Friday, July 31, 2015

Legal Marijuana and Real Estate

Oregon's new marijuana laws have created a bit of a legal quagmire, including the real estate industry.  Pre-existing medical marijuana laws and regulations, marijuana legalization for personal use and federal marijuana laws ( as in marijuana is considering a schedule I substance along with heroin) make navigating legal liabilities and disclosure responsibilities a mine field.

Meanwhile, on the ground, we in the Portland real estate market are approached daily by folks wanting to purchase or lease space to open a dispensary or develop a grow operation.  And, in selling, we often come across properties that have pretty obviously been used as grow operations.

First, and important to know: the federal government's RICO laws and classification of marijuana as a schedule I substance, make properties involved in manufacture or distribution, vulnerable to forfeiture. And forfeiture is one of these situations where one must prove innocence, rather the usual standard of innocent until proven guilty. AND, transfer of title, (selling the property) does not remove the risk of forfeiture. Ack!

Properties that have been used as grow operations can have certain types of damage and contamination of which one should be careful.  Excessive watering and humidity can lead to mold, fertilizers and pesticides can have lasting contamination effects and often electrical wiring has been added to and illegally altered.  Whether we are representing buyers or sellers, disclosure and discovery of these issues are important.  Of course when disclosed, does the property become vulnerable to federal forfeiture as mentioned above?

Now, in general, if folks are making efforts to comply with state marijuana regulations, the risk of federal repercussions is low.  But it is important as real estate professionals that we inform our clients of the risks, as a part of their decision making process.

Currently 23 states have some sort of legal marijuana laws and regulations.  Is that close to a tipping point where legislation in the remaining states will happen quickly?  Or will the upcoming presidential election bring a conservative backlash as recently threatened by Donald Trump?

Though I can answer some questions on this topic, Marjorie Elken, with Zupancic Rathbone Law Group, P.C. (who gave a great presentations at our office recently) has focused an amount of her practice on these some of these marijuana issues.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tree rules, and trees rule.

Portland, and Portlanders, take great pride in our trees.  Friends of Trees has done a great job making it easy for neighborhoods and groups to coordinate tree plantings.

Unfortunately, much of our aging tree canopy will be dying off from old age and disease.  An amount of the canopy is also threatened by infill, increased density and development. 

To this end, the City of Portland updated the tree ordinance, which took effect the beginning of this year.  Per the website,

Portland's tree code works to:

- Protect trees during development

- Preserve trees as a community asset

- Plant new trees when others are removed, ensuring that the urban forest and its benefits continue to grow

- Educate people about proper tree care and the benefits of trees

- Increase the resiliency of the urban forest in the face of threats such as climate change and tree pests

Along with the updated ordinance came changes to tree removal and pruning permits, along with permits required for planting some trees.    Check here to see about permits.

The code and permit system are long and involved.  Here are a few pointers, but do check the website for information on a specific situation.  You'll most likely need a permit if any of the following conditions exist:

The tree is on a piece of land being developed.

It is a heritage tree.

The area in which the tree grows is in an overlay zone or plan district.
  • Cascade Station/Portland International Center Plan District
  • Columbia South Shore Plan District
  • Johnson Creek Basin Plan District
  • Portland International Airport Plan District
  • Rocky Butte Plan District
  • South Auditorium Plan District

  • The tree is over 12" in diameter at a height of 54" off the ground.

    The tree is in a parking lot.  Think that Joni Mitchell song about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.

    If the tree is a "street tree".

    So yes, the majority of the above instances are trees on private property.  Permit fees for removal and replanting can be as low as $25.00, but go up quickly if you aren't replanting, or it is a street tree, if the property is being developed, and so on. 

    Before you whine about free will, and all those darn rules, keep a few of these facts about trees in mind, courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation;

    The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

    Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase  property values as much as 20 percent.

    The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less run off and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply.  Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.

    Plant a tree, and be careful about and when cutting trees.