Neighborhood Contact Overview
In Portland when a development is allowed and complies with zoning regulations, community notification about a proposed project is generally not required. However, many participants in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update supported broader information sharing, enhanced notification and early conversations about new development. With Zoning Code changes effective in 2018, many more development projects in the Commercial/Mixed Use zones will be subject to the "Neighborhood Contact" requirement on the Zoning Code (33.700.025).
This review of the Neighborhood Contact requirement is focusing on improving the process for community notification, information sharing and dialogue about development, given that many more situations will be subject to the requirement.
What is Neighborhood Contact?
The intent of the Neighborhood Contact provision is to require people developing a property to informally share information and gather constructive feedback about it with people who live or work in the neighborhood — before construction. The Zoning Code currently requires Neighborhood Contact before development may proceed in limited situations such as:
- In Multi-Dwelling Residential zones.
- When Community Design Standards are used.
- For Type IIx and Type III land divisions.
- Design reviews in some areas, and a few other specific situations.
How does it work now?
When applicable, the current Neighborhood Contact process requires an applicant/property developer to contact the local neighborhood association by mail and offer to meet. The association may choose to meet with the applicant to discuss the proposal, however, the meeting is primarily informational and an opportunity to discuss the project. The applicant does not have to make any changes to the proposal based on the comments received at the meeting. If a meeting is held, the applicant must send a follow-up letter to the association to explain any changes before applying for permits.
What are some of the issues with the process?
- Who is contacted is limited. The existing process notifies only neighborhood associations and district coalition offices. Many people who live, work, own property or are otherwise interested in the area may not be engaged in neighborhood associations and therefore may not know about potential new projects in their area. Should more or different people/organizations be notified?
- The number of contacts will grow. Because of upcoming changes in the zoning code, the number of development situations that require contact will expand significantly. Without process revisions, some neighborhood associations may have more communications and offers to meet than can be handled in a timely and effective way. What are appropriate thresholds for notifications vs. meetings? Who should be responsible for hosting meetings?
- The process of contact is cumbersome. Currently, communications must be sent to neighborhood associations and district coalition offices by registered or certified mail. Parties must respond within specific timeframes. Is this the best process and method available?
- The purpose and outcomes need to be clear. The Neighborhood Contact requirement should clarify what the applicant and others can expect from the notification and any meeting. The meeting is an opportunity to share information and discuss elements of a project, but the outcomes are not binding. How can the zoning code and other communications materials better clarify the purpose and the expected outcomes?
Who may care about this topic?
- Property owners and developers who may develop their property and be subject to the rule.
- Neighbors and other community members who are interested in or affected by development.