The historic preservation field reached a new milestone on April 24th when Chief Justice Thomas Balmer ordered the State Supreme Court to review a law that jeopardizes the preservation of as many as 3,200 historic properties across Oregon. The case, Lake Oswego Preservation Society v. City of Lake Oswego, represents the first time that Oregon’s highest court has taken up a specifically historic preservation issue.
As reported one month ago, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society in March petitioned the Supreme Court to review a recent Court of Appeals decision that paved the way for the de-listing and demolition of the 1855 Carman House, Lake Oswego’s oldest. Because that lower court’s decision set a precedent greatly expanding the applicability of Oregon’s 1995 “owner consent” law, Restore Oregon filed an extensive amicus brief detailing how the Carman House decision would endanger thousands of local landmarks from Portland to Pendleton. A motion to strike the amicus brief was considered by the Court, but was denied after a follow-up brief was submitted by Restore Oregon on April 20.
The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case is itself a meaningful signal to the historic preservation field as petitions for review are only granted 6-10% of the time.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on November 10th, with a decision expected by the end of the year. In the meantime, local governments should be asked to delay decisions related to this case until the Court has made their decision.
Our sincerest thanks are owed to Dan Kearns (Reeves Kearns) and Carrie Richter (Garvey Schubert Barer) for providing invaluable legal representation on this case. Dan and Carrie will be filing additional briefs next month requesting the court rule on the side of preservation.