Over the last 20 years or so, Willamette Community Church has replaced 122 balky old windows in its historic building, the former Albany High School. On Wednesday the city council denied the church’s request to finish the job by replacing the last 11 windows on the list.
The council voted unanimously to reject an appeal from a decision by the Albany Landmarks Commission, which on Sept. 1 had denied a request by the church to use vinyl sashes in the replacement of 34 windows that had — or still have — wooden sashes. Twenty-three of the wood windows had already been replaced with vinyl sashes when the city building official issued a stop-work order in July. Eleven remain to be done.
During a public hearing on the window issue, the council heard from church leaders and members. The gist was that the windows had warped, were leaking or were hard to open, had severely cut a staff member’s right arm when it broke as she tied to open it, and the new windows were about half as expensive as replacing them with wooden sashes. Over the 20 years they had been working on this, no one complained that the replacements didn’t look right.
The council also heard from four defenders of original materials and designs in the architecture of the Hackleman and Albany’s other historic districts. One of them was Kerry McQuillin, chair of the Landmarks board that rejected the church’s application before.
If you want all the details of what everybody said, watch the video recording on YouTube or the city’s Facebook page. But the upshot is that the church, which operates the Albany Christian School in the classrooms behind those windows, is stymied from finishing the window replacement as winter gets close.
The 34 windows in the front of the building being replaced in this final phase of the project were installed without a city permit, which the church didn’t realize it supposedly needs because it’s classified as a commercial building. So now, one question is: Will the city make them tear out the 23 windows already done, besides not allowing them to finish the remaining 11? The council didn’t ask about that.
The council’s denial included an instruction to the Landmarks board to “work with” the church to find a way forward. But nobody said what exactly that meant. (hh)