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What A Historic District Will Mean For Laurelhurst - Part 1

With the Nomination submitted and headed for SACHP review in October, let's review what a historic district will mean for Laurelhurst.

If Laurelhurst is listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, exactly what effect will it have on homeowners and on the neighborhood?

Here's the short answer:

Here's the details:

No Federal Restrictions On Homeowners In A National Register Historic District

There will be no "federal restrictions" on what a Laurelhurst homeowner can do with his or her house.

The following is from the National Park Service:

"Under Federal Law, the listing of a property in the National Register places no restrictions on what a non-federal owner may do with their property up to and including destruction, unless the property is involved in a project that receives Federal assistance, usually funding or licensing/permitting.

National Register listing does not lead to public acquisition or require public access.

A property will not be listed if, for individual properties, the owner objects, or for districts, a majority of property owners object.

National Register listing does not automatically invoke local historic district zoning or local landmark designation."

Eligible To Apply For Federal Tax Credit, and Other Benefits

Federal income tax credit programThere is a for rehabilitation of a National Register-listed property that is income-producing, which includes a residential rental house. The tax credit isn't automatic, you have to apply for it and meet the requirements.

Federal agencies are also required to consider the effects on National Register-listed districts when approving projects, under Section 106 of National Historic Protection Act. The most common effect of section 106 is that cellphone towers and antennas are seldom approved in a historic district.

City Protection Through "Demolition Review"

A Laurelhurst Historic District means demolition review protection for contributing houses.

In Oregon, historic preservation is a statewide planning goal. The state rules, that went into effect in January 2017, require cities to apply demolition review to contributing houses in a National Register historic district.

In the proposed Laurelhurst Historic District, about 75% of houses will be "contributing". The others are non-contributing, due to date of construction or major changes.

OAR 660-23-0200 (8)"Demolition review" means that before a developer may demolish a house, the city must hold a public hearing, as described in :

(a) Must protect National Register Resources, regardless of whether the resources are designated in the local plan or land use regulations, by review of demolition or relocation that includes, at minimum, a public hearing process that results in approval, approval with conditions, or denial and considers the following factors: condition, historic integrity, age, historic significance, value to the community, economic consequences, design or construction rarity, and consistency with and consideration of other policy objectives in the acknowledged comprehensive plan. Local jurisdictions may exclude accessory structures and non-contributing resources within a National Register nomination;

The last sentence of the regulation means that the city does not have to require demolition review for "accessory structures" like garages, or for houses that are "non-contributing".

No "Design Review" Restrictions On Remodeling

"Design review" means guidelines on alterations to houses, such as apply to in the Irvington and Ladd's Addition historic districts. Sometimes it is called "Historic Resource Review".

Under the January 2017 state rules, design review requirements may not be automatically imposed on a newly listed National Register historic district such as Laurelhurst. The city has to conduct a public hearing process to determine whether to apply design review and what the neighborhood's guidelines should be.

The City of Portland has confirmed the Laurelhurst National Register Historic District will not have design review. We wrote about this in February 2017. The city's Historic Program Manager explained it at our public meeting on August 30. here is the city's official statement:

"Listing in the National Register will not subject a Laurelhurst Historic District to Historic Resource Review. Historic Resource Review, sometimes called historic design review, is a land use review that is required for some alteration, addition, and new construction projects affecting historic landmarks and districts. Historic Resource Review was automatically applied to National Register resources listed before Jan. 27, 2017. Due to recent changes in the State Administrative Rule, a separate local adoption process is required before Historic Resource Review can be applied to resources listed in the National Register after Jan. 27, 2017. There is no timeline for when—or if—Historic Resource Review would be proposed for a Laurelhurst Historic District."

Wait, so a Laurelhurst historic district will be different from previously-created historic districts like Irvington? That's right - because Laurelhurst will become a historic district under the new January 2017 rules.

(We've been asked, is there any way Laurelhurst could get design review? The short answer is: not under current state law. Under the new January 2017 rules, Laurelhurst has to be a local historic district to get design review. Becoming a local historic district is a separate process from becoming a National Register historic district. And it really isn't possible, because Oregon law requires 100% owner consent to create a local historic district. There hasn't been a new local historic district created in Oregon since 1995!)

Eligible For Property Tax Benefit and Other Benefits

Oregon allows owners of contributing houses in a National Register historic district to apply for a property tax special assessment benefit, Preserving Oregon grants, and building code leniency. These are described in this handout from the State Historic Preservation Office.

Okay, as a practical matter, what will all this mean? How will historic district change or preserve our neighborhood? See Part 2.

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