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County Historic Landmarks Commission Saved From Suspension

BEND, OR -- A proposal to disband Deschutes County’s Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) appears to be dead, for now. Under a proposed code amendment, the duties of the HLC were to be taken over by the county’s Planning Division. County staff had expressed concern about a lack of interest, since three positions have sat vacant for a prolonged amount of time. Without those members, there's no quorum and the HLC can't meet. 

Deschutes Historical Museum Executive Director Kelly Cannon-Miller testified at Wednesday's public hearing that two people applied for a seat but were never contacted, "I think it’s unfair to say that interest isn’t there. I think this is a moment for you to look at how citizen participation is greeted by the Development Department." She went on to say, "There’s plenty of work to be done. You have the Commissioners. You would be cutting off your nose to spite your face, if you did this patch amendment." 

Community Development Director Peter Gutowsky told County Commissioners he was aware of the two applicants, but was waiting for more, "We did not have a robust pool. Typically, when you do a recruitment process, you have more than two to fill three positions."

The proposed amendment would have allowed the county to form a new HLC if a historic property applies for a permit or new historic listing. But Canon-Miller worries county staff don't have the necessary expertise to do the work, "The process you're proposing will hinder the landowners who do believe in historic preservation." She said that includes upcoming renovations planned for the Petersen Rock Garden, "We know they have years’ worth of deferred maintenance coming towards the new owners. They’ve already had sessions with your staff. So we know that permits are coming from them in the future. It’s only a matter of time. Why do you think it will be so easy to come up with a landmarks commission on the fly when a permit comes in, versus right now." She added, "One of the glorious things about the preservation process is that it is largely driven by the owners who believe in it and value it, and want to protect it. It’s not the government coming and telling you what to do with your property."

After hearing testimony broadly opposed to the idea, County Commissioners agreed to try again to recruit new volunteers to fill the three open seats.

For more information on the Historic Landmarks Commission and to apply for a seat on the board, click HERE. Applications are due December 1, 2023.

 

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