A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Two little requests get city hearings

Written July 7th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The wooden steps and railing at the back door (left) of 305 First Ave. N.W. on July 4.

You wouldn’t think that replacing four wooden steps at your back door would require a public hearing, but in Albany’s downtown historic district it does. So does replacing a rear door on another building not far from those steps.

Both situations come up this week as the Albany Landmarks Advisory Commission holds public hearings on two applications for “historic review of exterior alterations.” The commission meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, in the council chambers at City Hall.

One hearing will deal with a request to replace the wooden steps and railing behind 305 First Ave. N.W. with concrete steps and a steel railing. The other is about a request to replace the back door at 201 First Ave. N.W. and install an awning over the door. The planning staff has recommended that both applications be approved.

Both buildings — the former Sternberg Clothing Bldg. in the case of the wooden steps, and the former Albany State Bank in the case of the door — are considered “historic contributing” to the character of the downtown district. As such, the city’s development code requires that exterior alterations be reviewed.

To be approved, the code says, “the proposed alteration is compatible with the historic characteristics of the area and with the existing structure in massing, size, scale, materials, and architectural features.” In separate staff reports for each of those projects, city planner Laura LaRoque concluded that the requests meet that test.

To simplify life for building owners, you’d think that requests like this could be approved without the need for “quasi-judicial” hearings before a city commission. But under Oregon’s planning rules, apparently that can’t be done. (hh)

The landmarks board will be asked to decide on replacing this door and adding an awning.

9 responses to “Two little requests get city hearings”

  1. Kenneth Donaldson says:

    There is little in the photo that could be considered “historic contributing.” Gas meters, A/C condenser, large exhaust fan and possibly the power pole.

  2. disgruntled says:

    Why would any business want to own a building that they do not have the right to maintain it in a manner that suits the business? How much time and manpower was wasted on this bureaucratic B.S.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      It’s called crony capitalism. It operates under the Orwellian guise of “economic development.”

      Back in 2001 some on the city council blamed the “free market” for the failing downtown area. And with a wave of the wand and without voter approval, CARA was created.

      Business and building owners will put up with a lot of bureaucratic BS if they think favors, preferential treatment, and/or economic benefits will flow their way.

      For a recent example, look at CARA’s recent Wells Fargo decision.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Obviously Albany voters agree with you considering the many different elections & results therein. Amazing you’re still trying to beat your dead horse when you have zero skin in the game… How is that working for you?

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Clearly these two plans do not represent, nor do they reflect, the city’s cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history.

    The plans are too nice.

    They stand in stark contrast to the existing dumpsters, trash cans, and weeds. The plans need to be down-scaled to better safeguard Albany’s heritage of tacky back alleys.

  4. Mike patrick says:

    Looks like the bike in the photo is not of the historical time line either. Sorry HH.

  5. Jeff Senders says:

    I agree with Mike Patrick.

  6. Bryan says:

    That door is not “historic” and appears to have already been replaced.

  7. centrist says:

    Pretty small list of rules compared to BPA. Their playbook is so large, no one individual understands the whole thing.
    Albany’s back alleys are really pretty civilized compared to other places.
    Heck fire, the front walks in New Orleans French Quarter are dismal.


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