A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Vinyl window issue goes to Albany council

Written September 10th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The new three-pane windows on the third floor of the façade match the pattern of the wing, right, added in 1930.

The church that has owned and cared for the former Albany High School since 1964 is going to ask the city council to allow it to finish replacing 34 windows in the historic building’s façade.

On Sept. 1, the Albany Landmarks Commission denied a request by Willamette Community Church to use vinyl sashes in the replacement of 34 windows that had — or still have — wooden sashes. Twenty-three of the wood windows had already been replaced with vinyl sashes when the city building official issued a stop-work order in July. Eleven remain to be done.

Albany’s development code requires city review and approval of the use of substitute materials when owners want to make changes on the exterior of historic buildings. The former high school was built in 1909 and expanded with two wings, a gym and an auditorium, in 1930.

The Albany Landmarks Commission unanimously rejected the vinyl window request on Sept. 1. This week, on Thursday, Scott Miller and Lee Eick of the church appealed that decision to the city council. Miller is the lead pastor, and Eick is the volunteer manager for the window project.

Filing the appeal cost them $953, the fee the city charges in such cases.

On Friday the city planning division gave notice that the appeal will go to the council on Wednesday, Sept. 22.  The council will hold a public hearing on the window issue as part of its regular meeting, which starts at 6 p.m.

Before getting that notice, I had asked the church about its next step.

“We were invited by the Landmarks Commission to appeal their decision to City Council,” the church said in a reply from Miller and Eick, “and we are now in that process. We are grateful for the support of City staff who has been helping us through these processes, including their independent evaluation of our application.”

The planning staff had recommended approval of the church’s request, a recommendation Landmarks did not follow.

The church said it had started replacing many of the old windows with vinyl sashes 20 years ago, evidently without anyone noticing or raising objections, and the 34 being done now were to complete that project.

Looking at the building now, as I did again after the Landmarks denial, it’s hard for me to see how the new windows do anything to detract from this handsome structure’s historic status and visual appeal. (hh)

The windows above the entrance are not being replaced.

19 responses to “Vinyl window issue goes to Albany council”

  1. Francois DeLacroix says:

    Churches have said many things about many issues for millennia. And Many claims made by those churches have later been shown to be prevarication. Why then are we to take this church at it’s word when something as crucial as historic preservation is at stake?

  2. Janine Gould says:

    This is exactly why people are fed up with government at all levels! Yes, historic value is important, but this is ridiculous!

  3. centrist says:

    I worked at a manufacturing facility begun in the late 50s. The original equipment choices were sound enough that most still runs.
    In some cases, we built cleaned-up patterns from a smoking wreck to get back in action.
    For some items, “functionally equivalent, commercially available” applied.
    Double-hung, wood frame, single-pane windows don’t meet the need for energy efficiency.
    Lwt’a think about that. In rhe face of energy conservation, a small committee daya NO

  4. George Zakrzewski says:

    After witnessing several attacks against various City Commissions, it appears these august bodies exist for one reason only, to provide cover for the Politicians. The most recent example is this debacle surrounding plastic replacement windows, but Albany just faced another controversy over a kerfuffle at the Human Rights Commission.

    The Commission’s members (fill in Commission name here) is appointed by Councilors. Each Commission has developed specific guidelines outlining duties, rules and regs. In this instance, the Commission has promulgated rules related to historical accuracy in window replacement. You can safely bet that most of the Pols pay little attention to these rules until battle lines are drawn.

    In this instance, City Staff favors ignoring Landmark Commission rules.
    The Pols on City Council largely agree with City staff. In the end, the Commission is bad-mouthed by the Pols, by the City staffers and by the media (think Hasso Hering) and the Commission’s rules are kicked to the curb.

    This particular issue has to do with an established religion wishing to ignore secular Landmark Commission’s authority. When the dust settles, City pols will likely overrule the Commission, neutering the very body the City set-up to do the unpleasant work of policing Albany’s rich architectural history. The City, City staff and elected politicians will close ranks and Albany will be subjected to what amounts to state-supported religion. An unholy trinity of politicians, city employees and a traditional christian church aligning. Certainly not what the Founding Fathers had hoped for.

    The question then becomes: are the various Commissions put into place by the City mere fig leafs designed to give Pols cover? It seems so. Why not drop the pretense. The City Commissions exist for one reason – as a foil for Pols to distract the electorate.

    • Al Nyman says:

      The point you missed is that all these commissions are filled with ideologues that are not independent thinkers but are on the boards to force their viewpoint on the masses.

      • David A says:

        The department of the interior has standards for historic inventory. The commission follows these standards as well as the city development code. The city of recent doesn’t follow their own code and or department of the interior standards. And people commenting have zero clues. There’s a reason the commission didn’t agree with staff recommendations. And old windows are a significant feature on a structure. If you’d been a building since 1964 playing ignorance over what can and can’t be done a historic inventory building seems odd to me.

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          The Secretary of the Interior’s website clearly states that the standards are advisory, not regulatory.

          Defining “rehabilitation” and “appropriateness” is arbitrary by nature.

          The “guidelines” assume that at least some repairs of a historic building will be needed in order to provide for an efficient contemporary use. For example, vinyl windows that do not detract from the building’s historical status.

          In other words, common sense must prevail, if that is even possible given the overly rigid interpretation being applied by you and the Landmarks Commission in this case.

          Hopefully the City Council recognizes the buffoonery at work here.

  5. Glenda Fleming says:

    Did anyone else notice the following?

    “We were invited by the Landmarks Commission to appeal their decision to City Council,” the church said in a reply from Miller and Eick, “and we are now in that process. We are grateful for the support of City staff who has been helping us through these processes, including their independent evaluation of our application.”

    It sounds like the Landmarks Commission, as well as City staff, actually support the church’s plan to replace the windows, and like the Commission issued its denial based upon the requirements of its own guidelines.

    However, the Council has the power to override the denial, and it sounds like they will, so why all the bad mouthing of City government? If it’s because of so many onerous regulations and roadblocks to navigate, remember that most regulations were imposed only after some abuse.

  6. Fast Frankie says:

    Hey Hasso, why no more pieces downplaying global warming?


  7. Bob Woods says:

    The question is: Should Historic Buildings (that get special tax breaks) stay true to the historic build?

    If yes, they need to replace old poorly-functioning windows, with their original type.

    If no, then replace them with whatever the owners want, but eliminate the tax breaks they get…forever. They ARE being changed from the historical original.

    Religious or atheist or none, should not make any damn difference.

    Since the building already has been changed to a bunch vinyl windows, let them all be vinyl if that’s what the owners want. BUT they should pay back the tax breaks they got to the time they put in the first vinyl window.

    Fair to everybody.

  8. Bob Woods says:

    Churches pay no property taxes right?


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