaho Community Action Agency (SEICAA)'s Meals on Wheels Program (call 208-232-1114) which can provide a hot meal each day.

I've heard the city has neighborhood associations. How can I find out where and when mine meets?

Neighborhood associations are actually affiliated with Pocatello Neighborhood Housing Services. You can call 208-232-9468 and ask for their neighborhood organizer.

I've been having financial difficulties lately and I need utility and rent assistance. Can the city help?

No, the city does not offer such assistance. However, one of our community partners does. We would encourage you to contact SouthEastern Idaho Community Action Agency (SEICAA) at 208-232-1114.

I want to sign up for federal housing assistance (a voucher) to help cover my rent. Can I sign up there at City Hall?

No, the Pocatello Housing Authority administers those funds and is a separate entity. They are located at 711 North 6th and can be reached at 208-233-6276.

Why can't the city spend its federal Community Development Block Grant funding (about $600,000 annually) throughout the city?

In a very limited way it can, but only if it directly assists a low to moderate income homeowner. Generally, though, the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) funding to benefit low to moderate income neighborhoods (as defined by the 2000 Census). These funds are particularly targeted toward providing decent housing, maintaining a safe and suitable living environment within neighborhoods, and providing expanded economic opportunities. Besides benefiting low to moderate income residents, the funding can and is used to eliminate slum and blight throughout the community.

What is tax increment financing?

Tax increment financing (TIF) is a State-created method for local governments to use to increase funding options for eligible projects such as infrastructure improvements or other public improvements. TIF districts are created by action of the City Council, with project approval and oversight done by the Pocatello Development Authority. When a TIF is created, the base valuation is set at what the property assessment is for the current tax year. When improvements are made to property within the TIF district, the increase in tax revenue (and only the increase) from the increased valuation is given directly to the development authority for improvements in that area. Use of TIF funds does not reduce the current amount of tax dollars being forwarded to counties, school districts, or other taxing agencies. In fact, school districts do receive a portion of the increased tax revenue. Using TIF funds simply allows local governments to capture the increased tax revenue for use on projects that directly benefit the public.

How do I get my property listed on the National Register?

If you believe your home qualifies as historically important for reasons of architecture, who built it, who resided in it, etc., you can contact the State Historic Preservation Office at 208-334-3861 for information and requirements for listing on the register.

Where do I get more information?

For more information on these or other Planning or Neighborhood Services questions, please feel free to contact the Planning and Development Services Department at 208-234-6184 or stop by City Hall at 911 North 7th Avenue.