A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Landmarks struggle: Is this historic?

Written February 8th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The landmarks panel on Feb. 6. From left: Kerry McQuillin, Keith Kolkow, Bill Ryals, Jolene Thomson, Larry Preston, and Cathy LeSeur. Testifying is Camron Settlemier.

Albany’s Landmarks Advisory Commission needs clarification on this question: When does a garage associated with an historic house qualify as being historic too, so that a demolition permit is required before it can be replaced with a larger one?

The panel held a hearing Feb. 6 on a request to replace a one-story garage at 828 Calapooia St. S.W. with a larger one that would have an apartment or “accessory dwelling unit” on the second floor. After much back and forth, the panel voted 5-1 to continue the hearing on March 6. (You can listen to the nearly three-hour audio here. The hearing on this request starts about half an hour in.)

The applicant, Steven Ballinger, told the board he had asked his architect to redesign the project to make it smaller and the new drawings were not yet ready. The continuation was intended to let the board see the revised drawings.

But the main issue occupying the commission was whether the project also required a permit to demolish the garage, built in 1927 along with the house, whether it is so closely associated with the main house that the applicant needed a separate permit for tearing it down. The discussion was back and forth, but the upshot was that the city’s development code does not appear to be clear on this.

Chairman Bill Ryals said one problem was that the inventory of buildings in Albany’s historic districts was “not very good.” He urged that the city make the inventory more accurate. Until that’s done, the commission is likely to struggle with applications of this kind, as it did with a garage-replacement request that ended up being granted on Jan. 2 after being held up for a month.

The central question: When is a structure of such historic significance that it should be preserved? “Just because something is old doesn’t make it significant,” said Ryals, an architect who has worked on some big restoration projects in Albany and elsewhere.

As for the current request on Calapooia, Ryals said he was “perfectly satisfied that it meets all the criteria” for being approved, except for the uncertainty over whether a demolition permit is required. He does not want this or any other applicant to be held up for whatever time it takes for the city to clarify its code or redo the inventory of historic structures.

The landmarks board has been under fire from some city council members for needlessly delaying renovation or replacement projects in the historic parts of town. Last year it voted to delay the demolition of three dilapidated houses at Fourth and Calapooia, a decision then overturned by the council, only to be appealed by a private citizen –to the state appeals board on land use, where the case still rests.

The council has talked — argued, really — about changing the way landmarks members are appointed, and also about repealing or amending the ordinance that granted the landmarks board decision-making authority almost 20 years ago. But there’s been no action on either change. (hh)

Now at issue: Replacing the little garage behind this carport at 828 Calapooia St. S.W.




Posted in: Uncategorized

19 responses to “Landmarks struggle: Is this historic?”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    It is amazing that Albany continues the use of a dais throne. Even for insignificant bodies like the Landmark Advisory Commission.

    It is a a medieval reminder that only those who are dignified can occupy the master seats while the underlings are relegated to the lower area.

    Classism is alive and well in Albany, Oregon. The political elites are probably beaming with narcissistic pride right now.

    • S. Whittle says:

      It has taken you this long to figure this out!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “It is a a medieval reminder that only those who are dignified can occupy the master seats while the underlings are relegated to the lower area.”

      LOL You can be a real hoot with your over-the-top hyperbole…

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        You laugh, others cry.

        Both engage the same set of muscles. Both relieve stress from an underlying emotion.

        I suspect deep down the truth of my comment bothers you in a direct way. Make a positive difference, Ray. Work to eliminate this unnecessary irritant.


        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          The comment by “A centrist’ nailed it. You (& others) like to dismiss the fact that council meetings are business meetings held in public (by law), they are not a town hall meeting. Huge difference IMO…

    • centrist says:

      Well, that’s consistent with your online persona. No evidence of that when viewed thru another lens.

  2. Jennifer Moody says:

    Maybe 1927? As opposed to 1027? Otherwise, man, that’s one old garage. :)

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    And was the car port part of the original house?
    If not, I wonder what kind of hoops the owner would have to jump through to add it in today’s “period correct” atmosphere?

  4. J. Hanschlatter says:

    When non-elected “experts” are given this kind of power and authority, overreach is the inevitable result. As P. J. O’Rourke noted, “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. ”

    When the garage in question was built, was there a similar unelected body asking as to what the garage was replacing and then unnecessarily delaying this vital contribution to Albany’s glorious legacy – a car park!

  5. Jim Engel says:

    What wasn’t mentioned in your blog H.H. was if the applicant’s dwelling is listed as historical & do they get any kind of tax break/incentive? If so, then they’ve got to jump thru hoops to keep the designation. If not then I’d say “Hands Off” as long as permits are obtained. This City commission’s nonsense to make dictatorial requirements is just not American. To make someone bend to their “ideal” of what makes an historical city falls right in line with the Liberal Democrat Socialists agenda to control the populace! It’s this kind of over bearing government that got us to throw out King George!

    • L. LaRosseau says:

      It’s the Political Right telling people what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. Doesn’t sound that way from those durn liberal socialist democrats.

    • centrist says:

      Suffering from cognitive dissonance after reading this. Comparing “Liberal Socialist Democrats” with George III just plain hurts my head.
      George was head of a government that treated the colonies as cash cows. What we commonly call the Bill of Rights came about to address specific treatments by the Crown. Pretty liberal behavior for the time.
      My take is that we don’t have a left/right, liberal/conservative issue here. The advisory board seems to filled with preservationist zealots with no local accountability who use the (federal) handbook as policy, not guidance.

  6. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “The advisory board seems to filled with preservationist zealots with no local accountability who use the (federal) handbook as policy, not guidance.:

    I suggest there are two ways of/for 100% “accountability” — Their decisions (whether or not you agree with them) can immediately be appealed to the City Council and/or subsequently LUBA. While both of those take time, it is a very valid process…

    • J. Jacobson says:

      There seems to be a belief that mere existence of a slow-moving, expensive legal process for appeal legitimizes the existence of a powerful commission that legally can grind a homeowner into pulp.

    • centrist says:

      I spent 40+ years in a decentralized organization. Well, people were granted different leash lengths that depended on the organization’s trust in their behavior. Everyone was tied to a known point in command authority for guidance/oversight/discipline.
      IMHO, tieing oversight to process rather structure is weak and counterptoductive.

  7. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “IMHO, tieing oversight to process rather structure is weak and counterptoductive.”

    While that may be true, if the “structure” is already in place (which I believe is), and some folks in your group didn’t agree with it – then what?

    • centrist says:

      Took a little while to formulate a reasoned reply.
      I’ve seen four responses, in no particular order:
      Suffer in silence (not very healthy for the person or the organization)
      Passive-aggressive negative background chatter ( bad for organization morale and often leads to discipline)
      Work for change (which frankly is the only healthy approach for both the person and the organization)

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “Suffer in silence” – A very common occurrence

        “Passive-aggressive negative background chatter” – Much more common now considering the national polarization.

        “Leave” – Obviously a “choice,” but not realistic for way too many folks

        “Work for change” – This is the correct methodology. It also reinforces my comments about having processes in place to do so. If/when those fail, you have the other 3 items you mention to fall back on…


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