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'As slow as molasses' is an old saying that well describes Eastmoreland's Historic District controversy

DAVID F. ASHTON - Will the controversial Eastmoreland Historic District nomination issue finally be decided in 2021? It all depends upon the pace of the state rulemaking process, officials say. Neighbors who held out little hope that the controversial Eastmoreland Historic District nomination would be approved or denied in the year 2020 were not surprised to find the process dragging on as Christmas approached.

It's just possible that some sort of final answer may come in 2021, THE BEE has learned.

To recap the story for those who came in late: On May 26, 2016, the staff of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, attended a public meeting arranged by the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association to answer questions about the process of potentially naming part of the neighborhood an Historic District.

The subsequent application stalled in July of 2017, when the National Parks Service's National Register staff returned the nomination for "procedural errors". There followed some court-mediated wrangling over a handful of residents transferring ownership of their properties to thousands of new "trusts", which were each individually voted by all the trusts against the proposed Historic District. That continued to bog the process down in 2018.

After the fractured properties and their thousands of votes were disallowed in court, the State Historic Preservation Office shipped the nomination for the proposed Eastmoreland Historic District to the National Park Service for a final decision in May of 2019; but the agency rejected it again, citing "continuing uncertainties" related to counting owners' votes, pro and con, within the proposed district boundaries.

The advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic further slowed the process of the state's rulemaking in 2020.

In late November, THE BEE asked Chris Havel, Associate Director of Communications for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, for an update.

"The Eastmoreland nomination has not received any additional staff review since being returned the last time from the National Park Service, and no additional work on the nomination is currently scheduled," Havel responded.

"But at the request of the proponent [the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association], the SHPO intends to resubmit the nomination document to the National Park Service after the state rules, related to the way the federal program is managed in Oregon, are amended."

Those amendments could be adopted as soon as this February, or perhaps in April, he said. "If they are adopted, we'll know more about roughly when the nomination would be re-submitted to the National Park Service," Havel advised.

THE BEE will continue to follow this story.


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