Eastmoreland residents have rejected turning their neighborhood into a National Historic District by resorting to a technical tactic to voice their objections.
The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association sought last year to form a historic district as a way to block home demolitions and new development, after the city signaled plans to encourage denser development in the future.
But the state now says it can't move forward with that request, because dissenting homeowners have successfully maneuvered to block it.
Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association president Rod Merrick is crying foul. "If this was an election," he says, "it would be called voter fraud."
Eastmoreland formally filed with the state last year seeking to historic district status.
But a technical matter stood in the way of the state deciding agreeing to the historic designation: How to count the number of homeowners in the area.
That's because if a majority of owners within a district object to the formation of a historic district, they can block it.
The State Historic Preservation Office had been weighing for more than a year how to determine who is technically an homeowner. The office sought advice from the federal government and the state attorney general after receiving the application.
In the meantime, property owners took matters into their own hands, using technical maneuvers to create more formal homeowners within the neighborhood
AS KGW-TV reported in March, one owner split his property between 1,000 trusts. Each of those trusts each got a vote on whether there should be a historic district.
Today the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office determined that that strategy had prevailed.
"The SHPO counted a total of 7,188 private property owners. Nearly 5,000 of these were recently-formed trusts that submitted objections," the SHPO website states.
"A total of 5,952 objections were received or 82.8% of the total number of owners. According to federal rules, if more than 50% of the owners in a district submit objections, the property cannot be listed."
Merrick pledged today to make "this kind of abuse a national issue."
"Absent the 5,000 trusts generated by 4 property owners, the opposition was not even close to winning," says Merrick. "We can thank our unscrupulous neighbors for helping the opponents to justify their tactics by claiming that the process of counting objections is undemocratic."