this is not a dwelling…

A quick check of this property’s portlandmaps description might lead one to believe that Multnomah County considers this building to be a 1,544 square foot home with one bath that was built in 1906. However, it’s not an existing dwelling for purposes of Multnomah County’s “template test,” according to an Oregon Court of Appeals decision issued today.

The case illustrates some of the unintuitive complexities that can grow into expensive frustrations for landowners who seek to build in rural Multnomah County. For example, state and county rules are different for the most productive Douglas Fir timberland, like the land at issue in today’s case. The applicable Oregon rule, OAR 660-006-0027(3)(c)(B), states that counties may allow a landowner in a forest zone to build a house on less than a 160-acre parcel when there currently exist three dwellings in an imaginary 160-acre square “template” centered on the landowner’s lot. In contrast, Multnomah County’s rule, MCC 33.2240(A)(3)(c), requires five existing dwellings in that 160-acre square. The structure pictured above did not constitute the fifth required existing dwelling, the court decided, so the county was allowed to deny the landowners’ building permit.

The policy, apparently, is to preserve viable logging potential in Multnomah County forests by discouraging home construction in historically productive timberland. I wonder how long there will be political support for this policy. In the meantime, the subtle wording difference between complicated state and local law strikes me as a tricky distinction that invites controversy.

Force Majeure at Terminal 6

PNH 1444-page-001

Hanjin shipping has dropped Portland as a scheduled shipping destination, at least for the moment. This Oregonian article on the subject included an interesting link to one of Hanjin’s long-range schedules. Hanjin’s decision to drop Portland is part of a complicated battle between labor, shipping owners, port operators, and shipping customers. The public has an incomplete picture of this negotiation, but Hanjin’s long rage schedule suggests that the pressure to automate North American ports is a significant factor, because it shows that ships take much longer to be processed by ports in North America than by automated ports in Asia.

Deschutes County public records really are public


The Deschutes County Clerk’s public records web search is free, easy to use, and is constantly improving. The official records search is a particularly convenient tool, and it appears to be updated in real time. I appreciate the ability to be able to save electronic copies of documents. I look forward to the day when all Multnomah County recorded documents are as easily accessible.

Portland has no outstanding debt from 1720



This New York Times article describes how the British chancellor of the Exchequer wants to pay off some debts that were originally issued as early as 1720. Borrowing money to cover old debt payments is nothing new, but the article piqued my curiosity about the age of Portland’s debts.

The same dynamics exist in Portland because our city typically uses part of the proceeds of newly-issued bonds to pay off older bonds. For example, in this $58 million urban renewal bond issue from 2000, nearly $10 million was used to redeem older urban renewal bonds issued in 1988 and 1992. I suspect that’s about how it goes decade after decade. It would be interesting to see how Portland’s debt has been refinanced over its history.