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Condemned Homes02-my

Mark Siegner hopes to be allowed to tear down three homes in the Monteith District and build new structures on the site.

Albany-area residents interested in saving one or more deteriorating historic homes on Calapooia Street and Fourth Avenue will have 90 days to act before the city allows their demolition.

Members of the Albany City Council voted 4-2 Wednesday to accept a staff report recommending a 90-day stay before allowing demolition of the three homes at 331 Calapooia St. SW, 533 Fourth Ave. SW and 525 Fourth Ave. SW.

Bill Coburn, Bessie Johnson, Rich Kellum and Mike Sykes voted for the stay. Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski, who have been vocal opponents of allowing demolition at all, cast the dissenting votes.

Opponents of the decision have 21 days to file a response with the Land Use Board of Appeals.

Owners Mark and Tina Siegner said following Monday's vote they are open to selling the homes, on the condition they also be moved.

"If someone would come forward, that would be great, if they want to move it off the property," Tina Siegner said.

"Ideally, move it, yes," Mark Siegner added.

The Siegners bought the homes, all on a single tax lot in the Monteith Historic District, originally intending to restore them. A builder with 30 years' experience, Mark Siegner said he found the buildings need too much work to make restoration economically feasible, especially without city grants or loans to help.

The building that faces Calapooia Street is thought to date to 1858 and the other two are thought to date to 1890. A 1996 historic homes assessment, the most recent available, listed their condition as "fair."

The homes fared poorly under previous owners, however, and city officials evicted all tenants this past November. After purchasing the buildings, the Siegners carted out enough trash, including human waste, to fill eight 40-yard trash containers.

In Siegner's estimation, all three homes need entirely new roofs, plumbing, heating systems, windows, doors, ceilings, drywall and porches or balconies, plus some siding repairs, for full restoration.

"They all need almost 100 percent of everything," he told councilors.

The Siegners applied to demolish the buildings in July, but in September, the city's Landmarks Advisory Commission voted 4-1 to put a one-year hold on demolition. 

The Siegners had the option of appealing to the council, but councilors decided independently, in an identical 4-2 vote, to hold their own hearing on the question. 

Councilors heard nearly five hours of testimony on the demolition proposal Wednesday. Most came from people opposed to the idea.

Close to a dozen people disputed the Siegners' assessment of the property and their estimates for restoration. They also pointed to the economic vitality provided by Albany's historic districts and successful restorations of homes in far worse condition.

Larry Preston, a contractor and one of the members on the advisory committee who voted for the year's stay, questioned why the Siegners hadn't sought an independent engineering report or gone out for formal bids on restoration work before submitting identical repair estimates for the three homes. 

"I can tell you positively, they're not beyond saving," he said. 

David Pinyard, a former advisory committee vice president, said no one has stepped forward to save the homes before now because they weren't being threatened with demolition. He said he supported providing time for that option.

Councilors who voted for the 90-day stay said they agreed. Coburn, who made the motion, said he felt a year's stay was too long and that the momentum generated by recent meetings should be enough if someone wants to come forward.

Kellum said he agreed as long as it's publicly understood that it's up to the Siegners whether or not to accept an offer.

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