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Zoning Confirmation Letters

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A Zoning Confirmation Letter is an analysis of the Zoning Code requirements that apply to a specific property. The analysis can be simple or complex. Get a land use compatibility statement (LUCS) here.
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Types of Zoning Confirmation Letter

There are two types of Zoning Confirmation Letter:

  • A simple zoning analysis called Tier 2
  • A complex zoning analysis called Tier 3

Tier 2

Tier 2 is a simple zoning analysis that describes the uses allowed in the zone on a property.  A Tier 2 analysis does not evaluate complex questions about development allowances or review existing or proposed development plans.

Tier 2 applications include:

Tier 3

Tier 3 is a complex zoning analysis that includes a review of specific situations, specific questions, or documentation. These requests often supplement or are required before or during permit reviews.

Tier 3 applications include:


Apply for a Zoning Confirmation Letter

  1. Complete a Zoning Confirmation Request Form unless otherwise noted in the descriptions below for specific types of requests.

  2. To submit your application and materials, follow the instructions on the Zoning and Land Use Additional Planning Services page.

  3. Pay the application fee.
Response times
Zoning Confirmation Letter typeResponse time
Tier 2Three to four weeks from payment
Tier 3Four to six weeks from payment

Bank letters

A tier 2 Zoning Confirmation Letter. Bank letters are used by financial institutions for due diligence purposes. They state the current zoning with a brief description and list relevant land use history of the property. 

Things to know about bank letters:

  • For any number of adjacent properties in the same ownership, you can request a single bank letter.

  • Properties separated by rights of way, even if they are in the same ownership must have different bank letters.

  • Properties under different ownership must have different bank letters.

Request a bank letter

Submit a completed Zoning Confirmation Request Form. Get the form and follow the instructions in the section, Apply for a Zoning Confirmation Letter


Land use compatibility statements (LUCS)

A tier 2 Zoning Confirmation Letter. A Land Use Compatibility Statement (LUCS) is a portion of an application for a state-issued license. LUCS verifies that the use or activity requested in the state license is allowed by local zoning and land use regulations.

Many state or federal agencies need these statements, including:

  • Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
  • Division of State Lands (DSL)
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA)
  • Oregon Department of Education (ODE)
  • Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) - for auto dismantling businesses
  • Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)
  • Oregon Health Authority (OHA)
  • US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Request a land use compatibility statement

  1. Get and complete the appropriate state form(s) for your project from the state agency.
  2. Complete the Zoning Confirmation Request Form.
  3. Submit your application request and include the state form(s).

Get the Zoning Confirmation Request Form and follow the instructions in the section, Apply for a Zoning Confirmation Letter.


Archeological evaluation

A tier 3 Zoning Confirmation Letter. The City of Portland includes some land along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers that may have been home to Native Americans prior to European contact and settlement. Pre-contact archeological resources have historic, cultural, and scientific value to the general public and the associated Native American Tribes.

In areas with a high probability of these archeological resources The Zoning Code requires analysis prior to ground-disturbing activities and development. 

This analysis is completed through a Tier 3 application process prior to approval of a permit for development.

Apply for an archeological evaluation

  1. Contact the BDS archeological resource specialist in Land Use Services for application requirements. Please call 503-823-7300.
  2. In addition to the information required for the analysis, you will need to submit the Zoning Confirmation Request Form.
  3. Get the form and follow the instructions to submit your application in the section, Apply for a Zoning Confirmation Letter

Convenience store verification

A tier 3 Zoning Confirmation Letter. The Zoning Code has special requirements for convenience stores opening in a new location, or when an operator changes for an existing store. 

A convenience store is a retail grocery store that:

  • Is under 4,000 square feet in area;
  • Requires a package store liquor license; and
  • Is open more than 15 hours a day.

The Bureau of Development Services checks those requirements on a site plan and documents required by Zoning Code chapter 33.219 through a Tier 3 Zoning Confirmation Review before completing the liquor license application review for the business. 

More information:

A convenience store proposing to be located in a new or existing building is subject to the zoning regulations of Chapter 33.219. The regulations also apply when the operator of a convenience store changes. 

Apply for a convenience store verification

  1. Complete the Convenience Store Application.
  2. Submit the application and supporting documents using the submittal instructions on the Planning Services page.

Documenting a nonconforming situation using standard evidence

A tier 3 Zoning Confirmation Letter. Sometimes zoning regulations change and use or development is no longer allowed at a site. If the use or development was legally permitted or established prior to City Zoning, applicants can document the right to continue the use or development that is not allowed using standard evidence.

By documenting a nonconforming situation, the site owner is assured of whether or not the property really has vesting rights. More information:

Apply for documenting a nonconforming situation

  1. Complete a Documenting a Nonconforming Situation Application.
  2. Submit the application using the submittal instructions on the Planning Services page.

Landscape monitoring reports review

Required landscape plantings are intended to enhance environmentally sensitive areas or to mitigate the loss of natural resource values as part of a proposed development.

