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Condemned Homes02-my

LUBA is challenging the city of Albany's decision to allow the early demolition of three homes in the historic Monteith District. One of the houses is seen above in 2018.

The Land Use Board of Appeals filed a decision on Thursday, remanding the City of Albany's decision to allow the early demolition of three houses in the historic Monteith District, at Fourth Avenue and Calapooia Street.

According to Communications Officer Marilyn Smith, the case will be coming back to the city for an additional public hearing.

The council voted 4-2 on Oct. 10 last year to demolish the houses after owners Mark and Tina Siegner made the request to the Landmarks Advisory Commission the month prior. The commission had voted to delay the demolition for a year, but the council vote shortened that timeline to 90 days.

Bernadette Niederer, a consultant with History Preservation Northwest, filed a request to LUBA to overturn the Albany City Council’s decision.

In the decision issued Thursday by LUBA, the board outlined its reasoning on each argument Neiderer included in her appeal. LUBA agreed with Niederer that councilor Rich Kellum was biased in participating in the decision after he wrote on an online blog that three city councilors were in favor of tearing the houses down.

“ … we ultimately agree with petitioner that Kellum was biased and should not have participated in the decision,” the LUBA decision reads.

It goes on to note that, when asked at the local city council meeting if he could make an unbiased decision, Kellum said he did not have to worry about being biased.

"Kellum’s lack of concern for his ability to serve as an impartial decision maker, and his imputation that other decision makers were also biased, does not demonstrate his ability to act as an impartial decision maker,” LUBA stated.

However, LUBA said in its decision that the petitioner waived the right to argue bias in regards to other councilors because she did not “direct her bias challenge to any other specific councilors during the local proceeding.”

LUBA’s decision states that it is appropriate to allow the council to consider the application without Kellum’s participation.

The board also agreed that the council did not clearly incorporate a document from staff in its decision. The council voted to approve the demolition request and “accept staff’s recommendation for a 90-day stay of demolition” but did not approve or adopt the staff report itself.

“We disagree with intervenor’s assertion that the City Council’s oral deliberations make reasonably clear that City Council intended to adopt the staff report as part of the final decision,” the LUBA decision reads.

Niederer made two additional arguments related to the staff report, challenging its findings. In the decision issued Thursday, LUBA said that because the staff report was not approved or adopted, it could not express an opinion on its findings.

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