Permit and Development Center FAQ


What do I need to submit a project?
Submit a permit application and attach a .pdf copy of the plans through Customer Self Service.  Informative handouts identifying what details need to be provided for for various types of projects are available under the menus to the left.
Is an architect or engineer required for my project?
We follow the State of Iowa's guidelines for when a design professional is required. You may find them here.

Flood Zone

How can I find out if I live in a flood zone?
Contact the Permit and Development Center at or 515-283-4200, and you will be put in touch with one of our engineers. They can look up the address and let you know. This is a free service. Lending institutions, insurance agents, and realtors do not always have flood to current access zone information. You will also need to speak to a Zoning Enforcement staff member to determine your zoning district classification.
If I live in a flood zone do I need flood insurance?
The City of Des Moines has no flood insurance requirement for properties within flood zones, but rather a strong recommendation. Lending institutions that are federally insured are obligated to require flood insurance before they approve loans/mortgages associated with properties within special flood hazard areas inundated by 100 - year flood (A, AE, AH, AO, A99, V, or VE) as shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM). If your dwelling and/or property is within one of these other flood areas (shaded X, X, or D) as shown on the FIRM, lending institutions may still require flood insurance, but are not obligated to do so. You may wish to visit the following website to check the FIRM zone for your property:
Can I make improvements to my home if I am within a flood zone?
If it is determined that your property is within a special flood hazard area (A, AE, AH, AO, A99, V, or VE) on the FIRM there are restrictions on how much can be done to your home without raising its elevation. If your property is within a IJ-I or FW zoning district, there may be other restrictions.
What are the restrictions I need to be concerned with if I want to make improvements to my home in flood zones A, AE, AH, AO, A99, V, or VE?
If your improvements exceed 50% of the present value of your home, or increase the floor area by 25% or more, you will be required to elevate the first floor and mechanical equipment at least one foot above the 100-year flood elevation. This also applies to flood damage repairs. Improvements are cumulative since February 1991. Flood damage repairs are evaluated after each occurrence. If you plan to exceed either of these values you will need to hire a professional civil engineer to submit a Certificate of Compliance with Flood Plain Development Regulations application prior to approval, and a post-construction Elevation Certificate. See our engineers for more details.
What are the restrictions I need to be concerned with if I want to make improvements to my home in zoning districts U-1 or FW?
If the fair market value of flood damage repair costs exceeds 60% of the pre-flood value of your home you may not be able to occupy or repair your home. You need to discuss your options with a Zoning Enforcement staff member at the PDC. If you want to add on to your home, you will most likely need to seek relief from the Zoning Board of Adjustment, or attempt to rezone your property with the Plan and Zoning Commission and City Council. The Zoning Enforcement staff at the PDC can lead you through these processes. There are no restrictions concerning non-flood related interior improvements in occupied homes.

Residential Grading

Do I need a permit to temporarily store material on my property for future use somewhere else?
Stockpiling of any granular construction material in excess of 5,000 cubic yards on any site requires a grading permit. This includes, but is not limited to, soil, sand and crushed rock.
How do I determine cubic yards?
You determine this figure by multiplying the length of an area by the width, and by the depth, all in feet. Take this resulting amount and divide by 27. This will give you cubic yards.
Is there anything else I need to be concerned with while I am grading or before I start?

The purpose of our grading and soil erosion control Code requirements is to help eliminate the loss of soil from construction activities into drainage facilities and bodies of water, as well as to ensure that existing drainage patterns are not changed to the point of potentially causing damage to property. All downstream sides of your work area may need to be protected with a silt barrier such as silt fence or filter socks. Consult with the Engineering staff at the Permit and Development Center.

Also, be sure to have located any utilities (electric, gas, phone, sewer etc.) within an area to be excavated. There is a free service called Iowa One Call 1-800-292-8989 that will flag or spray paint the location of any known buried utilities on your lot. If any of these are present in this area, contact the utility and let them know your intentions. The depth of soil to be maintained over some of these utilities is important for safety reasons. If there are any utilities in the area, and they have approved your proposed work, use caution in case you might encounter the utilities while digging.

How do I apply for a Grading Permit?
  • Complete and submit a grading permit application form through Customer Self Service to initiate the process.
  • After submitting the electronic application form, you will receive an email with further instructions on how to obtain the permit.  Grading permit fees for residential lots will typically be $130 . 
  • You can work on your lot as soon as an engineering staff member reviews the application, approves the proposal, and issues the permit.
Do I need a grading permit to do some grading on my lot?
Probably not, but if you plan to excavate or disturb an area of 500 square feet (that’s only 25’ x 20’) or more within a flood plain, or within 100 feet of a body of water or recognized drainageway, you will need to purchase a permit. If a permit is required, the City will review your proposal and determine if the work is allowed, or if any changes are needed.
Do I need a permit to fill an area on my property for a future building pad or to make it more usable?
Any fill of dirt, stone, brick, concrete, soil, or similar material covering a cumulative area larger than 2,500 square feet requires a grading permit.