Review sought for Eastmoreland 'Historic District' ruling
Neighbors on both sides of the Eastmoreland Historic District (District) nomination controversy have found little common ground since the idea was proposed in May, 2016. But now, both proponents and opponents seem to agree that the process is flawed, and are both headed to court to have their objections heard.
When, on April 25, the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) revealed that it had determined that the opponents of the proposed District submitted enough objections to prevent listing the District in the National Register of Historic Places – due to some neighbors having created modified trusts by which individuals could cast 5,000 votes in opposition – those in favor of the district nomination were dismayed.
The SHPO "kicked the issue down the road" to Washington D.C. because, following federal guidelines, the SHPO had resubmitted the nomination to the National Park Service (NPS) for an official Determination of Eligibility', and the official decision to list or not list the District in the National Register rests with the NPS.
Because the Historic District nomination issue apparently has yet to be settled, on June 19, Derek and Manda Blum, co-founders of "Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together" (HEART), filed a legal document called a "Petition for Judicial Review, Pursuant to ORS 183.484".
At the time of filing, THE BEE attempted to contact the SHPO's officials regarding this development, and the current status of the nomination – but we found Chris Havel and Ian Johnson were out of town, at meetings.
Instead of attempting to characterize the 44-page Petition for Judicial Review, THE BEE spoke with petitioner Derek Blum about the requested legal action.
"We feel that the State of Oregon, and the SHPO specifically, hasn't done their job properly regarding the Eastmoreland Historic District nomination," Blum told THE BEE. "What it comes down to is how the State interprets counting property owners, [in] determining that some 5,000 trusts, created [by an individual] with the sole purpose of opposing the district's nomination – was accepted by them [as 5,000 votes 'no']," Blum said. "Their rationale was based on guidance from Oregon Department of Justice, and we believe they misinterpreted this."
His research shows, he said, that there is no reference to trusts in National Park Service National Register of Historic Places language, and CFRs of the program run and administered by SHPO. "So, it is a matter of interpretation; but none of that guidance specifically referenced what has happened," Blum commented. "What it comes down is this: We're calling for a judicial review to straighten this out."
In the meantime, he pointed out, the National Parks Service is still in possession of the petition, and will make the final decision at some unknown future date.
"I'm hopeful that on the state and federal levels, using trusts to circumvent the [historic district nomination] process can be avoided; [an individual] creating 5,000 objection trusts is wrong, not in the spirit of the process, and is a problem that should be fixed," Blum remarked.
Those who favored Eastmoreland's listing in the National Register could have used the same tactic of filing revised property trusts, acknowledged Blum. "But we feel it is unethical, and we'd rather follow the process, which is why we're challenging the misapplication of the advice provided by the state.
"My position remains that the Oregon SHPO has been negligent in their administration of the program in Oregon, and aren't appropriately doing their job. We'd hoped it wouldn't have come to this, but this action is necessary to challenge their decision." The filing can be accessed here – www.readthebee.com/blumfiling.html
Tom Brown, of the opposing "Keep Eastmoreland Free" organization, commented, "I'm glad to see that Derek and HEART are going after SHPO through a legal process, instead of by other means.
"Some called my lawsuit 'scurrilous'; and now, I'm glad they're shifting their focus to where it belongs, on SHPO. My suit about Historic District nomination rules is still pending," Brown said. "It's interesting that HEART is now trying to accomplish the same thing: Calling the rules into question."
As a side note, National Park Service National Register of Historic Places Deputy Keeper J. Paul Loether, retired before Eastmoreland's district's nomination could be sorted out, leaving it to Acting Chief Julie Ernstein to deal with.