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)