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Progress report? Not much progress yet... Legal actions are holding up a definitive decision

Legal action surrounding what opponents say is a lack of clarity in the rules continues to stall the process of declaring a large part of the Eastmoreland neighborhood a National Historic District.

Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association President Rod Merrick didn't respond to a request for comments in regarding the issue, but, in an e-mail, dated October 27, issued a "Report on the Eastmoreland Historic District".

Merrick, representing the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, officially in favor of the Historic District, wrote in part:

Careful analysis of the letters of objection and support reported in July indicate that the Historic District has the definitive support of the neighborhood. During the August ENA Board meeting, the Board reaffirmed its commitment to the Historic District nomination, and its support for SHPO to conclude their certification and resubmit the application to the NPS.

Additionally, he wrote:

One neighbor continues legal action intended to block finalization of the count – first in Marion County, and subsequently in the Oregon Court of Appeals. His suit demands (without evidence) that the work of SHPO is incompetent and should be stopped or "stayed". The suit was dismissed by Marion County, and the demand for a stay has been dismissed, but other claims have yet to be ruled upon by the Court of Appeals.

Merrick's message continued:

Your President and a representative from HEART [Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together] traveled to Salem on October 20 to remind the SHPO and Statewide Commission on Historic Resources during its fall meeting that a count and final decision is needed without further delay. Staff concurred, and also expressed frustration with the inexplicable nearly six-month delay by DOJ in providing direction.

Early in November, Oregon Parks & Recreation Department of Oregon Heritage's State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Historian Ian Johnson talked about the progress of the application.

"We have reconciled the [property ownership] records with those collected by the National Parks Service, and found only found one difference," Johnson told THE BEE. "We're still waiting for information from the National Parks Service that was supposed to get me a letter two weeks ago, but has not; issues with the Oregon Department of Justice (ODOJ) has been taken over with my supervisors.

"National Parks will give us guidance on how to submit the application for Historic District designation, based on their interpretation of the regulations," said Johnson. "We have the resources in place to take action once we get direction."

On November 6, the attorney working on the behalf of Eastmoreland resident Tom Brown, Nathan Morales of the Perkins Coie law firm, spoke with THE BEE, informing from Brown's point of view.

"There are two separate lawsuits," Morales began. "One is a request that SHPO create a rule that describes the process they will take while counting property owners; it's in the Oregon Court of Appeals and we're waiting for a briefing schedule of the court.

"The other is that we've requested to SHPO that we're provided with 'Contested Case Hearing', because the Oregon Court of Appeals dismissed the case – and we intend to petition the Oregon Supreme Court to review that order.

"No court in Oregon has addressed this issue [defining property ownership]; it's of great importance, because it affects the rights of property owners across the state," he said. "We think we have a pretty good chance of granting a review."

They'll learn whether or not the Oregon Supreme Court will review the case in a few months, Morales told us. And while they're expecting the briefing schedule from Oregon Court of Appeals "any day now", a decision may not be handed down for a year or so, he remarked.

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