LUBA ruling reverses City Council's decision to remove designation

Photo Credit: REVIEW FILE PHOTO - The two-story home at 3811 Carman Drive was built in 1857 by pioneer couple Waters and Lucretia Carman.Lake Oswego's Carman House will keep its historic landmark designation, the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) has decided.

The surprise Aug. 5 decision overturned a Lake Oswego City Council decision to allow the home's current owners to remove its designation as an historic landmark.

The 1.25-acre lot at 3811 Carman Drive contains a two-story residence built in 1857 by pioneer couple Waters and Lucretia Carman, whose claim for the land was signed by President Andrew Jackson. It was one of 93 properties in Lake Oswego designated as an historic resource in 1990, and one of 43 remaining landmarks in the city.

During its Jan. 7 session, the City Council approved the request by the Mary Cadwell Wilmot Trust to remove the property’s historic landmark designation. At the time, the owners — descendants of the Carmans and beneficiaries of the family trust — wanted to remove the designation in order to subdivide and develop the property.

A new landmark designation would be placed on a smaller portion of the property, the owners said, and a monument would be located on the corner of Carman Drive and Wilmot Way.

The owners’ attorney, Chris Koback, told The Review in late 2013 that the landmark designation effectively rendered the dilapidated property “economically unusable.” Koback said the house had remained largely vacant during the past 10 years, save for one family member who maintained a part-time residence there for insurance purposes.

Under state law, a landowner may request removal of an historic designation imposed on their property. But it has remained unclear how that law applies to descendants who weren’t listed as the property’s owners when it became a landmark but did receive it later from their family through inheritance or transfer.

For that reason, Mary Lou Colver of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society said, the latest appeals board ruling could set a precedent.

The city found that the “property owner” need not have owned the property at the time the historic designation was applied, and that the 1990 designation was an imposition on the property’s current owner.

But LUBA disagreed.

The appeals board pointed out that in 1990, Richard Wilmot, then the owner of the property on Carman Drive, objected to all 10 acres from the original lot being designated an historic landmark because he had previously sold off 8.75 acres. But he did not object to his 1.25-acre property and house being given the designation, LUBA found.

In its 30-page decision, LUBA cited the City Council’s 1992 finding that “no party contested the historical significance” of the smaller lot.

Colver said she was pleased with LUBA’s decision.

“The society has been working to save this house for three years,” Colver said, adding that Carman House is the oldest home in Lake Oswego. Had LUBA found differently, Colver said it might have been “disastrous” for other historic properties in Oregon.

A 2013 Restore Oregon survey found that only five percent of the historic houses and homesteads that existed in 1865 are still standing today.

Koback could not be reached for comment, but the decision still could be appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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