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Oregon Court Ruling Limits Historic Designation Statute

The original owners of the Carmen House pose for a photo taken between 1920-1930.

The original owners of the Carmen House pose for a photo taken between 1920-1930.

Lake Oswego Public Library

The Oregon Supreme Court has narrowed property owners’ options for removing their historic designation.

The court’s Aug. 4 decision allows only the original property owner to request the local government remove the historic designation; subsequent owners can not make such a request.

Currently, Oregon has two levels of historic designation: national and local. Nationally designated properties are subject to a federal process if owners want to remove the designation, and are not effected by the ruling. However, owners of locally designated historic properties have been able to utilize their city’s codes to remove the designation; they also could use state rules, specifically OR 197.772, which says local governments shall allow property owners to remove a designation.

Under the state Supreme Court’s ruling, “owner” as it appears in the state statute is now defined as the original owner. Subsequent property owners are now barred from utilizing OR 197.772; and according to Kimberli Fitzgerald, a Cultural Resources Planner for the Salem Historic Preservation Office, property owners may no longer be able to use their local codes as an alternative. Local municipalities will be expected to alter their codes to adhere to the new definition — meaning there may no longer be a way for locally designated properties to remove the designation.

Read more at the Statesman Journal.

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