A dozen people told the Albany City Council Wednesday they want three old houses in the Monteith Historic District restored rather than demolished. Now they have three months to try to make that happen.
The council voted 4-2, with Olsen and Kopczynski opposed, to allow Albany homebuilders Mark and Tina Siegner to raze the three houses on one tax lot at the northeast corner of Fourth and Calapooia, but not for 90 days.
Councilor Bill Coburn, who made the motion, hoped the delay would give people a chance to see about making some arrangement with the owners that would save at least the oldest of the structures on the corner. It is said to have been built in 1858, making it the second-oldest house in Albany, after the city-owned Monteith House, a museum.
Anyone interested in the arguments for preservation can listen to the more than three hours of testimony during Wednesday’s council session. A video of the council session, which lasted past midnight because of the long hearing, should be available later Thursday on the city of Albany’s website here.
Listening to the passionate arguments for preservation in the interest of safeguarding the integrity of Albany’s historic districts, not to mention their role in bringing in tourists, I was struck by this thought:
These dilapidated houses were neglected by their previous owners for three or four decades and have long been a blight on the neighborhood. The city made no move to prevent this decay, and only now, when new owners hope to tear them down because restoration as rentals in their estimation would be financially imprudent, only now is there a hue and cry to prevent their demolition.
Mayor Sharon Konopa said over the years that others had tried to buy the property, but it was either too expensive or not for sale. But if the houses are crucial to the community from an historical aspect, seeing them deteriorate as they have might have prompted some action anyway. CARA could have seen an opportunity to carry out its blight-fighting function long before the Siegners made their application for financial support for restoration, an application that was pulled from the agenda the morning before the CARA board was to consider it last spring.
After the council action Wednesday, the Siegners seemed resigned to the three-month delay. They’ll probably put up signs at the property, as the city staff had suggested, inviting interested parties to offer them alternatives, such as moving one or more of the buildings. Mark said they would sell the houses for a dollar to anyone wanting to move them to a different lot. (hh)