On Friday Jan 27th, the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) met to review proposed rule changes to State Goal 5 protections for historic resources. The rules were approved by LCDC and will likely be in effect in the coming months.
The new rules restore authority to local governments to create local preservation districts. They mandate that National Historic Properties be effectively protected from demolition. And they encourage local governments to establish design guidelines tailored to National Historic Districts through a separate local process. That is the good news that we welcome. However, some are presenting Goal 5 reform as offering an alternative to a National Historic District.
Make no mistake and do not be misled. A local preservation district is not a viable option. It provides no value for Eastmoreland or similar neighborhoods intending to guide their future or protect their historic resources. Here is why:
- Unlike the National Historic District, there is no established nomination or review process. There is no mandate to create such a process. There is little chance of the City funding the development of such a process in the foreseeable future. Where such preservation districts are most likely to form is in small clusters like Peacock Lane (which is exploring a National Historic District).
- Unlike a National Historic District, forming a local preservation district is a public land use process (like rezoning) and requires comprehensive plan endorsement. Local government is responsible for initiating the local district process with all that entails. Portland has not updated its historic resource list for 30 years and barely completed a much delayed comprehensive plan update. Given other priorities, such initiative is extremely unlikely.
- The City would have to consider initiating and processing a preservation district as a budget line item. Based on past performance we know that Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is more interested in advancing the Residential Infill Project than advancing a preservation district in Eastmoreland.
- As a public agency running a public process the expense for the historic resource inventory would be many multiples of what our neighborhood has budgeted for consultant fees alone. In addition will be the cost of managing the process and extensive staff time that would be required to replace the many hundreds of hours volunteered by Eastmoreland residents. Who will pay next time?
- Unlike a National Historic District, Portland does not offer a property tax freeze for restoration of contributing properties. Moreover, in a local preservation district homeowners must go through the same review process and pay the same fees as those enjoying the protection under the National Historic District.
- Under Portland’s existing local preservation district regulations there is no demolition denial, only demolition delay.
This is a short list of reasons why a local preservation district is a dead-end option for Eastmoreland. It also is exactly why the opposition is proclaiming this as “the best option for our neighborhood”- guaranteeing that it will never happen. Calling this a viable alternative to a National Historic District is inaccurate and misleading.