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» A Landmarks verdict on siding and windows

HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A Landmarks verdict on siding and windows

Written September 4th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Jeff Alley listens Wednesday night as the Albany Landmarks board discusses alterations at his home.

The owners of an old house at 136 Main St. N.E. will be allowed to use composite siding on one side of the place, but they’ll be required to replace three of the 10 vinyl windows they installed more than 20 years ago.

That was the verdict of the Albany Landmarks Advisory Commission following a public hearing Wednesday night. (That’s the former name of the group. Now it’s called the Landmarks Commission. See the comments below.)

Part of the “Baltimore House” house dates from 1875, the rest from the 1920s. After Stephen and Mary Alley bought it in the 1980s, they made repairs as necessary. Last fall the rotten wood siding on the south exterior started to be replaced, and the city noticed this. It also noticed that years before, some wood-framed windows had been replaced with vinyl, which was not allowed without the city’s OK because the house is considered historic.

For a long time the house was a rental. Now it has been spruced up inside and out, and the owners’ son Jeff lives there. He was the applicant in the Landmarks case.

This was not a controversial case, and the tone at Wednesday’s hearing was cordial.  There was no opposition, and no one other than the Alleys, father and son, testified.

But the commission members discussed at some length the details of the siding the owners want to use, as well as the trim around the windows. They also suggested that above one of the front windows, the owners install a kind of horizontal eyebrow that is no longer there but appears in a photo with the city’s historic inventory compiled in 1990.

The city planning department prepared a nine-page staff report on the application. With attachments the page count rose to 31.

As an editorial writer sitting in the audience, this thought occurred to me: In a city whose rising personnel costs are prompting threats of closing a pool and a historic library, maybe the code could be amended to eliminate the need for staff reports and quasi-judicial hearings on the details of window trims and how to side a wall. (hh)

Landmarks okayed the owners’ choice of composite siding to cover the Tyvek.



43 responses to “A Landmarks verdict on siding and windows”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The surge of power a commissioner must feel as they ascend the throne must be intoxicating.

    So much so that they apparently can’t see the silliness in dictating to a homeOWNER that he must install a horizontal eyebrow and their desired trim and siding.

    I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after I read this article.

  2. J. Jacobson says:

    The chain link fence looks out-of-period. Perhaps the owners should replace that as well with a historically-correct barrier true to the core beliefs on 1920s Albany. It would seem that nearly everyone with authority is determined to step back in time, for reasons never really explained.

  3. Anon says:

    “Give us all your money and kiss your personal freedoms goodbye.” How has it come to this?

  4. Rolland says:

    The good and bad. Good decision on the siding and a bad one on the windows. I drive by this home on most days, with the new exterior paint and white trim color, those windows blend in very well from the street. Affordable ways of doing home repairs should be in the decisions the City makes like this when the modern materials don’t have a huge impact on the way it looks. It’s better than doing nothing and having homes rot away.

    Your point is valid how the City can save taxpayer money they spend by eliminating staff reports and quasi-judicial hearings. I keep saying I’m not sold the City has explored the ways to cut their budget expenditures.

    Thanks for this update Hasso!

    • BillH says:

      Rolland is correct, modern materials for siding and windows can make the building more energy efficient and extend the life. New composite windows look like wood, new siding resembles wood, all protects the appearance and is much less expensive than restoring original.

  5. David R Sullivan says:

    My previous comment appears to have been sent before I finished writing it. Here’s the conclusion.
    Lying with statistics is relatively easy to do: you simply skew the sample and pull other underhanded tricks.
    For example, anyone who wants to modify their historic home needs to talk with City staff before taking their ideas to the Landmark Commission. If their plans are reasonable but don’t meet the U.S Department of Interior’s exacting standards, then the City staff will explain how and why the plans will be rejected by the Landmark Commission, so nearly all cases of this sort never actually get taken to the Commission, and naturally the City staff left all these frustrated people out of their sample.
    Another trick was to code projects as being approved when the applicant would clearly believe their designs were rejected. For example, I asked to be allowed to add a bathroom to the second floor of a historic house so occupants didn’t have to traipse downstairs from the bedrooms. It took three meetings of the Landmark Commission, lots of changes, and many detailed architectural drawings before the Landmark Commission finally reached a split vote to approve my request. (One Landmark Commission member said he preferred the historic solution: chamber pots.)
    Because the Landmark Commission eventually approved my request, this would have been coded by the City staff as yet another “Approved ” request — even though I personally felt the eventual result was anything but satisfactory.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      The Standards for Rehabilitation are regulatory (not advisory) for the review of rehabilitation work in the Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program.

