The Willamette Chapter, located in the state Capital, sees a major role of the chapter is advocacy and lobbing for the rights and equity for the blind community in Oregon.
In 2014-2015, the chapter exerted a special amount of effort to preserve the historic value of the former Oregon State School for the Blind campus and to retain the last remaining building, Howard Hall. The membership attended meetings of the Land Use Board of Appeals. We raised funds to mount a court challenge. LUBA head that the cities process was in violation of state law. We then lost as a result of other legal maneuvers and the Salem Hospital tore Howard down. Read the Statesman Journal article below:
Saerom Yoo, Statesman Journal10:24 p.m. PST December 19, 2014
Beverly Rushing lost another battle this week in her years-long fight against the physical and institutional disappearance of the Oregon School for the Blind.
Rushing, now 84, lobbied the Oregon Legislature against closing the school and selling it to Salem Hospital. She fought against tearing down most buildings on the campus. Each time, she lost.
The final building standing on the property adjacent to Salem Hospital's main campus is Howard Hall — the only building that was designated as a historic landmark. It also represents her final fight.
"Call me Custer," Rushing said, laughing. "This is my last stand."
The state Land Use Board of Appeals on Wednesday issued the latest blow to Rushing's cause.
The Salem Historic Landmarks Commission in June rejected Salem Hospital's second proposal to demolish Howard Hall. In July, the Salem City Council voted to overturn the decision and allow the hospital to proceed with its plans.
Rushing was the chief petitioner in an appeal to LUBA, asking the board to reverse the City Council's call.
With no resources for an attorney, she gathered help from the Willamette Chapter of the American Council of the Blind of Oregon to draft and file the legal paperwork. Oral arguments were heard Dec. 4.
LUBA found in the city's favor, and ultimately, the favor of Salem Hospital, which hopes to build an outpatient physical therapy campus on the property.
"We were pleased with (the LUBA decision)," Salem Hospital spokeswoman Sherryll Hoar said. "We anticipated it would support our plan because our plan was developed with a long-range look at what's best for the site and how we can provide a community benefit in the midst of everything we're looking at doing."
The hospital's plans include an adaptive playground for children with disabilities and a commemorative garden to honor the Oregon School for the Blind's history. But that hasn't eased the opposition from those who believe Howard Hall should remain standing no matter what — Rushing included.
The hospital's proposed project has been met with many strong opinions — both for and against — and Rushing doesn't represent all of the blind community or alumni of the blind school.
Rushing's stake in Howard Hall is personal. She lived in the former dormitory as a girl, when she left Southern Oregon to attend the school.
She learned braille and skills to support her independence as a blind individual. Leaving her parents' protective care was critical in her development and education, she said. The school is also where she met her husband, Bob Rushing.
So despite that she had a formidable opponent in Salem Hospital, she hasn't stopped fighting over the years.
"I lived in Howard Hall. That was my motivation. Because that was my home," Rushing said.
Rushing's camp has 21 days from the date of the decision to appeal. Technically, this fight could go on all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court. But it's not clear what the next move will be.
"We want to see if we can find an attorney to do this pro bono," said Rushing's son-in-law, Patrick Schwab. "We haven't ruled it out but without some additional legal support, that will be very difficult to do."
Meanwhile, the hospital this week has begun prepping for demolition and construction. It has expanded its fencing and put up a blue shroud around the perimeter of the property. There's also protection around the trees and waterways.
"It's a slap in the face when they start putting the construction fence around the building before we'd even received the decision," said Bob Johnson, president of the Willamette Chapter of the American Council of the Blind of Oregon.
Hoar said considering the hospital's plans have been delayed longer than expected, it wanted to be prepared to begin construction as soon as legally possible.
"We recognize that the people who appeal will have the opportunity to file an additional appeal," she said. "We're hoping that LUBA affirming the decision will help people see that what we proposed is the right thing to do and allow us to go forward."
syoo@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6673 or follow at Twitter.com/syoo.
Second LUBA appeal on blind school property
The South Central Association of Neighbors also filed an appeal with the state Land Use Board of Appeals challenging a city hearings officer's decision that cleared the way for a parking expansion and removal of trees the former blind school property.
Curt Fisher, chairman of the SCAN land use and transportation committee, asserted that the "excessive parking" proposed in the hospital's plan isn't permitted under city code. He also contends Salem Hospital should be required to make street improvements, such as adding bicycle lanes and intersection improvements.
The removal of "significant trees" is another issue for the neighborhood, according to SCAN's notice to LUBA.
LUBA is set to make its ruling in January.
— Saerom Yoo
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