Eastmoreland Historic District issue again ramping up
For those new to the matter, a number of residents in portions of the Eastmoreland neighborhood, supported by the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA), have been trying since 2012 to create a State of Oregon, and federally-recognized, "Historic District" there â€“ which led up to interviewing Historic "consultant"Â candidates in March of 2016.
As the Historic District application continued, proponents and opponents became more vocal. Two main groups, "Keep Eastmoreland Free" (opposed) and "I Heart Eastmoreland" (in favor) created websites and separate campaigns to further promote their sides of the issue.
THE BEE has continued to detail the twists and turns of this nomination over the years, including when the application was twice rejected on technical grounds â€“ mainly concerning how "legitimate property owners" were to be defined.
In 2018, Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission's "State Historic Preservation Office" (SHPO) began work to clarify the rules to implement the Federal National Register of Historic Places program, administered by the United States National Park Service. A SHPO Commission amended and adopted state rules at its regular June 23 meeting this year, allowing the process again to go forward.
Eastmoreland Historic District proposal "still active"
To get a better understanding of these amended rules, THE BEE recently again contacted Oregon State Parks Associate Director Chris Havel and Associate Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Ian Johnson. One question we had was whether the Eastmoreland Historic District proposal had expired, or "timed out", because it has been in the works for longer than two years.
Chris Havel responded, "The newly-adopted state rule sets out two processes for long-running projects:
· One for nomination documents submitted before the rule was filed with the Secretary of State on 6/25/2021; and,
· Another for those nomination documents submitted before that date which remain active -- meaning that the proponent did not withdraw the nomination from consideration.
"For those nominations that were withdrawn from consideration or submitted after the effective date of the rule, the SHPO must resubmit the nomination document within two years of the date that the nomination document is returned by the National Park Service," Havel added.
"This is a provision in the state rule, not a federal rule, or a National Park Service policy or practice. If the SHPO fails to resubmit the nomination document to NPS within this timeframe, the process stops, and begins again," he said, referring us to OAR 736-050-0250(18)(e through f).
Asked to simplify, Havel said, "The Eastmoreland Historic District nomination has NOT expired; the proponent, the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, never withdrew the nomination document -- so the effort is therefore active under the provisions described in the rule."
Timeline for proposal consideration unclear
The Oregon SHPO will resubmit the proposed Eastmoreland Historic District nomination document on behalf of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, Havel told us. The SHPO will review the nomination document, property owner list, and notarized statements, for completeness and accuracy â€“ and then make corrections where necessary.
"We will begin by publishing a public notice informing property owners that we are moving forward with the effort. Property owners will be invited to submit notarized statements, and we will edit the property owner list based on a review of county property records and submitted notarized statements," Havel went on.
He said that, because this nomination document remains active, property owners may submit notarized statements now. "However, owners may want to wait until we create forms that meet the requirements that are described in the rule, to make sure that their statement meets the requirements," Havel clarified. "We will edit the nomination document as necessary following consultation with NPS to determine what may need to be updated; the process for resubmission is described in detail in OAR 736-050-0250(18).
"Due to budget and staff cutbacks, and the complexity of the new rule, we anticipate that we will begin planning for this project late in August, with the goal of resubmitting it to NPS as soon as possible. "We have not yet scoped the project, but we expect to have a timeline for the process within the next 60 days."
Proponents and opponents chime in
Speaking for themselves, two Eastmoreland neighbors, with opposing positions on the proposal, commented on it to THE BEE, as well as on the ongoing process.
Rod Merrick â€“ in favor of the proposal:
"The EHD nomination has been approved by the Portland Landmarks Commission (PLC), the Statewide Commission on Historic Preservation (SCHP), the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and the National Park Service (NPS) â€“ with the exception of the final count of owners and objectors.
"Since 2017, the ENA has supported the Historic District to 'guide change', and to provide demolition protection for historic resources from speculative demolitions and redevelopment. These include our many historically-significant properties:Â The Eastmoreland Golf Course (on which the city has proposed building housing), the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, and the invaluable mature street and yard trees that benefitÂ air quality, andÂ offerÂ protection from extreme heatÂ caused by climate change.
"Opponents of the district have used various legal and illegal means, including four households creating 5,000 "objection trusts," to overrule neighbors in attempts to delay and derail the nomination. This forced the SHPO to revise and clarify rules for the process, especially around the use of trusts to distort the count. Following the update of state rules around these issues in June, we are informed that the SHPO will begin to finalize the count this fall, and will resubmit the nomination to the NPS."
Bert Sperling â€“ opposed to the proposal
"I feel that the proposed Historic District application needs to be paused or resubmitted. First, at this moment, we have no firm idea what a Historic District even means. There have been changes in codes at the national, state, and local level. The city's current historic resource code is not in compliance with the state changes, and new revisions will be going before the City Council on November 3rd. Even the definition of 'demolition' has not been finalized.
"Second, so much has changed in the five years since the Eastmoreland application was submitted. Over 22% of Eastmoreland homes have changed hands in that time. [Using a count of current and previous homeowners, based on ownership records provided by the City of Portland, June 2021.] These are hundreds of homeowners who have never had a chance to learn about or provide feedback on the Historic District.
"Finally, stepping back and restarting the application process will give the entire current neighborhood a chance to make the decision together, and leave the contentiousness behind us."
THE BEE will continue to cover this unique process as it continues to unfold.
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