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Mark Siegner was hoping to remodel three homes in the Monteith district but after cleaning eight 40-yard dumpsters of garbage from the houses, he said the only cost-effective process was to tear them down and build anew on the property. 

An Albany couple told to wait a year before demolishing three deteriorating homes in the historic Monteith district will get a public hearing before the Albany City Council without having to formally appeal.

The Albany City Council voted 4-2 on Wednesday to allow a hearing for Mark and Tina Siegner, whose request to tear down three homes at Calapooia Street and Fourth Avenue received a one-year stay last week by the Landmarks Advisory Commission. 

The hearing will take place in October. A firm date has not yet been set.

The Siegners bought the three homes at 331 Calapooia St. S.W., 533 Fourth Ave. S.W. and 525 Fourth Ave. S.W. from Signs of Victory Ministries, which had been using them for transitional housing. All are all two-story residences built sometime between 1858 and 1910. This past November, city officials evicted tenants, declaring the homes uninhabitable.

All three homes have leaking roofs, ceiling joists that have been cut or burned, jury-rigged wiring and plumbing, scarred and broken inner walls and fireplaces, and sagging porch structures. In addition, the Siegners removed enough trash and human waste from the three to fill eight 40-yard containers.

Mark Siegner, a builder with 30 years' experience, told the council he didn't think the funds it would take to make the homes livable again would ever be able to be repaid through rent or sale. He said he had been willing to look into restoring the homes, but the Central Albany Revitalization Area declined to loan the couple any funding.

Siegner said it cost $687 to apply to the Landmarks Advisory Commission for permission to demolish the homes, only to be turned down. He said he was considering paying the $849 for a formal appeal but wanted to gauge councilors' reaction to his situation first.

Councilor Bessie Johnson said she's sympathetic. "I feel they shouldn't have to wait a year to demolish them," she said.

Councilor Bill Coburn agreed. "I'm beginning to get the impression maybe they didn't get a fair shake," he said. "This (council hearing) is maybe just to level the playing field."

But councilors Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski voted no to the question of a city hearing without a formal appeal.

Olsen said he didn't agree with tearing down homes that had stood since the 1800s and reminded the council one had been owned by Dr. J.L. Hill, for whom Hill Street in Albany is named. He said he also didn't agree with second-guessing the commission.

The landmarks commission has no power to prohibit demolition of a historic building and can only delay it so other options can be explored. The council has the authority to uphold or overturn a delay, but cannot prohibit demolition either, city attorney Sean Kidd said.

However, Kidd said, no matter what decision the council makes following the Siegners' hearing, anyone can choose to appeal that decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals.

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