The National Park Service (NPS) issued a letter dated June 29, 2018 addressed to the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) once again returning the Eastmoreland HD nomination to the State for prejudicial error. This is the second time that the SHPO failed to provide an accurate count of owners and objectors – this time because of the failure to discover and follow state and federal law regarding the recognition of 5,000 trust entities formed by four households. These 5,000 trusts were designed to overwhelm those in the neighborhood in support of the nomination and to make a mockery of the process of forming a historic district.
To the disappointment of many, the NPS declined to override the Oregon SHPO recommendation to count the objection trusts and provide an independent count of the legitimate objections. Instead the NPS chose to highlight the failure of the SHPO to perform due diligence in determining the validity of the trusts as legitimate entities or, if legal, legitimately empowered to represent the interests of the neighborhood district. Earlier in June, Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together (HEART) filed an a Petition for Judicial Review on similar grounds.
In returning the nomination, the NPS letter highlights some 300 letters of objection to the SHPO decision including legal opinions, national and regional preservation organizations, and the National Trust. The NPS reiterates that in every respect both the SHPO and the NPS support the nomination. Further, the NPS notes that “If the five property owners at issue had not created the 5,000 trusts, and had instead been counted as five (5) owners with five (5) objections, it appears that a majority of the private property owners would not have objected to listing.” Also included is a quote from the National Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation that recognition of these trusts “threaten to make a sham of this reasonable process and jeopardize the entire underpinnings of the National Register historic district designations.”
The full text of the NPS letter may be found on the SHPO website as follows: https://www.oregon.
The SHPO provided a press release July 2 concluding “The Oregon SHPO will develop a plan to respond to the NPS.” There is no time stipulated either for the development of a “plan” or a time to respond. Parallel legal actions, other historic districts impacted by the SHPO decision, and the rebuke from NPS may spur a response. Proposed adoption of the Residential Infill Project is less than a year away. Until the historic district is in place, the historic character of the neighborhood remains increasingly vulnerable including speculative demolitions on larger lots and loss of Eastmoreland’s more affordable houses.
Rod Merrick, Board President
Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association