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Another progress report on the controversial 'Historic District': Not much progress to report yet

DAVID F. ASHTON - Not many, but a few signs still remain on lawns to show Eastmoreland homeowners feelings - pro and con - about being named an Historic District. Whether or not a large section of the Eastmoreland neighborhood will wind up on the National Register of Historic Places remains unclear.

Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Historian Ian Johnson told THE BEE in mid-January that the office had received an email from the Oregon Department of Justice (ODOJ), indicating that a letter has been drafted – and the ODOG is in the process of "circulating a letter" on this issue, the step before it being finalized.

"This letter is a response to the questions we put out to them in August about counting owners and counting objections," Johnson explained. "We don't know what kind of directions this letter will provide; but when it is received, we'll match up the instructions from the federal government, and then create a way of implementing it.

While the litigation brought by Eastmoreland neighbor Tom Brown is on appeal, Johnson said he didn't believe that was directly related with the issues with which he is dealing.

Derek Blum, who is associated with Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together (HEART) commented in a telephone interview, "From our standpoint, we're waiting to hear from SHPO. It is disappointing that, months later, and we don't have a resolution; it would be good to have closure and clarity about what is going on – a lot of people here, both pro and con the Historic nomination, put a lot of effort into this."

About Brown's litigation, Blum commented, "I think the legal actions are a reflection of the fact that some people not in favor of the Historic District didn't muster up enough objections to stop it."

But Brown's attorney, Nathan Morales of the Perkins-Coie law firm, reminded THE BEE that there are two separate lawsuits in play.

One requests that SHPO create a rule that describes the process they will take while counting property owners; the other is "Contested Case Hearing" litigation filed after the Oregon Court of Appeals dismissed the case.

"The case asking that SHPO create to create an 'administrative rule' about how they will count objecting property owners – SHIO has refused to do so," Morales said. "Last Week, we submitted opening briefs [written legal arguments in support of the appeal] in the Oregon Court of Appeals; they have 45 days in which to respond."

About the second case, Morales said, "We're asking the Oregon Supreme Court to review the decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals that dismissed the case. They've had it for more than a month, and we expect to hear from them any day."

Summarizing, Morales said, "We're hoping that SHPO will wait for the courts to respond before they act on the nomination; we believe that SHPO should not do anything to undermine getting answers on these issues from the Oregon state courts."

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