A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

State faults Albany council on old houses

Written April 12th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Two of the three bones of contention: The old houses on Friday afternoon.

What happens now, now that LUBA has faulted the Albany City Council for how it decided to allow the planned demolition of three old houses? The main upshot seems to be that the houses, at Fourth and Calapooia, are not likely to be demolished any time soon.

The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, in a decision filed Thursday, “remanded” or sent the case back to the city for, presumably, additional proceedings.

LUBA said the Albany council failed to adopt findings to support its decision, which was to allow the demolition after 90 days. The state board also said Councilman Rich Kellum was biased on the side of demolition, citing a comment he had submitted to hh-today.

“We do not know whether and to what extent Kellum’s participation influenced the vote of the city council,” LUBA said. “Therefore, remand is appropriate to allow the council to consider the application without Kellum’s participation.”

The council voted 4-2 on Oct. 10 to allow the houses to be taken down after 90 days. Albany resident Bernadette Niederer, a former official of the Monteith Historical Society, appealed that decision to LUBA.

The council acted after the Landmarks Advisory Commission, in September, had stayed until this coming July 9, or 365 days after the application was filed.  The Albany code says that this was all the Landmarks board was allowed to do, rather than denying it altogether.

LUBA, though, said Albany’s code fails to comply with a state administrative rule, which does indeed allow for the complete denial of a request to demolish a “contributing” historic landmark unless certain conditions are met.

Said LUBA: “The city is required to amend its land use regulations to conform to OAR 660-023-0200(8)(a), and until those amendments are adopted, OAR 660-023-0200(8)(a) applies directly to review of requests to demolish or relocate historic resources.”

The houses have suffered from decades of neglect and abuse. The city boarded them up and evicted the occupants in 2017. Albany homebuilders Mark and Tina Siegner bought the single tax lot containing the three structures from the Signs of Victory Mission in February 2018. After they determined the houses could not be economically restored, they sought city permission to clear the lot so they could build new housing that blends with the historic neighborhood, as they’ve done elsewhere in old Albany.

Since the council action in October, the houses have been for sale to anyone who would move them. On Friday the for-sale signs were still up. (hh)

14 responses to “State faults Albany council on old houses”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    It is a sign of our times that three un-elected political appointees decide land use appeals instead of nonpartisan elected circuit court judges.

    Welcome to the administrative state –an undemocratic form of government where a few elites impose their will over an individual’s private property.

    The creation of such power is the definition of bad government.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The remand by LUBA is but one more step in the process. It conceivably still could go to the court…

    • centrist says:

      I don’t follow your train of thought. The “unelected ” turned the matter back to the “elected” Albany City Council. Seems appropriate.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        When a citizen thinks they have been harmed by another citizen’s land use, the issue should be decided by a court of law. The judge will look at compliance with the law and any contractual obligations that apply before issuing a decision.

        An administrative body like LUBA should have no power and play no role.

        The legislative bodies (state and city council) should play no role other than to advise the court on the intent of applicable laws and the status of recorded contracts.

        And only citizens with standing should have the right to complain to a court.

        But yet today anybody for any reason can spend a few hundred bucks and file a complaint with an un-elected politically appointed body on any land use issue.

        And that un-elected politically appointed body can impose their will on the owner of the private property. This is freedom in our democratic republic?

        No, this is bad government.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          centrist is correct. It is not “bad government” by any means. It is a process that has evolved over many years – and it works. And, it could still go to the court…

        • centrist says:

          You make strong points. I spent some time on State websites to review some landuse planning history.
          LCDC came to be in 1973 to establish rules for planning and oversee local plans. It also ruled on appeals from lower jurisdictions.
          LUBA came to be in 1979 to provide judiciary review of land use appeals. The three members must be Oregon Bar members.
          As to “elected”, all state-level judiciary vacancies are filled by appointment for a term. I have no memory of a state-level judge running opposed. A small few may have been encouraged to step down by the judiciary
          So, LUBA is a specialized court with narrow jurisdiction.
          Effectively, all State judges are appointed.
          Such is the way of the world

          • Gordon L. Shadle says:

            You need to do a little more research.

            Land use issues are local, not state. So in an ideal world any dispute would go before the Circuit Court. And they are nonpartisan and elected.

            Admit it, sending a land use issue to an un-elected politically appointed administrative body in Salem is undemocratic.

          • centrist says:

            A brief civics lesson . Circuit Court is part of the State judiciary. Vacancies ate filled by appointment by the Governor for a specific term. Renewal is subject to local vote.
            LUBA is a specialized court that is intended to settle differences that aren’t being resolved at the local level. It is not an administrative body.

  2. J. Jacobson says:

    This is great news for residents of Albany’s Ward III. Thanks to one of our City Councilor’s incessant need for public affirmation (demonstrated by ill-chosen words published for all to see) the residents of Ward III will no longer have any input on this issue. This same Councilor often speaks prior to thoughtful review, but this time, this Councilor’s poorly planned output is causing Ward III constituents to be without their duly-elected voice. Perhaps the offending Councilor could learn to hold back on commenting publicly on ongoing matters.

  3. Leroy says:

    The precident every other historic home owner has to follow seemed to have been lifted for the folks who bought this lot, it could be the buyer had been encouraged to buy it with an interpersonal insurance policy such as i will see what i can do sort of thing to slip this tax lot out from under the historic preview. The owner says they are too costly to rework. That simply means the return on his investment will take longer to realize a profit.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      By the Commenter’s analysis, the regulatory burden makes it not profitable enough to rehab These Old Houses to fit the fantasy of unelected commissions. Apparently the Commenter believes that the owners should wait as long as it takes to realize whatever profit might or might not appear after this lengthy round of governmental overreach.

      Can the owners hold on long enough to realize a reasonable profit, or should they accept that faceless commissions with no skin in the game are the arbiters of their bank accounts.

  4. Mark Moonstruck says:

    Personally, I do love old things. But, I have yet to see any true historical significance that these structures, or the people that lived in them gave to the city. They aren’t monuments to anything, at least nobody has said so yet. They aren’t unique either. We have hordes of homes that are just as old, that are in better shape, than these. I believe it is time to let them go. All things must eventually return to earth.

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “We have hordes of homes that are just as old, that are in better shape, than these”

    Really? Where are they?

    • Mark Moonstruck says:

      “Really? Where are they?”

      Just take a drive down Calapooia my friend.


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