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Council tackles cost of historic designation

Sometimes it costs more in city fees to undertake minor home improvements in a Portland historic district that the cost of the renovation project itself.

Portland City Council will explore easier ways for property owners to make such improvements, in a one-hour discussion beginning at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. (Read the city ordinance here.)

Portland has 20 historic and conservation districts, including Chinatown/Old Town, the Alphabet district of Northwest Portland, the Irvington neighborhood and Ladd’s Addition. Together they encompass about 1,500 acres and include more than 3,500 properties. In addition, there are about 700 individual historic and consevation landmarks.

Fees for undertaking small home remodeling projects in historic districts start at $900, and the design review process can take six to eight weeks. The process is required for minor improvements such as basement windows and mechanical equipment.

City planners hope the proposed code changes will help streamline the process and reduce the hassle and costs to homeowners.

The proposed changes come more than a week after the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation considered nominating the North Buckman Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. Dozens of North Buckman residents opposed the idea, primarily because the affect on property values and the high cost of city permits to do work on homes.

More than 150 property owners submitted notarized objections to the committee stating their opposition to the historic district designation.