City Council to hold public hearing on updates to Portland’s environmental zones on February 16

News Article
Portlanders invited to testify on proposed map and code changes in the Ezone Map Correction Project in writing via the Map App or in person at a virtual public hearing.

Portland’s forests, streams, rivers, and wetlands are vital ingredients to what makes our city special and attractive to humans and critters alike. Portland’s environmental overlay zones (ezones) are designed to do just that. But these regulatory tools need to be updated and refined to meet the demands of our growing population, and to address the effects of climate change and other dynamics.   

The City of Portland keeps an inventory of its natural resources called the Natural Resource Inventory (NRI). This inventory includes miles of streams and acres of forest and wetlands that are not yet protected. The 2035 Comprehensive Plan has policies that direct the City to keep the NRI mapping up to date and to make sure the ezones are applied to resources that are supposed to be protected. 

Public hearings and testimony on initial proposals to the Planning and Sustainability Commission 

Last year, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held several public hearings and accepted written testimony on initial proposals for new ezone regulations and mapping. The PSC considered testimony that was submitted by over 300 individuals and groups.  

About 60% of the testimony came from property owners, who argued that the resource mapping was wrong and that the City shouldn’t make any changes to the ezones and/or include their property in an ezone. 

Others argued for stronger protections for natural resources, including:  

  • Larger protection areas around streams and wetlands. 
  • More protection of parks and natural areas. 
  • Protection of vacant lots to prevent infill development. 

Other issues Portlanders flagged included septic systems and wildfire danger:  

  • Septic systems. The proposal would make it easier to replace failing septic systems on lots that are constrained by ezones.  
  • Wildfire danger. A number of people testified about wildfire issues. Some argued that there should be no limits or restrictions on tree removal, pruning or vegetation management for homes in wildfire areas.  

Project staff have discussed wildfire issues with the Fire Bureau and Urban Forestry, and they believe that by following the permitting process for pruning and tree removal, homeowners should be able to follow State and Federal fire-wise property management recommendations.  

The ezones are intended to strike a balance between a) allowing reasonable actions to manage vegetation to prevent fire risk and b) preventing unnecessary destruction of natural resources. The ezones allow homeowners to remove trees near buildings, and to prune trees if they follow standards and/or permitting requirements. The Ezone Project includes a new exemption to allow the installation of fire breaks within ezones.  

Review the Recommended Draft 

The Ezone Map Correction Project Recommended Draft is now available to review. The document is divided into three Volumes. Volume 1 provides a project overview, Volume 2 provides more detailed information for individual sites, and Volume 3 demonstrates how the project complies with State and Regional land use planning requirements.  

Tell City Council what you think

At the public hearing

On February 16 at 2 p.m. City Council will hold a public hearing for community members to testify about the proposed ezones on their property, in their neighborhood, or about the project proposals in general. The agenda for the City Council hearing will be posted a week before the hearing. Testimony can be provided virtually at the hearing by phone or video conference. The deadline for testimony registration is February 15 at 4 p.m. 

Visit the Council event page to register to testify

Via the Map App

You may also submit testimony in writing any time prior to the start of the Council hearing. Visit the Map App and click the Testify button to submit your comments.

Submit comments through the Map App

About the project 

The Ezone Map Correction Project Proposed Draft was released in June 2020. The Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held three public hearings on the proposed changes to the ezones in 2020 and 2021. The PSC voted to recommend the Ezone Project to City Council on Sept. 28, 2021. Please visit the Ezone Map Correction Project documents to review the Recommended Draft.

Over the past three and a half years, project staff or consultants have conducted hundreds of site visits to verify where streams, wetlands, forests and slopes are located on private property in Portland – primarily owned by homeowners or businesses. The result is a more accurate and up to date map of Portland’s environmentally sensitive areas.