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This is a community resource for the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Portland, Oregon.
Featured Article - Becoming a Historic District - FAQ
Historic status in Laurelhurst has a bit of a history of its own (see the sidebar at right), and it was quickly evident that there is still much confusion on this issue. A complete Q & A on historic status for Laurelhurst would fill the newsletter many times over, and many answers are contingent on factors not directly addressed here, but hopefully the following answers will clarify some of the basic questions that come up with talking about Laurelhurst as a historic district.
If you find yourself still looking for answers, check out this article online. It links to much more comprehensive information, including the answers to more than 30 questions, and the ability for you to add your own.
So, what, if anything, is actually being done?
Resident and Portland Landmark Commission Member Peter Meijer indicated that he and a group of neighbors are actively investigating listing Laurelhurst on the National Register of Historic Places. The investigation is happening independently of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association, which has taken no position on historic status for the neighborhood.
What would a National Register listing mean for my house?
In a historic district, there are two types of properties: “contributing” properties that directly relate to the particular historic qualities of the neighborhood, and “non-contributing” properties that don’t. What is or isn’t a contributing property depends a lot on what an application for historic status describes as historically important about a neighborhood. A property’s “contributing” status affects what kinds of benefits and restrictions apply to it. Generally speaking, “non-contributing” properties don’t have access to many of the financial and other incentives that are available to National Register-listed properties. In Portland, they are also free from the Demolition Review required before contributing properties can be torn down.
All properties in a historic district in Portland, however, are required to have a Historic Design Review as part of any large (and, generally, exterior) renovation, even if the property is non-contributing. (Historic Design Review applies to the construction of new houses as well.) A primary reason for including non-contributing properties is that, once a neighborhood is listed, the City attempts to maintain the historic character of the entire neighborhood. Reviews on non-contributing structures look to ensure that the changes (or new structure) are in keeping with the existing neighborhood in terms of such things as building style and size. The Historic Design Review is initiated as part of the building permit process and adds both extra time and extra cost to the permit in order to facilitate the review. Contributing properties gain the benefit of relaxed guidelines for certain zoning a building codes, such as relaxed restrictions on conditional uses such as group living facilities and institutional uses such as schools and day-care, according to Liza Mickle, City Planner in the City’s Bureau of Planning.
Will my property taxes be frozen?
Nothing happens to your property taxes automatically. There is a program called the “Special Assessment” that can be applied for by individual “contributing” properties that freezes the assessed value (not the taxes paid) of that property for 15 years. This program exists to provide an incentive for property owners to preserve and improve the historic qualities of a property. The program has an up-front fee and requires that a preservation plan be in place that outlines the work that the building will undergo during the 15 year period to maintain and restore it’s historic qualities.
Will a National Register listing mean less money for Laurelhurst schools?
In Ladd’s Addition, which has been on the National Register for a while now, about 7% of all houses take advantage of this program. Given that this program freezes property values and not taxes and the relatively low rate of program adopters, it would seem that the amount of taxes that Laurelhurst would contribute to the State for disbursement on education would not vary much from the present.
Will I have to open my house for tours?
Some of the financial incentives available to contributing properties in a historic district do carry the requirement for an open house, so taking advantage of them may require an open house once a year for as little as four hours. Will I be limited on what color I can paint my house? The only reason that you would not be able to select your own paint color is if the color of your house was specifically mentioned of the historic value of your house; an extremely unlikely scenario in Laurelhurst.
Can I keep my property out of the listing if Laurelhurst becomes a historic district?
No. Neighborhoods are listed or not as a complete entity.
What can I do if I don’t want Laurelhurst to be a historic district?
A proposal to have a neighborhood listed on the National Register can be defeated if 50% or more of the property owners object to it. Objections must come in the form of a notarized letter during the 45-day comment period that follows a nomination’s submission. At the September General Membership Meeting, Ian Johnson, of the State Historic Preservation Office, indicated that his organization would provide a notary public in a public meeting place during this period to facilitate those wishing to object to the application, should there be a significant number of them.
Where can I get more information?
For more information on the National Register of Historic Places, contact Ian Johnson (503.986.0678) or Cara Kaser (503.986.0784), both of the State Historic Preservation Office. Inquiries related to local regulations can be directed to Liza Mickle (503.823.7666) in the City’s Planning Department. Peter Meijer can be contacted at 503.717.0283. Of course you can read more online by visiting the Related Links, and contribute your own questions or answers to help us all stay better informed on this process.
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Ten Pages to Start With
Here are 10 pages that should help to give you a flavor of the site: