Early Assistance and Trees

June 2018:

Since this is our first go around dividing a lot with the city of Portland and our lot has a few constraints we decided to schedule (and pay $1,500 for) an early assistance meeting with the city and our planning firm.  The early assistance meeting is designed to get input from all city bureaus on the proposed build and get their responses in writing to be able to move forward with more confidence that the plans are acceptable to the city.

At our meeting we heard from PBOT, Environmental Services, Urban Forestry, Water Bureau and a Portland city planner.  We all met for one hour at the BDS offices and each agency spoke for a few minutes on what their requirements would be if we developed the property. First PBOT had great news that they would not require us to improve the sidewalks in front of the proposed house because the street is a very narrow street and couldn’t support the improvement. Next Environmental Services confirmed that there is a public sewer line available to connect the new house to. There is not storm water infrastructure in our area so there are guidelines we would need to follow for storm water at the new house.  Next the Water Bureau confirmed that there is public water service at the street to be access by the new house.

The biggest hurdle came from Urban Forestry.  There are two large trees on our back lot.  One is a on the back corner of our lot and can be removed with a large fee paid to the city.  The fee is estimated to be $13,000.  The second tree is a large cedar tree next to the sidewalk.  The Urban Forestry team had come out and informed us that approximately 1 (out of 40) inches of the cedar tree was encroaching on the sidewalk and because of this they claimed it as a street tree.  As a street tree we are not able to remove it to build.  Our design firm assured us that we could build around the tree.

We left the meeting feeling a mix of emotions.  We received all good responses that we would be able to build on the new lot with a number of constraints.

Owning the Land

April 2018:

While beginning the process of lot division I knew we needed to let our current mortgage lender know that we planned to divide off part of the lot.  Our loan with Guild Mortgage is for the full 5,000 square lot and to legally divide the lot we needed to make sure the current value without the back half of the lot was enough to satisfy the lender.

Once we contacted the Guild the first step was to send in a survey of the new lot.  The survey took a few weeks and cost around $1,600. After the survey was submitted Guild sent an appraiser out to the house to determine the value of the home without the back half of the lot.  After the appraisal came back Guild let us know that to remove the new lot from the loan we would need to pay in $12,000.  Once the check was written we now own the back lot free and clear.


RIP and the Race Against the Clock

April 2018:

RIP is the acronym for a new zoning change in the city of Portland titled Residential Infill Project.  Unfortunate name and as it turns out a huge constraint on our building plans.  This zoning overlay is in the process of going through changes with the Planning and Sustainability commission and is set to go in front of the Portland city commissioners in early spring and public hearings will be held in early summer.  The proposed changes will increase the number of units that can be built on a lot (duplexes, triplexes and ADUs), but will restrict the size of the units based on the lot area and a set ratio.  Right now the ratios are being determined and are not finalized.

When we first started looking into building the proposed ratio for our lot size would be .50.  This would restrict our new home to approximately 800 square feet.  If the RIP changes go into effect before our building permit is submitted to the city we would be greatly constrained on our new home and would most likely not choose to build at that size.  Once we had the clock ticking every decision coming from the city or our designer felt like it was taking forever.  My husband and I went into overdrive to get our lot division in the works and beat the clock.

Update February 2019: The city committee is still in the process of determining the details of the RIP.  There have been many changes since the first draft hit the public space and there seem to be more coming.

Learn more about the RIP details and timelines at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/67728


Lot Confirmation vs Lot Division

March 2018:

My husband is very interested in real estate.  This makes for easy dinner conversation as in the real estate world there is always something new to learn and a situation that hasn’t come up before. Over dinner one evening we began discussing the many lots in our neighborhood that are being divided into two lots and the new homes being built.  We live in the Humbolt neighborhood, right next the commercial strip on Mississippi Avenue.  There is a need for higher density here as there are many Portlanders want to live near an active business area and our neighborhood is especially desirable because of our proximity to the MAX line and I-5.  That conversation got his imagination working and within a month we were beginning the process to build a new home on our lot.

The first step we took was to visit the city’s Bureau of Development Services. The BDS offers late hours on Thursday nights to answer homeowner questions on projects they wish to take on. Our first meeting at the BDS turned out to be filled with incorrect information.  The representative we met with took a look at our lot and told us we could go through the much less time consuming and less costly process of doing a lot confirmation instead of a lot division.  Come to find out after a number of visits and discussions with our design firm a lot confirmation will increase the size of our lot based on historical lot lines, but will not allow for the ability to build a second home. Lesson learned, the desk at BDS is to get answers to very simple questions and projects.  The city of Portland let us know that the average time for a lot division to be completed is 9 to 12 months.  Now the long process to dividing our lot begins!