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The Significance Of Obtaining Permits In Oregon

Frank Hammond March 26, 2023

Permits have become a catch-all term across development projects where almost every detail or change needs to run through various approval processes to obtain the proper permits to finish a project. It seems tedious to obtain these approvals while trying to manage the larger picture of development or new subdivision.

However, these approvals play a critical role in urban planning. They will also never go away.

The best way to avoid the tedious nature of these processes is to understand the purpose of specific permits and how we can break down the process to be as effective as possible. So, when do I need to get a permit for an upcoming project?

The requirements surrounding when to get a permit

Permits are not solely for new builds. They are required for any new construction or alterations and additions to existing sites, including these modifications:

  • Electrical

  • Manufactured home

  • Elevator work

  • Structural

  • Plumbing

  • Mechanical

  • Boiler

  • Environmental

  • Zoning

The Department of Consumer and Business Services in Oregon actually states online when a permit process is necessary, but larger projects will need to go through a more extensive application process for multiple permits. For example, if you are managing a new build of a large commercial space, you will also have to submit additional information alongside your permit applications. Most developers must show floor plans, specifications, elevations, any electrical or plumbing drawings, a foundation plan, and more depending on the specific purpose of the permit.

The best time to seek out permits is before beginning any physical construction but after a thorough planning process surrounding what is necessary for the potential project. You will want to ensure you have all the necessary materials to satisfy the approved criteria for the permits and determine what is viable under the project conditions.

It helps to plan with the permits in mind to ensure project leaders will be able to expedite the process and allow themselves to respond to any inevitable surprises that will happen along the timeline.

Potential hurdles surrounding permit applications

While most projects require numerous permits to operate legally, there is a possibility that one or more permits are rejected by the local government. The disputes for a permit rejection vary depending on what type of permit you seek, but oftentimes, audits and inspections signal issues to local, state, or federal officials of compliance issues.

While these alarm bells could signal issues, it does not mean the development ends immediately. Many commercial developers will anticipate these issues and rely on the appeals process to make sure their project continues onward from there.

Project leaders will need legal support to approach the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) to argue why their process complies. Some of the most successful appeals include potential arguments, such as:

  • An alternative solution that complies with the intention of the regulations, even though the actual land use differs from the guidelines.

  • The original decision is unconstitutional or violates the law or overall planning goals of the state.

  • The local government misinterpreted a law or ordinance, it lacked sufficient rationale or authority in reaching the decision, or it failed to follow the correct procedures.

These are broad examples of arguments that worked in the appeals process in the past. The circumstances of a specific permit will influence what documentation and planning will be required for the appeal board.

Preparation for a permit

For a smooth permit process, preparation is the most critical factor. Commercial developers and other project managers will need to make detail plans surrounding what their project needs and how they will work with the current permits in place to make sure the comply with local and state officials.

As mentioned previously, documentation and planning will need to happen before any permits are filed. You will want to be able to provide any additional information as necessary when it comes to floor plans, structural questions and potential impacts the project has on the surrounding community. The basic steps for preparation include these main ideas.

What do I need – Developers need to know any and all potential permits beforehand, so they can collect and anticipate any additional questions from the community and government officials.

What do the permits require – Alongside questions, project managers need to know if there is any hurdles or evidence necessary to show how their conditions will comply with the criteria of all the necessary permits.

How will the permits influence my project – If we assume if all permits go through approval, our team needs to ensure the conditions of the project will still remain viable and satisfy the requirements of the permit (even with the inevitable changes along the way).

Alongside traditional permits, a project may also require special permits including:

  • Subdivision and land partitions

  • Planned residential or commercial unit development

  • Variance and conditional use permits

  • Nonconforming use

  • Exceptions to statewide goals

  • Industrial and environmental permits

  • Other electrical, mechanical, architectural and safety

These special permits require additional preparation to ensure projects are still aligned with state goals and may need additional attention in the application stages.

Would an Attorney Help the Process?

Due to the amount and complications that come with the permit process, most developers rely on legal professionals throughout the application and enforcement to ensure they are taking the correct steps for their construction.

Some of the most challenging aspects of a development project in Oregon can be conquered with the right legal expertise in environmental regulations, zoning, and permits. Hiring a lawyer can help spot weaknesses in permit rejections or submitting a proper defense to an appeals board.

The most beneficial attorney will have experience with governmental process alongside the interests of developers to ensure everyone can find the right structure for any developments. They can also help in terms of potential audits or inspections that appear after the permit application process.

It is critical to find the support necessary to start preparations and applications to keep a project on time and on budget for Oregon developers.

We have dual perspectives when working with government agencies because we have counseled both private and public entities for land use issues. To speak with us about permit requirements, applications and appeals, schedule a consultation with us or through email.