To ensure the plantings become established, written proof is required on yearly intervals ranging between one and five years after installation of the plantings, depending on the size of the mitigation planting area.

Plants that die must be replaced in kind.

Monitoring of landscape areas is the ongoing responsibility of the property owner.

Specifications on mitigation and restoration plantings can be found in the zoning code on Landscaping and Screening, Mitigation and Restoration Plantings, Section 33.248.090.

To ensure the required written proof of survival, you must provide us with a Landscape Monitoring Report Application before you can get a building permit.

When a Landscape Monitoring Report Review is required

  • When new development or alterations to existing development that exceeds the nonconforming development threshold is requested within the Greenway Overlay zone in South Waterfront Subdistrict and South Waterfront Greenway landscaping improvements are required.
  • When new development or alterations to existing development within the River Environmental Overlay zone requires mitigation plantings.
  • When a correction to a violation within the Environmental or River Environmental overlay zones requires mitigation or restoration plantings.
  • When submitting monitoring reports for review that were required by a condition of land use approval to document the survival of mitigation plantings. These conditions are typically found in Environmental, Greenway and River Review land use decisions.

Fees

The fee is based on the number of monitoring reports required.

Find current fees listed on our Current Fee Schedule page. In the document, Land Use Services Fee Schedules, search for Landscape Monitoring Report Review (per annual report).

Apply for a landscape monitoring report review

  1. Complete the Landscape Monitoring Report Application:
  2. Optional: Use the fillable Landscape Monitoring Report form to complete a monitoring report:
  3. Submit the Landscape Monitoring Report Application using the instructions on the Zoning and Land Use Additional Planning Services page.

Nonconforming upgrades option 2 review

A tier 3 Zoning Confirmation Letter. In permit reviews that prompt zoning upgrades, there is an option to defer those upgrades to a later time. In exchange, all zoning upgrades that apply to the property must be completed later.

With this option, the property owner signs a covenant with the City to complete the work later. The upgraded work does not need to be shown in the individual permit(s). These reviews are assigned to the planner reviewing the building permit(s).

More information:

Apply for a nonconforming upgrades option 2 review

  1. Complete the Nonconforming Development Option 2 Application.
  2. Submit the application using the submittal instructions on the Planning Services page.

Notice of use determination

A tier 3 Zoning Confirmation Letter. The Zoning Code classifies land uses and activities into categories of use.

"Use" is based on common functional, product, or physical characteristics that include:

  • the type and amount of activity
  • the type of customers or residents
  • how goods and services are sold or delivered
  • site factors

It is beneficial to know the use category of a proposed business or project before you apply for a permit so you can understand the Zoning regulations that apply.

Use determinations prior to permit(s) or land use reviews can be requested through a Tier 3 application.  In this review, a planner will evaluate information that you submit describing the nature of your business or activity and determine the use.

You will need to provide information to determine a use category. This includes:

  • A description of the activity(ies) in relationship to the characteristics of each use category
  • The relative amount of site or floor space and equipment devoted to the activity
  • Relative amounts of sales from each activity
  • The customer type for each activity
  • The relative number of employees in each activity
  • Hours of operation
  • Building and site arrangement
  • Vehicles used with the activity
  • The relative number of vehicle trips generated by the activity
  • Signs
  • How the use is advertised
  • Whether the activity would be likely to be found independent of the other activities on the site

Apply for a notice of use determination

  1. Provide the information listed to determine a use category.
  2. Complete the Zoning Confirmation Request Form.
  3. Get the form and follow the instructions to submit your application in the section, Apply for a Zoning Confirmation Letter

Transfer of development rights (floor area and density transfer)

A tier 3 Zoning Confirmation Letter. The Portland Zoning Code allows property owners to transfer a part of the development potential from their property to other properties in some situations. This includes residential density allowances or building Floor Area Ratio (FAR) allowances.

These are available in:

  • commercial/mixed-use zones
  • employment and industrial zones
  • multi-dwelling zones

Who can request a transfer?

Property owners can complete density and FAR transfers, but you may want to get help from private legal counsel.

The Transfer Covenant template will need to be reviewed and approved by Land Use Services and in some cases, the City Attorney’s Office. After approval by the City, the property owner(s) record the covenant form against the property titles of the sites sending and receiving the development rights.

Apply for a transfer and application process

  1. Complete the FAR/Density Transfer Request Application Form.
  2. Submit your completed form. Use the instructions on the Planning Services page to apply.
  3. Complete the Transfer Covenant template. When we receive your application, a city planner will contact you and send you a Transfer Covenant template that you'll fill out with your project information. The template describes the property sending the development potential and the property receiving it. It also notes how much development potential will result at each property after the transfer.
  4. The Transfer Covenant template will be reviewed by Land Use Services and in some cases, the City Attorney’s Office.
  5. Once approved, the property owner(s) record the covenant form against the property titles of the properties sending and receiving the development rights.

Need help?

For quick questions, please call the General Inquiries phone number at 503-823-7300.

You can also schedule a free 15-minute appointment with a city planner

For a more detailed discussion please set up an Early Assistance meeting.