Starting a New Business

Starting a Business in Safety Harbor

Starting a Business in Safety Harbor

Thank you for considering the City of Safety Harbor to operate your business. Choosing a location and preparing the space for opening day requires several steps. City staff is available to assist you in this endeavor. Below are some questions you may want to consider before getting started.

Is the Use Allowed?

As you consider a business location, it is recommended you confirm that the use is allowed within the property’s zoning district. A link to the zoning district map is below:

Allowable uses can be viewed in the Land Development Code at:

Within the Community Redevelopment District, this information is in Article VI (Community Redevelopment District). Outside of the Community Redevelopment District, this information is in Article II (District Regulations).

Allowable uses are either permitted or conditional.  Permitted uses are allowed by right and conditional uses require the approval of an application by the City Commission, based on adopted standards of review.

If you are building a new building, a site plan is required. If you are adding on to an existing building by 500 sq. ft. or more to a site that has an approved site plan, a site plan major modification is required.

What permits are required?

Most building renovations work require building permits, including, but not limited to electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and windows/doors. Any structural, electrical, mechanical, or plumbing renovations require a building permit. State statutes require contractors to be licensed, bonded, and insured. City staff reviews permits for compliance with the Land Development Code, City Code and Fire Code. Pinellas County reviews permits for compliance with the Florida Building Code.

If you are opening a business in an existing building and it is a “change of occupancy” based on the Florida Building Code, additional permits may be necessary to bring the building or suite into code compliance. An example of a change of occupancy is changing from a residence to a non-residential use such as retail, restaurant, or office.

Common improvements include ramps, doorways, bathrooms, fire code, and parking. A Change of Occupancy permit is required to be approved. These permits can be combined with renovation permits.

Parking can be met on site or through an off-site agreement with a business within 500 feet of the subject property where there is a written agreement for permanent, 24-hour parking. Within the downtown, required parking for retail, office, and service uses may be reduced for adjacent on-street parking and a fee-in-lieu is available. Parking requirements may be viewed in Section 147.00 of the Land Development Code. A link is below:

What are the Permitting & Inspection Fees?

Permits submitted directly to Pinellas County are subject to Pinellas County permit fees.

City permits are subject to impact fees, water connection fees, and backflow fees.  Inspection fees are $54 for each inspection or lockout.

When Should I Plan for Signage?

It is recommend that you plan for signage early on in the planning stages. A wide array of signage options are allowed by code. Permits are required

for most signs and sign permits are required to be submitted by a licensed contractor. Designing, permitting, and installing a sign can take several months. Temporary signs are not permitted in Safety Harbor, except for banners, which may only be permitted for 14 days for a special event.  As a result, it is recommended that you plan well in advance to design, permit and install any business signage.  

Wayfinding signs for businesses are located in the Community Redevelopment District at several roadway intersections. There is no application fee to apply. Business owners are responsible for purchasing the sign.  To see if there is a space available near your business or apply, contact the Planning Division.

In the Community Redevelopment District and the Restricted Commercial (C-1A) zoning district, A-Frame signs are allowed. A-frame signs within the right of way require an annual permit including a proof of minimum general liability insurance.

How Do I Obtain an Alcoholic Beverage or Tobacco License?

Alcohol and tobacco licenses are overseen by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. Forms may be downloaded from the agency website. The City of Safety Harbor Planning Division is responsible for reviewing the zoning section of the form. If you need a zoning sign off, it is recommended that you make an appointment to ensure staff is available.

The Safety Harbor Land Development Code prohibits the sale of alcohol within 500 feet of any church or school, except within the Main Street Marketplace (MSM) character district and Restricted Commercial (C-1A), zoning district.

Is a business tax required?

A local business tax is levied annually on permanent businesses that are operating within the City of Safety Harbor. Business taxes are renewed annually. Renewal letters are sent in July of each year and due by October 1st of each year. A list of fees by use is below:

Some exemptions may be granted with documentation, including but not limited to charitable organizations, veterans, and persons 65 years of age or older, based on Florida Statutes (Chapter 205) and the City Code (Chapter 14).

New businesses or businesses moving to a new location are required to have an approved business tax. Depending upon the use that was there previously, some renovations may be required. If you are opening a new business or moving locations within the city, fill out a “New Business Form” and staff will provide information regarding any required steps prior to applying for a business tax. Business applications should be submitted after all renovations are complete and the space is leased or purchased by the business owner.  

An updated business tax application is required when a business expands uses.

Are any grants available for businesses?

Grants are available within the Community Redevelopment District, through the Downtown Partnership Program. Eligible categories include façade, landscaping, interior renovation, ADA accessibility, fencing, use (hardware store or market) and artistic bike rack. Most grant categories are partial matching grants that are reimbursed when the project is complete.

Is there a Chamber of Commerce in Safety Harbor?

Yes. The City of Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce is located at 200 Main Street in downtown Safety Harbor and offers numerous benefits and networking opportunities to members. The Chamber is also a great referral source for the things you may need to help you open and operate your business. Free business counseling by a representative of the SBDC of Pinellas County is offered by appointment on the 4th Wednesday of each month.

Their website is

What services does the Fire Department offer for new businesses?

The Fire Department offers several services pertaining to life safety.

•Life Safety Inspection: The Fire Department conducts periodic life safety inspections of all inspectable occupancies within the City of Safety Harbor and the fire department’s unincorporated area.

•Site Plan Reviews: Before any permits are issued for construction, alteration, repair or demolition, submitted plans will be reviewed by the fire department in conjunction with our building department officials. The fire department’s portion of the site plan review primarily ensures fire department access and water supply issues as identified in the Florida Fire Prevention Code. 

•Life Safety Plan Reviews: Building plans submitted to the fire department are reviewed to ensure that all buildings are constructed in compliance to required building and life safety codes and provide an acceptable degree of public safety from fire and any other hazardous conditions. The review by the fire department also allows us to inform the building owner, architect, contractor and engineer of all applicable code requirements. The Florida Fire Prevention Code is applied to all life safety plan reviews.

•Fire Protection Plan Reviews: All fire protection equipment (sprinklers, fire alarms, standpipes, etc.) receive a thorough review by the fire department also. This ensure the system is designed and installed appropriately, meeting minimum standards as set forth by applicable NFPA standards.

For More Information

Chamber of Commerce

200 Main Street | 727-726-2890 |

Community Development Department

727-724-1555 x1702

Zoning and Grants

727-724-1555 x1702



Business Taxes

727-724-1555 x1301

Fire Department

700 Main Street | 727-724-1535