Council clears way for houses’ demolition – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council clears way for houses’ demolition

Written June 26th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

On Tuesday, orange safety netting and no-trespassing signs had gone up at the three houses.

Homebuilders Tina and Mark Siegner are free to file for a demolition permit on three old houses they own in the Monteith Historic District following an Albany City Council decision Wednesday night.

The council voted 4-1 to adopt findings to support its decision last October to allow the demolition. Dick Olsen voted no after arguing at some length that at least the corner house at Fourth and Calapooia be preserved as a good example of a pioneer house. The oldest of the three, it dates from circa 1858 and was built by a doctor prominent in Albany’s early days.

Bernadette Niederer, who had appealed the October decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, and Camron Settlemier asked the council to postpone the decision and reopen the case to hear more about why the houses should not be razed. But the council did not take their advice.

As ordered by LUBA when it sent the case back to the council for the adoption of adequate findings, Councilman Rich Kellum took no part in Wednesday’s discussion or vote.

The Siegners bought the dilapidated houses, condemned by the city and boarded up in 2017, in February 2018. After cleaning them of tons of garbage and vermin, they determined the houses were too far gone for a restoration to make economic sense. They intend to replace them with modern housing that complements the neighborhood.

Their next step is to apply for a demolition permit. Then, when their plans for new construction are ready, they’ll have to submit them to the Albany Landmarks Advisory Commission for a review of compatibility with the historic district.

So as much as these houses have been in the local news since the city evicted the homeless people quartered there by the Signs of Victory Mission, what happens on the property next will continue to be of public interest for some time — until any new construction is complete. (hh)

19 responses to “Council clears way for houses’ demolition”

  1. Ronald says:

    think they should build retro style houses so they fit in but are modern at the same time.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    In a previous article posted on your blog, David Abarr made some accusations.

    Did you receive any proof of Abarr’s assertion that “there is a offer on the table for 270k”?

    Did you receive any proof of Abarr’s assertion that “the owner is completely circumventing the process”?

    Did you receive any proof of Abarr’s assertions that “The husband was so close to taking the deal. His wife shut him down.”?

    You said the owners “say they received no written offers at all.” Did you receive any proof from Abarr that the owner is not telling the truth?

    David Abarr is a member of the CARA Advisory Board and the Landmarks Advisory Commission. Albany citizens trust that he is communicating accurate information and can provide verifiable facts.

    Are you any closer to the truth on this issue?

  3. Carol Gascoigne says:

    It is a shame to see them be demolished but sometimes there is just no other option. I hope the new houses, NOT APARTMENTS, built will be in the style of the district they are in.
    How about building a modern replica of the cornor house? There could be a sign on it stating that it is a replica of the original one. Be sure to get a good photo of the cornor house before it is demolished so the builders can refer to it for accuracy.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      My very cynical bet is the houses will be demolished very quickly, and as soon as feasible, 3-story apartment boxes will spring up. That will maximize the space/ROI — regardless of any historic nature to the underlying properties. That was the “plan” all along…

      • HowlingCicada says:

        The more I think about it, the more I agree with you, despite my more neutral comment on the previous article.

        In Corvallis we have many recently-built equivalents of “3-story apartment boxes,” mostly student housing near OSU (mostly 4-story?). Great big boxes with cutesy, phony-baloney facades to look vaguely “historical,” but without any real historical context. When people reject forward-thinking form and function, we get pretentious backward-looking junk.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          I did say “very quickly,” but the speed in which it happened (this morning) boggles the mind – considering the owners don’t have any concrete plans…

          • centrist says:

            Ray K
            The speed of demolition shouldn’t be surprising. First, the fact that the buildings came down so easily seems to confirm their fragility. Second, the property owner has had a long time to prepare for for demo once the regulators say OK.

  4. Pam Silbernagel says:

    I’m very concerned that City Councilors collaborated on a decision outside of the public eye and before receipt of testimony. In doing so they violated City and State public meeting and land use laws. Further, these actions show a flagrant disregard of the Council’s primary role – that of public servant.

    I am disheartened that this approach to decision making has become the norm of our Council.

    Because our community cannot afford for the City to lose any more of the public’s trust I would remind these elected officials that good policy makers set aside personal bias, stand above the political fray, truly listen to the public, and then thoughtfully consider how to best balance any competing interests within the legal framework. Hopefully the Council has the collective will to move in this direction.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The council heard plenty of testimony at a hearing on this issue last October. It followed the process laid out in law as I understand it, and I see no evidence that it “collaborated on a decision outside of the public eye and before receipt of testimony.” The council made its decision last year. Now it acted merely to fix procedural defects — inadequate findings and a member’s pre-hearing public statements — asserted by LUBA.

      • Pamela Silbernagel says:

        4/12/19 D-H reporting LUBA findings: “LUBA agreed with Niederer that councilor Rich Kellum was biased in participating in the decision after he wrote on an online blog that three city councilors were in favor of tearing the houses down.” Article continues that, while Kellum needed to recuse himself due to bias, the other Councilors could not be challenged because they were not named in testimony or the appeal.

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    It’s all moot inasmuch as the homes came down this morning. Oldest first…

  6. Lundy says:

    A few thoughts that might be worth keeping in mind:
    –Just because something is old doesn’t necessarily mean it’s historic, particularly if it’s overly dilapidated.
    –We are dealing with private property here.
    –Presumably anyone or any entity opposed to demolition could’ve tried to buy the houses at the same time the Siegners did.
    I love historic preservation but sometimes the puzzle pieces fit together in a different way.

  7. ean says:

    Sounds like these people gamed the system pretty well for a tidy profit. Seems to becoming all too common.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Instead, the “system” subjected them to a year or turmoil, accusations and expense for wanting to do a sensible thing helpful to the community — to replace very far deteriorated properties with something better.

      • ean says:

        I don’t disagree with your premise. Just think the previous owner got below market rate due to the historical regulations, that is what seems the most unfair here.

  8. Anon says:

    You have no idea if they will make any money when it’s all said and done.

  9. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “The speed of demolition shouldn’t be surprising.”

    I agree they had their ducks in a row to make it happen — already prepped for the outcome of the council vote. That they made it so fast shows their zeal…

    “First, the fact that the buildings came down so easily seems to confirm their fragility.”

    Not at all. I cannot think of *ANY* 100+ year-old wood-framed house from that type of construction that would not do the same. Can you?

    “Second, the property owner has had a long time to prepare for for demo once the regulators say OK.”

    Plausible if they owned the equipment to do so. Open market conditions tell me it takes time to schedule a demolition. You just can’t do it on a whim. Owners had no way of knowing exactly when they would be open to do so.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      I thought the subject was “moot.” So what’s all this after-the-fact speculation without any actual information? The fact is that the issue was scheduled for council action at least the week ahead of time. The applicants put in for their demolition permit before Wednesday so that, if the decision allowed it, they could be ready the next day. Presumably they arranged for a demo contractor the same way. So what?


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