Congressional Committee Invited Eastmoreland National Historic District Opponent to Testify about Abuse of Federal Historic District Laws
Washington D.C. – A subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources has invited 42-year Eastmoreland resident Patty Brandt to testify about how the proposed Eastmoreland National Historic District abuses the intent of federal historic district laws.
A handful of Eastmoreland residents applied for a national historic designation in November 2016, exploiting a loophole in federal historic landmark laws. When paired with state and local laws, the honorary federal historic district designation would impose new, expensive, and complicated regulations on Eastmoreland neighbors’ homes without their consent.
“We are grateful that Congress is shining a light on this unjust process by which a small group of people can designate someone’s home as a national historic landmark without consent and subject a home to complicated and expensive regulations,” said Patty Brandt, a member of the “Keep Eastmoreland Free” group that opposes the district. “The proposed Eastmoreland historic district abuses federal laws that were meant to celebrate and protect historic landmarks, not infringe on the rights of individual homeowners.”
Under federal law, the listing of a neighborhood as a National Historic District (NHD) is intended to be honorary. It is not intended to restrict homeowners' property rights.
The listing of an Oregon neighborhood as a NHD has significant ramifications. When an Oregon neighborhood is listed as a NHD, Oregon's Statewide Planning Goal 5 mandates that local governments “protect” the designated properties. These protections include requiring affected homeowners to wade through complicated and often expensive Land Use Reviews to make every day exterior alterations or energy-efficient upgrades to their homes.
Historic district restrictions on homeowners are put into effect unless 50%+1 of title holders in the proposed district sign notarized letters of objection within six months of the application filing.
By June 30, Eastmoreland historic district opponents had presented over 1,040 notarized objections to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) from Eastmoreland homeowners in the proposed district. This was far more than the 1,027 objections that SHPO said were needed to immediately prevent NHD designation. Although SHPO’s own stated threshold was reached by June 30, SHPO has contended that it is confused about who constitutes a homeowner.
“Most Eastmorelanders oppose the district. Opponents turned in more than enough objections on June 30 to prove it. This neighborhood’s February vote also showed that a majority of participating neighbors oppose the historic district. The debate is over, and this misguided application should be rejected.” said Brandt. She added, “I sincerely hope that Congress can fix statutory and regulatory provisions so that no other neighborhood is subject to this kind of abuse.”
Committee Notice: On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold an oversight hearing titled “Examining Impacts of Federal Natural Resources Laws Gone Astray, Part II.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN IRVINGTON?
We invited City of Portland staff and Irvington Historic District residents to share their expertise and experiences, while providing fact-based primers on how historic district nominations work, and what how it will effect you and any future plans you have for your home.