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Zoning Code Amendments to Improve the City’s Historic Land Use Review Process

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City of Portland, Bureau of Development Services


April 30, 2013

Contact: Tim Heron, Bureau of Development Services, 503.823.7726

On March 6, 2013 Portland’s City Council unanimously voted to adopt Portland Zoning Code amendments that will improve the City’s historic land use review process and create a quicker, easier-to-understand and more predictable review process for minor home improvement projects in historic and conservation districts. These Zoning Code amendments go into effect on May 1, 2013.

In Portland’s nationally recognized historic districts most exterior work on buildings, as well as new construction, is subject to a historic land use review process. Both property owners and historic preservation advocates have expressed concerns that the land use review process for minor exterior changes to homes are time-consuming and costly. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability developed new Zoning Code language to address these issues in collaboration with the Bureau of Development Services (BDS), which will administer and enforce the new regulations.

Paul Scarlett, BDS Director, stated, “This was a great interactive process between the community and the city that resulted in a more streamlined Zoning Code that is a faster and more affordable land use process.  It will allow for BDS to implement the code in a more efficient and effective manner”. 

Community members and representatives of the Historic Landmarks (HLC) and Planning and Sustainability (PSC) Commissions also expressed support for the amendment package.

The new handout, Historic Resource Review Information for the Homeowners gives a summary of the new Zoning Code changes. See additional handouts for Historic Resources.


The following major amendments were approved to the Portland Zoning Code and will go into effect May 1, 2013: 

  1. New Historic Resources Definitions – Clarify terminology related to historic resources regulations, including the terms “repair,” “maintenance” and “replacement.” 
  2. Amended Historic Review Triggers/Exemptions – Determine the appropriate level of review in historic and conservation districts for the following:
       a. minor alterations to structures;
       b. alterations on non-street facing facades. 
  3. New Faster Review Process with a Lower Fee – A new land use review procedure with a shorter timeline, no local appeal and a lower fee was created.  The new procedure type, called a Type 1 for small scale proposals less than 150 SF in residential zones, carries a substantially lower fee of $250.