A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Old houses: Council takes the case

Written September 12th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

The three old houses at Fourth and Calapooia. The one in front was reportedly owned by Dr. J.L. Hill, a notable in Albany’s history.

Unhappy with a city committee’s rejection of a request to raze three dilapidated old houses in the Monteith Historic District, the Albany City Council voted Wednesday to review the case without the applicants having to file — and pay for — an appeal.

On Sept. 5, the Landmarks Advisory Commission voted 4-1 against the demolition request by Mark and Tina Siegner, owners of three more than 100-year-old houses at Fourth and Calapooia. The effect was to delay the demolition at least till July 9, 2019.

The Siegners appeared before the council Wednesday under “business from the public.” Mark protested that the Landmarks board had ignored their evidence that restoring the houses was not economically feasible.

Since they determined that the structures they bought in February for $85,000 could not be economically restored and the Albany urban renewal program rejected their request for loans, the Siegners want to build new housing on the site, compatible with the neighborhood.

Councilwoman Bessie Johnson said the Siegners should not have to wait a year to go ahead. Councilor Bill Coburn said it appeared to him that the applicants got a raw deal. Councilor Rich Kellum, noting the “advisory” in the board’s name, moved to review the panel’s verdict. Councilor Mike Sykes joined the three in voting yes. Councilors Ray Kopczynski and Dick Olsen were opposed.

The move saves the applicants the $800-plus the city charges for filing an appeal. It also saves time. The council will hear the case at either of its two meetings in October.

Olsen went into some detail on the history of one of the houses. A few days ago, Dala Rouse, a member of the planning commission, sent me an email on the same subject. “Did a little research at courthouse today,” she wrote. “The house on Calapooia was once owned by Dr. J.L. Hill and he deeded it to his daughter Emily Hill Ward in 1908. Hill St. is named after Dr. Hill. … The records don’t show if Dr. Hill actually lived there or built the house because they didn’t go back that far.”

The council may hear more about Doctor Hill’s house when its hearing takes place. But the question is whether that or the other two houses are worth saving at what expense. And if the city wants them saved, is it willing to pay the cost? (hh)

18 responses to “Old houses: Council takes the case”

  1. Lora Barber says:

    These people knew what condition these houses were in when they bought them. They are builders. I believe their intent from the beginning was to demolish these historic homes and put up apartments. It is greed pure and simple. These homes deserve to be preserved. Next question are these People from California, just here to destroy Oregon like California has been destroyed.

  2. Rolland says:

    The council has done the right thing iin waiving a year wait and appeal fees.
    There is a new home about to be completed on the 1100 block of Front Ave that has been built on a vacant lot. It proves a new structure can be built with modern materials to look and blend in an older neighborhood. The City and their committees need to work with this issue and not have the properties left to deteriorate like the Cumberland Church has been allowed.

    • Gothic Albany says:

      The council waved the fees, but they did not wave the 1 year demolition delay. There has to be a public hearing on it, to give people a chance to testify before council. Anybody that testifies either in person or by writing then has standing in the case to appeal to LUBA (Land Use Board of Appeals) as the next step.

      New houses can be made to blend into historic neighborhoods, but new houses will never have the history of the Hill House, potentially dating from 1858 (the same Hill that Hill Street is named after).

  3. Michelle Davis says:

    Wow. People need to get a clue. I know these people personally. They are not greedy and one was born and raised here. In my opinion they are actually not being greedy but wanting to improve our city by taking houses that have not been maintained for several years and reviving the area with homes that can be occupied. It is unfortunate the prior owners did not maintain these homes to a level they could be restored at an economically feasible level. If you feel these homes need to be preserved, why don’t you step up to the plate and do it? I’m tired of others judging and telling others how they have to manage their property with no regard to the economic feasibility because it would make them feel better & have no regard to the cost to make this happen. Currently these homes are not considered livable. Come on people, get a reality check. I think we should thank the Siegners for wanting to improve our neighborhoods! Wake up people, you weren’t willing to do this project so let someone who is willing to improve our neighborhoods do it!

    • Gothic Albany says:

      Currently these homes are not livable. But I believe at least 2 of them may be made livable. And no one else can step up to the plate to restore them, because they have not been for sell. No one else has been given that opportunity. I talked with a contractor in the area that expressed interest in doing just that.

  4. James Engel says:

    David Abarr of that Commission gave a good answer for his decision to refuse the Siegners demolition request in a prior blog reply. I’d say they were trying to pull a fast one. Get land cheap, demolish old homes and then put up expensive accommodations. Hey, they’re developers & should know the ropes. This pleading “poor us” to the council is pathetic in the least. For one of the few times I’d side with Ray & Dick on a NO vote.

  5. Jeremy says:

    These people are taking dilapidated old homes that have been an eyesore for years and are doing something with them. They should not be fought and penalized for helping to clean up Albany and make it a better place to live. Bravo councilors Johnson, Coburn and Kellum for a common sense approach to this issue.

  6. Jordan Wobig says:

    I am astonished by some of the comments I am reading. People throwing around accusations towards a family they have never even met before. Personally I have known them for years and have nothing but the highest respect for Mark and Tina. A hard working family with deep roots in Albany. I am sure if you took a minute away from your keyboard to reach out and discuss this issue with them they would be happy to explain their reasoning. As Lorii Myers said, “Don’t build roadblocks out of assumptions.” Thankful for families like these who look to improve Albany for our future generations.

  7. Lundy says:

    Hasso’s last two sentences pretty much sum up the issue. I love historic buildings and history in general but not every old structure can or should be saved.

  8. John Hartman says:

    Taken in context with the City’s attempt to stigmatize, isolate and punish homeless people for being homeless, it should come as no surprise that the Council would decide to bend over backwards for a the Caucasian Developers, even to eliminating an appellate fee of $800-dollars. After all, the builders appealing the Landmark Commission’s decision take a bath everyday and live in a nice warm home. The irony of the Council’s brutish comportment in dealing with the less fortunate compared to their sycophancy for the business class is saddening.

  9. centrist says:

    Promises to be a contentious hearing.
    In this corner, a group of preservationists-at-all-cost-with-somebody-elses-money.
    In this corner, a locally-based, forprofit business trying to make a legitimate profit.
    If the preservationists prevail, those hulks are likely to stand untouched for a long time.

  10. Kresta Wallace says:

    Interesting notes on the Calapooia House being built either for Dr. Hill’s daughter or by Dr. Hill. We own the house directly next door and we’ve been told from the very beginning of our ownership (1995) that our house was built by Dr. Hill for his daughter. This was information given to us by the City themselves. I’m wondering if this information was supposed to be for our house instead of the one owned by the Seigners.

    On a side note, we would love to see the interior of the Calapooia house and talk to the Siegners to see if they would ever consider diving the lot and selling the Calapooia house. I just have no idea how to get a hold of them.

  11. Richard H. Engeman says:

    Dr. Hill’s obituary (Oregonian, Aug. 5, 1919, p. 5) notes that he “had extensive property interests here and at one time owned more than 100 dwelling houses in Albany.” Given that the doctor had built a distinctive octagon-shaped house for his family at 5th and Walnut, and that the three houses in question are on a single lot, these were likely rental properties.
    Demolition delay is a way of encouraging an owner to sell a property to a buyer who can and will deal with its historic attributes. Or, to encourage an owner to reconsider the matter and propose another approach; for example, to restore and renovate the corner house and replace the other two with one or two compatible new structures.


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