Landmark Ruling On Historic Lake Oswego House Is A Big Win For Preservationists

Dated: September 29 2016

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One of the joys of buying an old home or building is the sense of history that comes with it, a sense that is shared by neighbors and visitors alike.

In a recent case, Lake Oswego Preservation Society v. City of Lake Oswego, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that structures that retain a pre-existing designation as “historic” cannot be removed from protection simply by request by a subsequent owner.

Carrie Richter is a Portland attorney and owner at Garvey Schubert Barer.

Carrie Richter is a Portland attorney and owner at Garvey Schubert Barer.

Earlier this month, the Oregon Supreme Court interpreted the historic preservation consent law, ORS 197.772, in a landmark case. The court determined that the right to automatic removal of a historic designation from a property applies only to the owners of properties at the time that the designation was imposed — not to owners that acquire a property after a historic designation is already in place.

Local communities have used the designation of local historic landmarks as an essential tool to further land use planning objectives and achieve community sustainability.

The local designation of resources is distinguishable from the National Register of Historic Places list that is a federally run program where regulation is local. Even prior to the adoption of the statewide land use goals, Oregon communities were inventorying and designating historic properties to preserve their communal histories.

Later, the statewide land use planning goals including Goal 5, required local governments to identify and designate historically significant properties and identify the appropriate level of protection for each site.

In 1995, the legislature adopted an owner consent law, ORS 197.772, stipulating that property owners have the right to refuse a request to designate their property as historic. The language used in the 1995 update, and whether it applies to subsequent property owners, is what triggered the course of events that led to this month’s decision.

The case concerned the Carman House, a property added in 1990 by the City of Oswego to its inventory of historic landmarks as a rare and valuable example of a territorial Oregon residence. A subsequent owner of the property filed an application to remove the Carman House's historic designation in 2013, hoping to tear down the aging structure and redevelop.


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Mark Ross

For Mark Ross, founder of Ross NW Real Estate and professional real estate broker, real estate has always been the career of choice. During his 25+ years in the industry, Mark has gained experience in....

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