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Developers agree to mandatory demolition delay and notice

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Portland area home builders have agreed to a mandatory 35-day delay on the demolition of all houses for in-fill projects.

And they have agreed to publicize such demolitions 30 days in advance to give nearby residents a chance to prepare for them and work to save the houses, if possible.

Home builders have also agreed to require developers to sign a form saying they will comply with regulations covering the disposal such hazardous wastes as asbestos and lead paint.

The agreements were shared at the Thursday, Sept. 18, meeting of the Development Review Advisory Committee, an appointed panel that advises the Bureau of Development Services on construction-related issues. It was reached by a subcommittee appointed to review the city's current policies on demolitions and large-scale remodeling projects after neighborhood activists began complaining about the increasing number of residential in-fill projects several months ago.

"This is a big, big deal," BDS Director Paul Scarlett said at the meeting. "It would apply to all demolitions, no exceptions."

The delay and notification agreement requires City Council approval to take effect. Nancy Thorington, a BDS code and policy analyst, said it was not scheduled to be presented to the council until the end of the year.

The new form will need to be approved by the State of Oregon and adopted by Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

In exchange for their agreements, the home builders want conditions placed on 120-day demolition delays that can be requested by neighborhood activists and other under city policies. Steve Heiteen, a subcommittee member who owns Portland Remodel, said the subcommittee is discussing whether those requesting such delays should have to pay a fee, give their reasons for the delay, and have a plan for addressing their concerns.

Heiteen said the mandatory 35-day delay and public notification is likely to increase the requests for 120-day delays, and that such requests should not be made frivolously.

"Today, practically anyone can request a 120-day delay without having any skin in the game," said Heiteen.

According to Thorington, the subcommittee is discussing but has not year reached agreement on a number of other demolition-related issues. They include determining at what point a demolition project should be required for a major remodeling project. Under current rules, a house can be almost completely torn down and rebuilt without qualifying as demolition.

If the subcommittee reaches agreement on those issues, they will also be presented to the council at the end of the year.

Thorington also said the subcommittee concluded it did not have jurisdiction over some issues that concern the activists, however. They include the size and style of replacement homes. Some Portland residents have complained that new homes in their neighborhood are too large and out of character with surrounding homes.