Zoning Administration

Zoning administration is a critical component of the Permitting and Inspections Department. Most building permit reviews start with a zoning determination and assessment. The zoning rules govern whether a certain use can be undertaken at a location, how much land is required for that use, how high a building can be, what setbacks apply, how much parking is required, and many other factors related to land development. 

New Land Use Zoning Ordinance
On November 9, 2020, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt a new land use code (zoning ordinance), which went into effect on December 1, 2020. This Phase I ReCode process has streamlined, modernized, and reformatted the code. Further updates are planned in the Phase II revisions, which will better align the code with the goals of the City Comprehensive Plan (Portland's Plan 2030). Please visit the ReCode website for more details and to follow the Phase II process.

Please click here for the previous version of Chapter 14 Land Use Code. This version is no longer in effect and was superseded by the new version that went into effect on December 1, 2020. 

Zoning Questions? 
Please start with the

Zoning Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

There is also a table of

basic residential dimensional requirements

available which includes setbacks. If you still have questions after reading the FAQ, email


Appeals, Variances and Zoning Map/Ordinance Amendments

Not all developments fit neatly into the rules, so appeal, variance and zoning map/ordinance amendment processes are available. The Zoning Board of Appeals reviews and rules on these appeal and variance requests. Amendments to the zoning map and ordinance are handled by the Department of Planning and Urban Development.  That department may be contacted directly regarding such requests at planning@portlandmaine.gov. 

Zoning Determinations and Verification Letters, and Ordinance Interpretations

Due to Order 158, passed by the Portland City Council on March 16, 2017, the Permitting and Inspections Department will no longer be issuing written zoning determination or verification letters. The requested information is generally publicly available:
  • Zones and overlay zones of subject and surrounding properties can be found on the online zoning map
  • The zoning ordinance can be found in Chapter 14 of the City Code of Ordinances 
  • Permit records from 2018 to present are searchable and downloadable from the Citizen Self Service (CSS) portal. For records from 2000 to 2018 the server folders are available here. These are arranged by CBL chart/block/lot number, which is found using the Assessor's Search Tool.  There is also a folder labeled "Microfiche" that contains any scanned microfiche (pre-2000) that is available for properties, again organized by CBL number. Only a small percentage of properties have had their microfiche scanned, but it is a good place to start when looking for older permitting records. If you need microfiche records that have not yet been scanned, please send a request to permitting@portlandmaine.gov. Please note that it can take several weeks to fulfill scanning requests. 
If you have questions, or cannot find what you need, contact us at zoning@portlandmaine.gov

Ordinance interpretations are made by the Zoning Administrator, who can be reached at zoning@portlandmaine.gov or (207) 874-8709.  Appeals of the Zoning Administrator's interpretations are heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals.