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BEND, OR-State-level hearings begin today on a request by the Deschutes County Landmarks Commission to nominate this city’s Old Town neighborhood as a National Register Historic District.

The State Advisory Committee on Historic Properties will review the nomination at two meetings, one today and another in February. If the committee approves the proposal and if a majority of the affected property owners consent to it, the nomination will be forwarded to the federal level. A final decision is expected sometime around May.

If successful, it would be the first national historic district in Deschutes County. Oregon currently has 75 historic districts in Portland, Albany, Talent and Baker City and elsewhere.

The proposed boundaries for the propsed Old Town district in Bend are approximately Delaware Avenue, Hill Street, Broadway and a ragged boundary along the north edge of Downtown. Some 338 properties, 295 property owners, 75 acres and 33 city blocks are encompassed by the proposed boundaries, which were altered and reduced after an initial public hearing in March.

All buildings within the district are subject to the regulations of the city of Bend preservation ordinance, and the benefits. All buildings listed on the National Registry or locally designated as historic must follow the regulations of the preservation ordinance. In a historic district, landowners are eligible for a 15-year freeze on local property taxes if they undertake historic renovations. A 20% federal investment tax credit is also available for renovations to income-producing property.

The nomination effort began two years ago at the request of some residents of the Old Town neighborhood, many of whom are concerned about out-of-character infill development. Less happy with the idea are property owners who don’t like the restrictions that come with such a listing.

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