      Lesson Learned: If “strings attached” frustrates you, don’t accept a benefit from the puppet-masters. They couldn’t care less about the disincentives their tyranny creates.

      Case in point, the chamber pot idiot you experienced.

  6. David R Sullivan says:

    Here’s the first half of my two part comment.
    I’m Dave Sullivan, and I’ve restored several derelict historic buildings in Albany, and one of these projects even won a restoration award from the City.
    Albany’s current Landmark Commission rules and City Staff enforcement process seem designed to convince people like me to work elsewhere and let these buildings rot. I’m all for maintaining vibrant historic districts, but that shouldn’t require using only the building materials available to Oregon’s early settlers.
    At one point I convinced the City Council to hold a meeting to consider relaxing these rules. I was surprised when the City Staff presented a statistical analysis that claimed nearly all Landmark Commission rulings actually approved the applicant’s request. During the meeting I couldn’t understand how the Staff could make such an inaccurate claim.
    After the meeting I found out how they lied with statistics. First they skewed the sample. Before someone can ask the Landmark Commission to consider a request, they must talk with the City Staff. If the request won’t meet the US Department of Interior’s exacting standards, then the City Staff explains why the Landmark Commission will reject the request, and so naturally this potential request never is considered formally and wasn’t considered to be part of the sample.

  7. tanya monroe says:

    Suggestion: Post bicycle signs on both sides of road , along with stop and yield signs. REASON: DRIVERS ARE NOT BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR VIEWING BOTH SIDES ( LEFT AND RIGHT ) BEFORE RUSHING OUT AFTER A QUICK STOP TO MERGE OUT UNTO TRAFFIC. Drivers are not abiding driving standards. And endangering people.

  8. Jim Engel says:

    Way too much authority in the hands of a few!!! That would be one department to eliminate to cut the cost. To tell & force a person to do such & such “just because” we can make you is an example of an overbearing government.

  9. H. R. Richner says:

    The part of the house from the ‘twenties should be left for the owners to decide on any improvements, thus honoring the Coolidge administration, our last one favoring private property.

  10. JudiD says:

    Let’s propose renaming the Landmarks Advisory Commission with a more descriptive title. They seem not to advise; they seem to dictate, since no one seems to be able to influence or prevent their opinions from becoming edict. Are members elected? No. Can they somehow be removed from this position of power? Their antics are costing City employees countless hours, and costing very countable dollars with these boondoggles. Please abolish this group, or at least demote them to a truly advisory role. Disclaimer: I do not live within the City limits or in a historical house/district, and am most definitely thrilled that I don’t. How demoralizing, to have made improvements to one’s own home, and then be ordered to undo it years later just because an unaffected group of people don’t take a liking to it.

    • My mistake. I had forgotten that the council recently renamed this board the “Landmarks Commission,” dropping the “Advisory” part. Its role remained the same regardless of the name change. It’s advisory to the council in some respects, but it has regulatory authority in carrying out the development code concerning properties considered historic.

      • Rich Kellum says:

        Hasso, remember at the same time the Council changed who appoints members to the commission, from 100% Mayoral appointments to one appointment from each Councilor and one from the Mayor. Over time that will change the makeup of the commission. That appointment process starts this December…

        • hj.anony1 says:

          Heraclitus said “Change is the only constant in life”. Sometimes fast. Hurricane fast. Other times, well, slow. Painfully slow. Enjoy!

        • J. Jacobson says:

          This is good news indeed. Instead of having only the Mayor generating clones for the various commissions, we are now faced with the proposition of having each Councilor being allotted a spate of appointment authority over members on the various commissions.

          We all know that Councilor Kellum will do his level best to appoint Commission members from Ward III that represent ALL perspectives…not just those are esteemed Councilor seems inclined to.
          We look forward to Councilor Kellum’s appointees.

  11. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “…maybe the code could be amended to eliminate the need for staff reports and quasi-judicial hearings on the details of window trims and how to side a wall.”

