Commercial Certificates of Occupancy

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Obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy

The Uniform Statewide Building Code requires a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) be issued for any new building “prior to any occupancy.” The CO can be issued once the work authorized by the permit has been completed in accordance with any pertinent laws and ordinances. We require the owner or the general contractor make application for the CO, 7 business days in advance of the anticipated date the CO will be needed. Applications must be made a minimum of 7 business days in advance of the target date. Applications submitted for a target date less than 7 business days in advance will not be accepted. This application can be made at the Building Safety and Permits Division, in Building E in the James City County Government Complex on Mounts Bay Road or at the James City County Satellite Office in the Emergency Operations Center in Toano next to the Toano Fire Station. A $50 Building Safety and Permits fee and a $50 Fire Department fee are due with the CO application.

The applicant needs to have the approved site plan number and the building permit number to make application for a CO. Routine inspections, e.g. building final, electrical final, plumbing final, etc. do not have to be completed previous to the application for the CO. The CO application is routed to various County departments who will send a representative to the location to determine if it is OK with those departments to issue either a permanent or a temporary CO. Customarily, these departments include Fire, Engineering and Resource Protection Division, Planning, and JCSA (Sewer and Water). In some circumstances, other departments may also be involved. The routine building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, etc., inspections can take place concurrently with this process.

Ensuring Public Safety

Building Safety and Permits Division understands that the opening of a new commercial building can be a complex process subject to a broad variety of problematic situations. Our principal concern is public safety. In cooperation with the owner/general contractor and other county departments, we will work with the CO applicant to issue a Temporary CO when possible and appropriate. On sites with multiple new occupancies, such as a new shopping center, new CO’s frequently do not all occur simultaneously. When dealing with such circumstances, the general contractor should make it clear to customers and construction workers what part of the site they can visit and what part they should avoid. This should be accomplished by appropriate signage and barriers such as saw horses or safety ribbon. Installation of commercial building fixtures, such as shelving, and merchandizing may be accomplished in advance of the CO being issued, pending approval of the Building Safety and Permits Division.

Temporary Certificates

If a Temporary CO is issued, it is issued with the understanding that all the outstanding items will be resolved within the time frame identified on the CO and a re-inspection will be requested by the owner or general contractor. If the outstanding work cannot be completed by the deadline, then the applicant should contact Building Safety and Permits in writing and request an extension of the Temporary CO. The request for an extension should explain why this is necessary. If an owner or general contractor allows a Temporary CO to expire without resolving outstanding issues, the Building Safety and Permits Division may pursue enforcement action.