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Moving history

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Stout/Schacht home, built in 1902, will have to be moved to avoid further damange from flooding.The four houses sitting on the Ambleside tract in Gresham are slated to be moved or torn down this summer, an action by Metro regional government that’s angered some residents.

Only one house — the 1902 Stout/Schacht house — can be moved. But where it’s moved is up to the city of Gresham, said Kathleen Brennan-Hunter, parks and nature department leader for the regional government.

Gresham has taken a preliminary look at some of the lots it owns in the Ambleside area but has not determined which, if any, would best for the Stout/Schacht house, said Steve Fancher, the city’s environmental services director.

“Part of this effort will include approaching prospective neighbors about the home relocation, which wouldn’t occur until it’s 100 percent certain that the home could be moved to a particular spot,” Fancher said.

Ambleside is a small community off Hogan Road in southeast Gresham dating to the early 1900s. The community was conceived as a summer retreat for Portlanders, but became a beloved historic artifact through which Johnson Creek runs.

A few years ago, Metro targeted the area for restoration, Brennan-Hunter said, which involves removing the houses from the property.

Metro owns about 27 acres of Ambleside, purchased through seven acquisitions totaling $2.26 million starting in 1999. The houses on its property are being temporarily leased to tenants.

“All of the tenants were informed well in advance about the planned restoration work, and agreements are in place for them to relocate before any work would begin,” said Yuxing Zheng, Metro’s parks and nature communications specialist.

Metro is applying to the Department of State Lands for permits to do the work. It will be funded from a 2013 parks and natural areas levy earmarked for restoring fish habitat in Johnson Creek.

However, three of the homes on the property cannot be moved, Brennan-Hunter said, because a connecting bridge is not strong enough to support it. But instead of saying the homes will be demolished, she uses the term “deconstructed” to mean that any material that can be reused will be reused.

Meanwhile, Metro said it would be able to move the historic Stout/Schacht house if Gresham finds a place for it.

“With its rich architecture character, a restored Ambleside home could be a beautiful addition to any neighborhood,” Fancher said. “We wouldn’t want to get hopes up for any particular area until we’re sure it will work out.”

But that’s not enough for Alice Duff, who through her group Friends of Ambleside Architecture and Landscape, filed a formal complaint with Metro trying to stop the plan. The deadline to comment to the state on Metro’s permit application is today.

“Metro, as the lead agency and majority owner of the Ambleside area, has a stewardship role that includes both the natural and historic landscape,” the group wrote. “Instead, there is a perception that since 1995 the agency has been a dilatory and neglectful landlord, a careless neighbor and a bully that hounds and/or out waits little old ladies for their property, all the while spraying weed killer, girdling trees, and cutting down shrubs and locally listed trees.”

The Ambleside group believes Metro can restore the fish habitat in Johnson Creek while keeping the four historic homes.

However, in a response, Metro said the group’s belief that the fish and homes can cohabitate is “simply not backed up by science or by the conclusions of technical experts and professionals.”

“The reality is that the Stout/Schacht house — the only house of the site that is on the local list of historic homes or eligible for national listing — will continue to suffer flood damage in its current location,” wrote Dan Moeller, Metro parks and nature conservation program director. “Those interested in historic preservation should realize that the solution Metro and the city of Gresham have offered — moving the house to a nearby city-owned site — is the only feasible option for the long-term protection of the house.”

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