A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A public hearing for minor repairs: Why?

Written December 8th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The damaged garage door at 732 Fourth S.W. the way it looked on Dec. 6.

Anybody can see that the door of this detached garage at 732 Fourth Ave. S.W. has to be replaced. But before the new owner can do so, he has to go before the Albany Landmarks Commission at a public hearing and get the city’s OK.

Greg Schneider is renovating this old house, which he and his wife bought last summer. (See the story here.) As required by the Albany Development code, he paid the $43 fee and applied to the city for an “historic review of exterior alterations.” The Landmarks Commission will hold a hearing to conduct the review at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, at City Hall.

There are two “alterations” covered by the application. The owners want to replace an aluminum-framed plexiglass patio slider with a wooden French door. And they intend to install a roll-up steel garage door to replace the one with holes in it, which evidently was made of thin fiberglass.

The house dates from the 1890s and is in the Monteith Historic District. Neither the plexiglass slider nor the fiberglass garage door with holes in it can possibly have any historic interest or significance. Obviously they have to be replaced to make the place nice enough so it will sell.

So why does the planning staff have to schedule a public hearing, notify the neighbors, dig a hole and post the public-hearing sign, write a staff report, and delay the applicant for weeks? And then, why do the volunteer Landmarks commissioners have to waste their time on something as self-evident as this?

Why? Because that’s what the development code seems to require on historic properties. Keep in mind that the code says nothing about letting historic properties go to hell. The city couldn’t care less that the garage door has holes. It could stay that way for another 100 years. But as soon as somebody wants to spend money to fix things up, the city comes along and says: Give me a fee, modest though it may be, make an application, and then wait till next month when the Landmarks Commission meets.

The Albany City Council is faced with monumental budget deficits in the years to come. You’d think that before they do anything else, they would do away with work that costs money but doesn’t need to be done. But so far, nobody has said anything about eliminating the time-wasting process for dealing with minor exterior repairs done on historic homes. (hh)

Presumably a city employee had to dig the hole and plant this post to hold the public hearing sign.

18 responses to “A public hearing for minor repairs: Why?”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    Since the boards on the garage are narrower than the house, I presume it was built at a different time than the house?
    Maybe 1950?
    Can the city prove otherwise?

  2. Mike patrick says:

    You can’t fix stupid

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    While the city is at it, clearly they must require that the homeowners remove the paved street and sidewalk that surrounds this 1890’s house/garage. Only dirt or gravel is historically appropriate.

    Cost v. Benefit concerns? Not a factor. This is about the “greater good” of Albany, as imposed by city government.

  4. Tim Siddiqui says:

    It’s kind a like, it might be safe enough to cross the street anywheres at certain times, but rules will want you to walk all the way to a cross walk, and cannot condone Jay Walking.

  5. My Real Name John hartman says:

    Nothing says “historic” like dinged aluminum garage doors.

  6. Jim Engel says:

    H.H., ya wanna put the “post-hole” union diggers outta work!!?? And lets not forget the “sign-painters union guy”!!! Hummmmm, I wonder if this sign was posted in front of the Council Chambers would anything “effectively” change??

  7. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Hasso —
    I get you disagree (vehemently) with the “process.” However, there it is. You buy a home in a designated historic district — it comes with the territory. It’s not rocket science either. The goal is to maintain & restore them as each individual situation comes up, not “let them go to hell.” If we start demolishing rules that have created the value in these districts, why bother having them at all…

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Maybe much of HH’s point was the process is beyond tedious at best.
      I guess it justifies having more city employees feeding at the PERS trough. That’s more union dues funding PAC’s which strive to gain additional PERS employees……

      With all the claimed budget shortfalls, maybe it’s time to cut some fat?

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        While I disagree the process is “tedious at best,” I do concur that PERS is an elephant-in-the-room, but the city has ZERO say/control over that item. The amount of $ expended by the city on historical preservation issues is a pimple on a gnats butt overall and not germane to the conversation IMHO.

    • Leroy says:

      That house has gone to hell, not that anyone expects the city to do anything. But now that someone decided to pitch in and give a damn. Lets hobble them with the city of Albany’ s importance, not based on our view of this derilict house these are the products we suggest and how the repairs could satisfy city officials. The sidewalk in front of and the side of this house have been trip points for a decade the city has had no issue, because there is no one to pay the fee.
      The sewer line next to the house was severed by trees and a rooter. Why impose fees and waste the owners time give him an avenue for success without delays.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      Please demonstrate dollars and cents evidence backing the claim of “value” “created in these districts”.

      Unless the value increase has significantly outpaced non-historic areas, the existence of Albany’s historical district seems more akin to nosy homeowners associations. The exception being that under the Historic Landmarks Commission, persons with no skin in the game get to administer and enforce. Sketchy at best.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        I don’t have the info for the areas outside of the historic districts per se, but close: https://www.cityofalbany.net/calendar Scroll down to the CARA meeting on Wed., click on the Agenda – then read the consulting report about the results & funding of the URD. It shows (in spades) the positive results of the URD itself – which includes the historic district.

        • Jo Rae Perkins says:

          The urban renewal district has absolutely nothing to do with the landmarks historic district and the committee/commission. The landmarks commission was in place long before the URD. As a former city councilman you should know that information! The point is people buy Historic homes don’t need a whole bunch of people who only care about putting lipstick on the “proverbial pig“. I am not saying this home is a pig by the way. I’m referencing that the landmarks Commission only cares about how the property looks from the street. If you cannot see it from the street they don’t really care what you do. It’s all about the window dressing. I actually love the historic homes and I appreciate everybody that purchases an historic home needing rehab. And most people who buy historic homes are not interested in making them look modern on the outside. Most want to keep the historic looking integrity of the homes. They should however, be able to use the materials that they so desire. We do not need somebody who is not making the mortgage payment nor paying the property taxes on our private property, telling us how to rehabilitate our homes. There is no real need for the landmarks commission to be involved on this property. It is a waste of city resources.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            The question asked was about the values of property and since all the historic districts are inside the URD, their value is part & parcel of same. I stand by my answer. People buying inside a designated historic district are not going in blind. The landmarks group over the years has very much helped keeping the value of said district IMO.

    • birdieken says:

      Historical houses and businesses have to comply when fixing things up, but if the owner or landlord can’t or won’t fix things, properties sure do go to hell.

  8. Lundy says:

    The city’s position of “we don’t care what one of these historic houses looks like unless someone wants to fix something” is somewhat hard to defend, to be sure. Credit where credit is due, though: At least the sign-maker spelled “affecting” correctly.

  9. birdieken says:

    Not everyone who owns a vintage car restores it to original condition, thus the price of all vintage cars is worth more than requiring all cars to be original. Additionally those cars that are kept original sell at a premium price. Unless the historical district can enforce homeowner to “keep their houses up”, what good is keeping all houses to original?

  10. Marcus says:

    There really should be a basic guideline for what acceptable repairs or upgrades would be that could be quickly referenced and given a quick yes/no instead of getting the neighbors involved.


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