    Maybe the process is working exactly as designed. But it’s a nice thin-entering wedge to bring out the usual suspects. In this case, with exception of Gordon’s last snark, I agree with both he & David Sullivan…

  12. thomas earl cordier says:

    I’d say see you in court. some juries will give reasonable solutions.
    Example: woman kills her child and woman is not found guilty because she has been punished enough. Let a jury of peers decide what is reasonable–not some appointed cronies

  13. Lundy says:

    Hasso, what is the history/origin of the Landmarks group? Is the panel something the city council created at some point, or did the voters get to weigh in? How long has it been around? I think historic preservation is important and I also think it’s worth considering whether Landmarks is the best option for balancing preservation with individual rights.

    • The council created the commission in 1979 when it also designated the main historic districts. The rest is hazy in my mind. Some time in the 1980s the commission was endowed by the council with the authority to conduct land-use type hearings over exterior alterations, even though these have nothing to do with land use. Just this June, the council affirmed the commission’s decision-making authority in historic-review cases, while also changing the appointment procedure to give each council member one appointment, and also dropping “advisory” from the board’s name. The council recently received a detailed history of the Albany historic preservation effort, but I can’t find it online.

  14. D says:

    This is a TAKING of rights and value of a property by the city MAKE THEM PAY ALL ADDITIONAL COSTS

  15. J. Jacobson says:

    These Landmark Commission types are proving to be something of a bother.

    It strikes this voter that if the coterie of pols running this burg is incapable of functioning beyond granting extraordinary powers to unelected ghost judges, conspiring to drag Albany continually toward the abyss.

    Albany is riding a tight orbit round the Black Hole of small town irrelevance, about to be sucked-in to a nasty crunch by a massive black hole called urbanization. The Commission’s singular focus is to somehow reverse Time’s Arrow, allowing Albany to escape the clutches of Urban-ness. It is a doomed mission.

  16. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    After reading the majority of these comments I’m inclined to ask, why haven’t any of you tried maybe running for mayor so we could actually change the things that baffle us? To my knowledge only one person even tries to run against her but everybody complains. Time to change.

  17. centrist says:

    Argumentative question —
    If a property owner declined the tax advantage, would he/she still be obligated to Landmark rulings?
    Further, if a property is listed as an historical property, is that a done deal? From some chatter regarding the infamous 3houses, it seems that a 3rd party can create the designation.

    • There is no tax advantage regarding this house. And no, the absence of a tax break (which is really only a 15-year freeze on the taxable value) has no bearing on what is required by the Albany Development Code.

  18. MsJ says:

    Hasso’s first sentence of:

    “… but they’ll be required to replace three of the 10 vinyl windows they installed more than 20 years ago.”

    strikes me as to how the City can enforce such a thing 20 years after the fact. If any due diligence was practiced at all by the City in regards to historical accuracy & how certain codes must be followed, then the City is 18-20 years too late (I’ll grant a 2-year grace period) and should step aside in this instance, but put the house on their radar to see if future changes are meeting historical code.

    The City had a 20-year chance to correct the violation & I’d say a statute of limitations has been far exceeded. If such a statute doesn’t exist (most likely) then this would be a perfect reason to create one.

    As far as running for mayor, as I’ve said before, term limits for mayor and councilor positions would put an end to the dynasty that is currently in place and bring in some much-needed new & fresh thinking.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “…term limits…”
      So you don’t trust the voters? Or is it the apathy of most folks not wanting to get involved directly that drives the commentary?

      • MsJ says:

        Been through this already.

        It’s not a question of trusting voters, it’s about having more candidates (choices) coming forward if they think there is even a remote chance of winning, thus making it worth the time & effort of a campaign.

        The apathy, in part, is driven by the fact that many of the same people have been in either or both mayor & councilor positions for 10-20 years or more !

        Right now, incumbents are basically there for as long as they want to be. Term limits would end the dynasties and bring in a fresh influx of ideas & thinking every time a term limit is up.

        Couldn’t even fathom the consequences if term limits didn’t apply to the current presidential administration.

  19. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “…incumbents are basically there for as long as they want to be.”

    Only because other folks in their Ward can’t be bothered to get involved, run a campaign, and get elected. If apathy has “rooted,” then folks in any given Ward have only themselves to blame! (So why haven’t you thrown your name into the hat?)

    I don’t buy folks who say they’re “too busy” to get involved. 3 of the sitting councilors also have full time jobs.

