Munjoy Hill

 
 

Important Update! Munjoy Hill zoning changes headed to City Council! Let your City Councilors know you support the measures proposed to conserve historic homes on Munjoy Hill.

The Issue

On December 18, 2017 the Portland City Council voted to approve a six-month moratorium on demolition in the R-6 district on Munjoy Hill.  The impetus for adoption was concern from some Munjoy Hill residents that the current residential development interest was resulting in an undue number of demolitions to existing structures, and infill development that was sometimes out of scale and character with existing neighborhood fabric. The moratorium was enacted to provide a temporary hiatus in development activity while the Department of Planning & Urban Development develops any necessary additional land use and design regulations to address both of these issues in the R-6 for Munjoy Hill.

The moratorium includes a requirement for the implementation of interim zoning to govern development in the R-6 zone for the duration of the moratorium to be implemented within 65 days of December 4th. This Munjoy Hill Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD) is a tool that provides temporary standards to guide development applications that are received during the remaining 115 days of the moratorium.  The City Council approved the IPOD in early February 2018.

In April City Staff unveiled proposed changes to the zoning to be put in place when the moratorium ends on June 4, 2018. The staff proposal recommends an overlay district to include changes to the dimensional standards, design review by the Historic Preservation Board for project choosing to meet the alternative design standards and demolition review standards for existing residences. The full text of the proposed changes is available on the city website. 

Our Position

Landmarks’ mission to preserve Greater Portland’s remarkable legacy of buildings, landscapes, and parks is achieved in part by identifying valuable historic resources that tell the story of our community. The historic dwellings that line the Eastern Prom are integral to the setting of the Eastern Promenade, which is a Historic Landscape District. In addition to these properties our recent research has determined that two-thirds, or 500 of the approximately 750 buildings in the R-6 zone on Munjoy Hill retain their historic architectural integrity. These historic resources help define the streetscapes that make this neighborhood of Portland a desirable place to live, work and recreate.

Historic District Designations Landmarks supports designation of two historic districts with boundaries focused on the Eastern Promenade and North Street. Each potential district contains resources that tell the story of the Munjoy Hill neighborhood’s development over a broad period of time and retain significant levels of architectural integrity. In addition, we support a single multiple resource nomination for individual non-contiguous resources located outside the boundaries of these potential historic districts that would facilitate applications for individual designations by property owners.  

Munjoy Hill's historic buildings are significant features of the neighborhood's streetscapes and help make the area a desirable and attractive place to live, work and play. It is necessary to preserve the character defining buildings that reflect the neighborhood's development over a broad period of time and the role the buildings' residents played in the social and cultural history of the neighborhood, before more of the Hill's historic identity is lost.

Historic preservation is a key part of the City’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan. In addition, in many cases these historic buildings include existing affordable housing units and their preservation is an important means to meeting affordable housing needs on Munjoy Hill. Also, the preservation or reuse of these buildings and their embodied energy fulfills City Comprehensive Plan goals to adopt sustainable building and land use polices.

R-6 Design Standards The existing buildings in the neighborhood represent a range of scale and massing from one to four stories. Therefore, the subordination of the R-6 design standards to zoning dimensional standards as proposed by staff could result in buildings that meet the zoning ordinance for maximum height or set back, but are out of scale with the neighboring buildings. We believe that the maximum height standards as proposed will continue to be an incentive for demolition. Therefore, we urge the City to incorporate some of the design standards, especially those for scale, form and massing, into the dimensional standards of the zoning ordinance or that another means be incorporated to clarify the city's intent is to ensure that new designs are compatible with the neighborhood context.

We appreciate the portions of the current design standards that contain overarching principles in support of contextual new design on Munjoy Hill. We believe that the prescriptive standards are unnecessarily detailed and limiting. Revised design standards should focus on the high level goal of allowing new construction that responds to and fits into the Hill’s eclectic neighborhood context without dictating specific details.  The revision of these standards is proposed to happen in the coming months.

Alternative Design Review We support the Alternative Design Review as proposed. It features a public process and establishes the review authority as the Historic Preservation Board. The Historic Preservation Board has a proven track record of reviewing new residential construction for compatibility to its context, including the approval of modern designs.

Demolition Review We support the proposed demolition review. Under the review standard an applicant would be subject to a delay of up to 18-months.  We believe for clarification purposes, the definition of "preferably preserved buildings" be amended to include those significant to the neighborhood's social and cultural history. While a demolition review in the overlay zone is an important step to protect important neighborhood buildings, applications for demolition should require a public posting or signage on the site and a public hearing or public comment period so that the public may participate in the demolition decision process to prevent the demolition of a preferably preserved building with historic, architectural or community value.

Non-Conforming Building Extensions Lastly we urge the city to remove the language on non-conforming building extensions that would apply city wide until further study of the ramifications of these changes can be understood and to allow time for substantive public review and comment.

Landmarks Map of Possible District Boundaries (March 20, 2018)

Benefits of Local Historic Districts & FAQ Handout 2.26.2018

Landmarks slideshow from City of Portland Listening Session 2.26.2018

 A special thank you to the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization for inviting us to their quarterly  neighborhood meeting on March 22nd  to talk about the history of the neighborhood and answer questions about what historic districts are in Portland. Miss the Presentation? You can see the slideshow here. 

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