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Annexation is the process of changing municipal boundaries to bring in adjacent unincorporated areas into an existing city, typically to provide urban services not presently available. Either a city or property owner may initiate such action.

The City of Portland has adopted a boundary for the area that it intends to provide urban services at some point in the future as its urban area builds out. This is Portland's urban service boundary (USB) that was adopted in cooperation with surrounding jurisdictions. Property owners within Portland's urban services boundary may apply to annex to the City of Portland to receive urban level services, such as connection to City sewer and water systems.

Currently, the City of Portland is not pursuing any large-scale annexations of nearby unincorporated areas. The city is exploring the possibility of bringing West Hayden Island into the city limits as part of its planning for that area. The last large area brought into the City was a portion of unincorporated Multnomah County east of the Portland city limits. The Cities of Portland and Gresham have annexed virtually all the unincorporated areas of Multnomah County between them in the late 1980s and early 1990s in order to provide sewers and other urban services to this rapidly developing area. This means that property owners initiate most small-scale or individual property-owner annexations.

For more information on annexations and city boundaries, please call Ken Martin at (503) 222-0955.

How are properties annexed to the City of Portland?

  • Either a property owner(s) or the City initiates annexations.
  • Property owners request to be annexed.
  • Property owners within the City of Portland's USB can apply for annexation through a double majority petition (majority of property owners and registered voters in the area to be annexed). Also, a single owner can apply to annex to the City of Portland. For more information on how to apply to annex to the City of Portland, call John Cole at 503-823-3475.
  • The City of Portland is either required or pursues an "intent" to annex.
  • The City can be required to annex and serve a property within a certain distance from its boundaries if the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) or their agent has declared a health hazard (usually septic failure) for Portland.
  • Also, the City can decide to pursue an intent to annex. Intents are adopted by the City Council and permit staff to gather consent signatures for annexation in the declared area. Additionally, the island method of annexation is still available to the City. There are only a few islands - areas totally surrounded by incorporated (in-city) properties - in Portland's USB.

Does the City have a plan for annexing certain properties?

Currently, the city is not pursuing any "intents" to annex, but this is a possibility in the future. Over the long term, the City intends to annex all areas within its urban services boundary. (See map of urban services boundary) The City adopted an urban services boundary in Multnomah and Clackamas Counties in the 1980s and in Washington County in the 1990s. The urban services boundary was the result of negotiations with the counties and also with other service providers in the area. Annexation should be considered wherever it is an option for properties within the boundary. Some properties in Washington and Clackamas Counties are within the Portland's urban service boundary and city limits. In some cases, there are other agreements that apply to these areas.

How long does the annexation process take?

The average time period is between 45 days and one year. Due to the amount of staff work involved in a single annexation process and the small size of current annexations (usually single properties), annexation staff currently schedule annexations in groups once or twice per year.

Are there times when an alternative to annexation is allowed/required?

Only rarely. If a property is not contiguous to the city limits but requires sewer or water service, an extraterritorial extension via a contract between the property owner and the City may be pursued. This is usually limited to cases such as failing septic systems, resulting in a health hazard certified by DEQ or the local sanitarian and is not a common practice. This is because the City Council must approve both annexations and extraterritorial service extensions through the same legislative process. Due to the City's long-standing policy intent to annex within its urban services boundary, any action brought to the City Council needs to favor annexation of these areas.

When does annexation become a consideration in a land use procedure?

Annexation is a consideration whenever the desired land use action meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • The desired land use cannot be accomplished under county regulations (e.g., it is at an urban level). This includes subdivisions, upzoning and similar types of actions.
  • The desired land use will require (or the property owner desires) the provision of City of Portland urban services such sewer, water, etc.
  • A land use action would create a property that is in two different jurisdictions.
  • The subject property is in the Portland urban services boundary and contiguous to the city limits.