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Charter, Code and Policies

City of Portland



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24.50.070 Appeals and Variances.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 178741, effective October 19, 2004.)

A. Appeals. Any person aggrieved by a requirement, decision, or determination made pursuant to the administration of this Chapter may appeal such action to the Building Board of Appeal in accord with Chapter 24.10.

B. Variances. If variances from requirements of this Chapter are requested, all relevant factors and standards specified in other sections of this Chapter shall be considered, as well as the following:

1. The danger that materials may be swept into other lands to the injury of others;

2. The danger to life and property due to flooding or erosion damage;

3. The susceptibility of the proposed facility and its contents to flood damage and the effect of such damage on the individual owner;

4. The importance of the services provided by the proposed facility to the community;

5. The necessity to the facility of a waterfront location, where applicable;

6. The availability of alternative locations, not subject to flooding or erosion damage;

7. The compatibility of the proposed use with existing anticipated development;

8. The relationship of the proposed use to the Comprehensive Plan and Floodplain Management Program for that area;

9. The safety of access to the property in times of flood for ordinary and emergency vehicles;

10. The expected heights, velocity, duration, rate of rise, and sediment transport of the flood waters and the effects of wave action, if applicable, expected at the site;

11. The costs of providing governmental services during and after flood conditions including maintenance and repair of public utilities and facilities such as sewer, gas, electrical, and water systems, and streets and bridges; Upon consideration of the factors listed above and the purposes of this Chapter, such conditions may be attached to the granting of variances as deemed necessary.

C. Conditions for variances.

1. Generally the only condition under which variance from the elevation standard may be issued is for new construction and substantial improvements to be erected on a lot of 1/2 acre or less in size contiguous to and surrounded by lots with existing structures constructed below the base flood level, providing items (1-11) have been fully considered. As the lot size increases, the technical justification required for issuing the variance increases.

2. Variances shall not be issued within designated floodway if any increase in flood levels during the base flood discharge would result.

3. Variances may be issued for the reconstruction, rehabilitation or restoration of structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the State Inventory of Historic Places, without regard to the procedures set forth in this Section.

4. Variances shall only be issued upon a determination that the variance is the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief.

5. Variances shall only be issued upon:

a. A showing of good and sufficient cause,

b. A determination that failure to grant the variance would result in exceptional hardship to the applicant, and

c. A determination that the granting of a variance would not result in increased flood heights, additional threats to public safety, extraordinary public expense, create nuisances, cause fraud on or victimization of the public, or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances.

6. Any applicant to whom a variance is granted shall be given written notice that the structure will be permitted to be built with a lowest floor elevation below the base flood elevation and that the cost of flood insurance will be commensurate with the increased risk resulting from the reduced lowest floor elevation.

7. Variances as interpreted in the National Flood Insurance Program are based on the general zoning law principle that they pertain to a physical piece of property; they are not personal in nature and do not pertain to the structure, its inhabitants, economic or financial circumstances. They primarily address small lots in densely populated residential neighborhoods. As such, variances from the flood elevations should be quite rare.

8. Variances may be issued for nonresidential buildings in very limited circumstances to allow a lesser degree of floodproofing than watertight or dry-floodproofing, where it can be determined that such action will have low damage potential, complies with all other variance criteria except 24.50.070 C.1. and otherwise complies with Section 24.50.060 F.1. and 24.50.060 F.7.