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Ray, your own moral code told the world that there should be term limits, the only difference is who they are imposed by, you stated that 2 terms is enough and did not run for a third, then pointing out that someone else should take up the reins, thereby making your own term limit…

    • MsJ says:

      So let’s trust the voters as you implied earlier and put term limits up for a people’s vote.

      Would you be for or against that motion ?

      If not, why not ?

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        I would have problems with doing that. See my comment to Rich. I stand by what I said.

        Your reasons for the apathy & not running yourself? :-)

        • MsJ says:

          I’ve explained the apathy part in detail, but would add that using your power to vote as I do after studying the issues at hand wouldn’t be considered apathetic. People don’t have to run for office to be involved, there are may other ways that better suits one’s lifestyle.

          Suffice to say that my reasons for not vying for a position are personal just like my bank account number. :-)

          I would like to see what new faces would appear in mayor/councilor positions and I believe that the only way to consistently see those faces are imposing term limits.

          It’s revealing and proves my point when one looks at the mayor/councilor website and other websites and you see this:

          Konopa, 6th consecutive term (12 years as mayor + 12 more as councilor)
          Olsen, 6th consecutive term (24 years + 10 more as mayor/councilor)
          Johnson, 5th consecutive term (20 years)
          Coburn, 3rd consecutive term (12 years)
          Kellum, 2nd consecutive term (8 years)
          Sykes, 1st consecutive term (4 years)
          Johnson II, 1st consecutive term (4 years)

          The last three in the list I obviously don’t have an issue with as far as length of term served.

          But look at the first four, 90 years between them – almost a century !
          It is a dynasty and explains why there are not many challengers, the data speaks for itself.

          Again, if the voter’s are to be trusted, let them decide about term limits.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            “…using your power to vote as I do after studying the issues at hand wouldn’t be considered apathetic. People don’t have to run for office to be involved, there are may other ways that better suits one’s lifestyle.”

            Absolutely true taken in that context.

            “I would like to see what new faces would appear in mayor/councilor positions and I believe that the only way to consistently see those faces are imposing term limits.”

            Very key question: WHY do you feel the need to “see new faces…?” The length of people volunteering to serve, and the voters in their specific Ward (for council – entire city for mayor) obviously have no qualms with the *overall* job they’ve done, else someone would run against them, run an effective campaign and gain the seat.

            I get that you, I, and many others do not always agree with decisions made by any given councilor or mayor. Remember – NO one on council (or as mayor) goes to bed each night dreaming of ways to screw up the city! They all bring a different perspective, different passion to the job they have volunteered to do — knowing full well they get but a *single* vote and they will NEVER get their “way” on all issues. OTOH, other than some seriously contentious issues over the past years (and more to come), decisions are pretty easily agreed upon, or the votes are very close, when the final tally is taken. The mayor only gets to vote in case of a tie — which means the mayor will probably upset many-many people — regardless of vote cast. It comes with the territory. All that being stated, I see no fundamental reason to simply displace people simply “to see new faces.”

            “It’s revealing and proves my point when one looks at the mayor/councilor website and other websites and you see this:…The last three in the list I obviously don’t have an issue with as far as length of term served….But look at the first four, 90 years between them – almost a century!… It is a dynasty and explains why there are not many challengers, the data speaks for itself.”

            I disagree for the key reason that, there are 3 you don’t have a problem with soley based on how long they’ve been in position. Not because the others have done a bad job, or the others have; simply because they have been elected over and over again. That IS the true power of voting.

            Notwithstanding my taking myself out of the running last go-round, I believe a “forced” term-limit takes away the very key privilege I/you, all others have in electing our representatives in our Ward. Don’t like someone in another Ward? Fine – canvas friends, etc., of the same viewpoint who live the Ward to volunteer to throw their hat in the ring – and support the heck out of them with help with their campaign. Don’t like the mayor? Fine – same thing. You can do it every 2 years for mayor, every 4 years four councilor. Not rocket science. But – I will strongly oppose you trying to take away my opportunity to vote for whomsoever I please – including a person who is already in position. I may not like seeing a single name on a ballot (I don’t), but if I am unwilling to jump into the fray myself )or help others do so) – I have NO one to blame but myself

            “Again, if the voter’s are to be trusted, let them decide about term limits.”

            I already trust them to make their choices as the see fit. I don’t want someone to force players off the field simply because they wish “to see new faces.”

  20. MsJ says:

    Valid points on both sides.

