A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Findings back demolition of three houses

Written June 24th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Two of the three condemned houses at Fourth and Calapooia on Monday afternoon.

Three old houses in Albany’s Monteith Historic District, condemned by the city and boarded up, are too far gone to be economically restored and should be allowed to be razed. Essentially that’s the conclusion of 18 pages of “findings” the city council is expected to adopt when it meets on Wednesday.

Last October, the council approved demolition of the houses after 90 days, allowing the extra time in case somebody wanted to buy the structures and move them. The owners offered the structures for one dollar, but no one came forward to move them.

On appeal, the state Land Use Board of Appeals ruled the council did not have adequate findings to back up its decision and Councilor Rich Kellum should not have taken part because of his comments on the case published online at hh-today. LUBA remanded the case. Now findings have been prepared, and the council, without Kellum, will consider adopting them on Wednesday night.

After listing factors such as the condition of the houses and the cost of restoration, the findings say: “Considering all of the above, the city council concludes that the factors weigh in favor of approving the applicants’ request for demolition of all three houses.” (If you want the entire text, you can wade through it here.)

Barring further appeals or court action, that should end the year-long controversy over these derelict structures and allow the owners, Albany homebuilders Tina and Mark Siegner, to replace them with new housing. They have mentioned rowhouses compatible with the historic neighborhood as one possibility.

At a council work session Monday, opponents of demolition argued under “business from the public” that the record should be reopened and a new hearing held. But Wednesday’s occasion will not be a hearing, nor will additional testimony be accepted if the council goes ahead and adopts the findings.

Also at the work session, the council decided against turning the city’s Landmarks Advisory Commission into a purely advisory board that makes only recommendations and no decisions. Some councilors had proposed this, but then the council changed the way the volunteer Landmarks members are appointed. Also, it was pointed out, all Landmarks decisions can be appealed  to the council already. Or, if the council doesn’t like a decision, it can take the case up on its own, as it did with the Siegner demolition request last year. (hh)




14 responses to “Findings back demolition of three houses”

  1. HowlingCicada says:

    I rapidly glanced through the linked 282-page file. The demolition takes up pages 29 to 212. The “Findings of fact and conclusions” is on pages 196 to 212. That’s an awful lot of stuff. The whole process must have cost — wasted, if you prefer — many tens of thousands of dollars by everyone involved, to reach a conclusion that may have been inevitable from the start.

    I don’t have an adequately-informed opinion beyond amazement at the complexity and expense of getting things done. It wasn’t always this way, was it? Is present-day society better off by torturing to death so many land-use decisions? How much of the ever-increasing ratio of housing cost to income is due to things like this? These are honest questions, not rhetorical ones. I don’t know the answers. Also, I realize that this case was particularly difficult.

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume the process is justified. One part still bothers me: the offer to give away the buildings essentially for free. Those buildings are a liability, not an asset. The only fair offer would have been to pay the taker the would-be demolition cost after successfully relocating the buildings and making them usable again. This matches the low price paid for the property by the current owners. On the other hand, they’ve already been through a tortuous, expensive, probably needless process.

  2. Cheryl P says:

    There is a simple solution here: have the opponents of demolition buy the houses from the Siegner’s (for what they paid for them) and they can restore the houses.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Last fall, the current owners had zero intention of selling the property for “what they paid for them” nor have they entertained offers higher than that. It was totally irrelevant to them whether or not any of the properties were/are historic in nature. (I can’t speak to anything in their minds after my last public meetings with them…)

      • J. Jacobson says:

        Perhaps not everyone in Albany gives a hoot about properties allegedly historic. Certainly, the writer would be hard pressed to find preservation support for these old wrecks. It seems more likely that a tiny cabal of history buffs are holding the rest of us as hostage to their ideology, using a slightly larger, statewide cabal supported by LUBA.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “Perhaps not everyone in Albany gives a hoot about properties allegedly historic”

          “allegedly?” Right… And as you aptly state, there’s a “cabal” in Albany who detests historic preservation and does everything they can to pursue their beliefs. Who do you believe should be the arbiter of what is/is not “historic?”

          “Certainly, the writer would be hard pressed to find preservation support for these old wrecks”

          That “support” of the them (especially the corner house/property) is what has been driving this process so far. While it may come down, it will be a loss to the city – as would be the demolition of the church IMO.

          • hj.anony1 says:

            Perhaps The Siegners are not running away with all the gold. Not at all. Perhaps they are ready for the rising property values. In this area of Albany. Oregon. It could happen.

            They may be ready to seed the rise in value. Don’t we want that. ???

    • J. Jacobson says:

      A splendid idea. We see the fund-raising progress being made by the proponents of that old, broken-down church building on Santiam. The excitement over that project to save a “historical” building seems to have stalled due to lack of interest. Give the proponents 30-days to come up with the dough or bulldoze the junkers into dust.

  3. thomas earl cordier says:

    Cheryl is right. It is easy to apply rules for others when you have no skin in the game

  4. David Abarr says:

    There is a offer on the table for 270k. The Signers paid 85k. For some reason?! The city and Hasso ignore these facts. Code requires to seek out every last opportunity prior to demolishing a Federally listed historic property. The owner is completely circumventing the process. The council and staff are playing ball with this developer. It’s what your elected officials do. Hasso provides the forum here for public opinion. The husband was so close to taking the deal. His wife shut him down.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      I don’t know who offered what. But I asked the owners Wednesday, and they say they received no written offers at all. If anybody knows differently, let me see some proof.

  5. Joyce kanoff says:

    I hope the structures are offered to the fire dept for them to do burn training.

  6. Shawn Dawson says:

    I am the owner of an historic home, built in the 1800’s, one block up from these homes. I love architecture. I love old homes — the romance and the history and the spirt of them. I love walking the streets of Albany and Portland and just looking at the unique architectures of old houses. These types of homes will never be built again. I plan to live and die in my home, maintain it, and pass it on to someone who loves it as much as my wife and I do.

    Still, this was the right decision on these particular homes. They were so far gone, that even if they were renovated, they would be a caricature of an historic home. Some historic elements would have been saved, but the authenticity would be lost. Too much neglect for too long.

    On the bright side, I hope some nice homes are built on the lots and that the new owners enjoy living in the downtown historic district.

  7. J. Jacobson says:

    As a tax-paying resident of Ward III, I resent the fact that half of those elected to represent Ward III in matters before the City seem unable to conduct themselves publicly in a non-partisan manner. As a result of the Councilor’s boorish behavior, the citizens of Ward II go under-represented in issues as crucial as this one.

    And while one of Ward III’s representatives has been forced to the sidelines, castigated by the Lords of LUBA, the other Ward III representative, who seems not visible in the YouTube video of the Albany City Council’s June 12th session, may or may not be at the June 26th session. It’s like that famous thought experiment commonly called “Schrodinger’s Cat.” In Ward II, you can never be sure if you’re represented until you open the box. Fifty-Fifty @ best.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      So it’s OK to show political partisanship while working for the City, but not as a private citizen?


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