City of Portland to Rewrite its Land Use Ordinances

For the first time in over 50 years, the city of Portland is rewriting its Land Use Code, which is found in Chapter 14 of the City’s Code of Ordinances.  The effort involves several substantive policy changes aimed at making the Code consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which the City Council unanimously adopted in June 2017. 

The rewrite process, which the city has named ReCode Portland, is being led by the City Council’s Ad Hoc ReCode Committee and the Portland Planning Board.  The ReCode effort formally started in 2017 with a series of community conversations led by planning staff to understand what in the current Land Use Code needs improvement. 

Phase I of the ReCode effort is focused on reformatting, streamlining, and reorganizing the existing code into a more user-friendly document.  The Planning Board has focused thus far on Phase I of the process and has held several workshops focused on Phase I status updates. 

Phase II of the ReCode process will involve examining the Code in light of the policy goals expressed in Portland’s Comprehensive Plan and rewriting the Code to align with that vision.  The Planning Board has also held several workshops and discussions to vet certain policy decisions that will be addressed in the Code revisions.  The policy changes that have been discussed by the Planning Board to be addressed in Phase II include the following: 

  • Changing the City’s parking policies to achieve land use and transportation goals, including potentially reducing the residential parking requirement, and expanding the zone-based parking exemptions, the fee-in-lieu system, joint use/shared use parking provisions, and parking study options.
  • Implementing an impact fee system to support the city’s parks, transportation system, and wastewater system due to growth. 
  • Revising the sign code to reflect different aesthetic, dimensional, and materials needs of different property types, geographies, and historic districts. 

Planning and Urban Development, Permitting and Inspections, and Corporation Counsel staff exchanged early drafts of the rewritten Code in September and October 2019 before releasing a draft of the first several articles of the rewritten Code, which are available through an online tool that allows members of the public to record comments, questions, and suggested changes. 

The Planning Board will take up revised draft Articles 5-7 (regarding updated zone descriptions, use standards, and dimensional standards) at a workshop on January 21, 2020.  Additional draft articles will be made available to the public on a monthly basis in advance of Planning Board workshops at which drafts of revised articles will be discussed. 

Pierce Atwood continues to monitor Portland’s code revision process.  If you have questions about the upcoming changes to Portland’s development code, or about how those changes could impact your property or business, please contact Pierce Atwood Land Use attorney Brian Rayback