    I think the core logic point here is bringing the term limits issue to the forefront of a democratic vote – you can agree with the outcome or not, but that’s how democracy works.

    Election of people for unlimited consecutive terms is an outcome I do not like or support as I believe it leads to stagnation, outdated thinking, and advocation of one’s personal (rather than constiuent’s) desires, but is currently accepted as voters have spoken.

    But what must also be equally accepted is the outcome of a term limits vote – again, like it or not, democracy at work.

    Most of those currently in office, I would venture, will likely fight a term limits proposal as it will limit their power – understandable human nature.

    I do not support protecting those in power for as long as the stats have shown. Evolution occurs because the gene pool significantly changes, think of term limits in this context.

    If a term limits measure is voted down, fine, the voters have spoken, if voted down also fine, same reasoning, but let voters speak !

    Put it to a vote & find out.

    I will support such a measure, agree with the outcome, and hold my peace.

    I gather you will do the opposite & would rather prevent a possible democratic choice from even having a chance – NOT democracy at work.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Yes, I will do opposite for reasons I have articulated. :-)

      I’m still seriously questioning the validity of your point being the reason you want have term limits: “I would like to see what new faces would appear in mayor/councilor positions and I believe that the only way to consistently see those faces are imposing term limits.” (You do use the word “impose.”) Yet you say (and I agree) there can be valid reasons why someone may not wish to jump into the fray.

      Anecdotally, I note that upcoming elections in Corvallis seem to have no problem garnering multiple contenders for the upcoming council election… What makes them different in that regard?

      • MsJ says:

        As referenced a few times before, the imposition of term limits is in the form of a democratic vote, not something that I can mandate or any one else – voters decide and the measure is enacted or not.

        As you always say people have their one vote, whether you are on council or as a citizen, but the votes should be recognized, tallied, and the changes made if a measure has passed, some will like it, others will not.

        The important idea here is to let that vote happen, not bury it.

        The new faces, aka choices, are necessary for a broader spectrum of people to have a chance to represent Albany, not those who have been seated since the 1980s or 1990s. You stated yourself that you don’t relish seeing only one candidate on an election ballot – term limits may be able to solve that.

        There seems to be great fear of a councilor or mayor losing their seat after many decades of service as an ally may be lost. Having new people in the mix every couple of terms just doesn’t sit well with some and the newcomers couldn’t possibly do as good or better of a job as those who have been in place for as long as one can remember – I beg to differ.

        Presidential terms are limited, state governors are limited (2 consecutive terms in a 12-year period), etc. I think Senators and Reps should also have limited terms, but the stakes (benefits) in those numerous positions are so high, that the incumbent’s campaign funds usually far outweigh a challenger, making it a nearly irrelevant process and why campaign finance limits are constantly discussed. Those in power consistently quash term limits/finance reform – kind of like Albany, but without the stakes.

        Why is Corvallis different than Albany?
        Good question, perhaps due to a college atmosphere that fosters new ideas and thought would be my guess, more dynamics and citizen interest going on within a university setting.

        I think we’ve both beaten the “Landmarks” article to death.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “I think we’ve both beaten the “Landmarks” article to death.”
          Only if you choose not to engage. :-)

          “…the votes should be recognized, tallied, and the changes made if a measure has passed…”
          Subject to legal reviews at times, that is exactly what happens in every case.

          “The new faces, aka choices, are necessary for a broader spectrum of people to have a chance to represent Albany…”
          But you have not indicated there as been any malfeasance, etc. – only a time-in-office that makes you want to FORCE people out of office. Where are you going to find people who have an interest in getting into the fray? (I always stated that you “volunteer to wear a target on your back” if you do get on council.)

          “There seems to be great fear of a councilor or mayor losing their seat after many decades of service as an ally may be lost.”
          Who would fear a single person not being on council or as mayor? Your “ally” idea doesn’t pass muster IMHO Recall that any/all folks on the dais get only a single vote…

          “Those in power consistently quash term limits/finance reform – kind of like Albany…”
          Now methinks you’ve gone completely off the rails. Exactly how has anyone “consistently quash[ed] term limits/finance reforms…”?!

          • I think she was right about having beaten this to death…

          • MsJ says:

            Gone off the rails, huh ? – I’ll take that as a personal attack.

            My father used to say that when one resorts to a tactic such as this while engaged in debate, then the debate is over.

            I’ll follow that sage advice, this one’s over.

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