Starting a Business in Lake Oswego

The City of Lake Oswego welcomes new businesses and encourages business expansion.

Business License

A business license is required to operate a business in Lake Oswego, unless exempted by State law. This includes home-based businesses and door-to-door solicitation. You can apply for a business license online or in person through the Finance Department, which is located at City Hall (380 A Avenue) and can be reached at 503-635-0260.

Where to Locate Your Business

The City of Lake Oswego has eight different commercial zones and two industrial zones (view Business District Map).  Each zone allows a different mix and size of businesses and has different zoning requirements.  Before purchasing property in Lake Oswego or signing a lease, please consult with the Planning Department to assure your proposed use  is allowed on a particular site and whether other development regulations apply.

Home-based Businesses
The City of Lake Oswego is home to more than 800 home-based businesses, or Home Occupations. These include:

  • Consultants
  • Web-based industries
  • Music lessons
  • Contractor offices
  • Short-Term Rentals
  • And many more

All home-based businesses require a Business License from the City and are subject to Home Occupation Standards (link is external)

What Are the City’s Zoning Requirements?

As noted above, the City of Lake Oswego has eight different commercial zones and two industrial zones. In addition to these base zones, certain commercial properties may be further regulated by Planned Development standards (Westlake, Mountain Park) or overlay districts (Lake Grove Village Center, West Lake Grove Design District, Downtown Redevelopment Design District).  Each zone allows a different mix and size of uses and has different site development standards. 

Before purchasing property in Lake Oswego or signing a lease, please contact the Planning Department and a planner will assist you in reviewing the city’s zoning map and land use regulations to determine if the business is allowed in the location that you are considering. The Planning Department is located at City Hall (380 A Avenue) and is open:

Mon-Tue               7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Wed                      8:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Thu-Fri                  8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
 

You can also call the Planner on Duty at 503-635-0270, or email planning@lakeoswego.city,  and a planner will respond no later than the next business day.

Do I Need a Permit?

The Planning and Building Services Department developed a guide intended to answer most basic questions about non-residential building and planning requirements in the City of Lake Oswego.

Is a Land Use Application Required?

The Planning Department can tell you if a land use application is required for your business. Land use approval is typically required when there is an intensification of land use on the property, additional parking is required by code, or if there will be changes to a building’s exterior, vehicle access, landscape area, or similar change. Land use review is also required for businesses that city code classifies as “conditional uses”.

If land use review is required, a planner will provide you with information on the permit process, including a general timeline and how to request a Pre-Application Conference. (The land use review process can take 45-120 days following submittal of a complete application.)

Get Valuable Information Up-front in a Pre-Application Conference

If a land use application is required, you will need to request a Pre-Application Conference (Pre-App). A Pre-App is required before submitting most land use applications, including:

  • New buildings and most additions and exterior remodels
  • Variances
  • Conditional Use Permits and land divisions (partitions)

The purpose of the Pre-App is to discuss the development proposal, and the applicable code requirements, including instructions for filing a complete land use application with the City.  At the Pre-App, you will receive specific information on the City’s zoning and development standards to help you with your proposal.

It is not necessary to own the property in order to schedule a Pre-App conference for it.  In fact, the City encourages prospective business and property owners to go through a Pre-App prior to purchasing or leasing property or establishing a business that may require land use review.  Please contact the Planning Department to determine whether your new business or development will require land use review.

Signage

The Sign Code (LOC Chapter 47 (link is external)) allows temporary and permanent signs to be displayed on private property. The purpose of the Sign Code is to ensure that signs are constructed, erected and maintained in a safe manner that does not create visual distractions for motorists. It also helps our community maintain a neat, clean, orderly and attractive appearance. Most signs – temporary and permanent – need a permit from the City. For information on the types of signs allowed, see the Sign Code information page (link is external).

Building Permits

You will also want to check with the Building Department to verify whether building permits are required for your tenant improvements (remodeling), if any. This would include changes to the structure, or electrical, plumbing, or HVAC (mechanical systems) work.

The Building Department is located at City Hall (380 A Avenue, in Lake Oswego) and is open:

Mon-Tue   7:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Wed-Fri     8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
 

You are also responsible for complying with any requirements of other agencies, including Clackamas County and State agencies (e.g., Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Health Department, etc.). The City of Lake Oswego does not administer their requirements.
 

Economic Development and Other Resources

The Tigard / Lake Oswego Enterprise Zone provides an economic development opportunity for Lake Oswego's Southwest Employment Area, which includes light industrial and commercial land in proximity to I-5 and Boones Ferry Road. For information on available business incentives, please see the Tigard / Lake Oswego Enterprise Zone web page.

The City of Lake Oswego is a member of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of more than 500 business, civic and charitable organizations dedicated to creating the conditions for business success in the Lake Oswego community.

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