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Portland Adopts "Green" Regulations

Solar panels, wind turbines, eco-roofs, water cisterns and more will be easier to install under new rules

The Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, seen from the southeast side of the bridge. Image courtesy of Cacophony, published under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

A package of amendments that includes many "green" items has been adopted by Portland City Council, along with changes to fees charged for some small housing units. The new "green" rules will make it easier to install solar panels, wind turbines, eco-roofs, rain or grey water cisterns and mechanisms that produce energy from compost and other sustainable sources.

"Portlanders are always looking for ways to live more affordably and sustainably," said Mayor Sam Adams. "One way to do that is to make sure our development codes encourage people to choose these types of improvements."

The package of amendments prepared by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is part of a regulatory improvement project, an ongoing program to improve the City's regulations and procedures. Other areas addressed in this package, called Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Package 5 (RICAP 5), include easing limitations on family-oriented housing built around courtyards in multi-dwelling zones, updating loading space requirements, increasing the amount of bicycle parking for multi-dwelling development and a number of technical changes that will ease implementation of the Zoning Code.

An overview of a few of the amendments:

Solar Panels
Several amendments to remove Zoning Code barriers to the installation of solar panels.

  • Create standards for solar panels in design overlay zones, as an alternative to discretionary Design Review. Additional standards are proposed in Historic Conservation Districts.
  • Clarify how rooftop solar panels and equipment are treated in building height calculations, and create opportunity for installation of panels on buildings that are already built to the maximum height.

Small Urban Wind Energy Systems
Several amendments to remove Zoning Code barriers to the installation of small urban wind energy systems. Allow small-scale wind energy systems to exceed Zoning Code height limits, either as stand-alone towers or when incorporated into building architecture.

Exempt Eco-Roofs installed on flat roofs from Design Review and Historic Design Review, within certain parameters.

Green Power – Zoning Code Use Categories
Clarify the land use categories in the Zoning Code to ensure that neighborhood scale renewable energy production is allowed in residential and commercial zones. Current rules may classify these facilities, in some cases, as "manufacturing and production." Examples include certain grid-connected solar systems, district heating systems, and small- scale biogas generators.

Water Harvesting Cisterns
Several amendments to remove Zoning Code barriers to the installation of water harvesting cisterns (rain barrels, etc.).

  • Allow water cisterns within Zoning Code setbacks, within reasonable parameters.
  • Several new standards to permit rainwater harvesting cisterns (rain barrels, etc.) in design overlay zones and historic districts without discretionary review.

Read the Mayor's press release:

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