City commissioners determine historic water plant needs to come down

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

The Planning Commission ended its May 17 meeting as the Historic Landmark Commission, unanimously approving the demolition of the city’s former water treatment plant.
The two-story brick structure at 1155 S. 2nd St. was built in 1947 as a water processing plant and pumphouse fed by the Albany/Santiam Canal. A large paddle wheel filtered canal debris as water entered intake pipes and went to building-adjacent concrete settling tanks.
The building was later designated as a landmark on the city’s historic registry due to its connection to the city’s history with the canal and water supply system.
The plant shut down in 2019 after the city finished a new water treatment plant at 2500 River Road. City staff determined that it was neither possible nor cost-worthy to preserve the old structure when removing its machinery and pipes.
“An evaluation of the site (indicates) pretty much the building is being held up by the very large pipes that are protruding out of it to go to the holding tanks,” Community Development Director Kelly Hart said. “So once those pipes are removed, that building is degraded enough, unfortunately, for it to not stand anymore.”
She also noted in her report that removing the pipes, pits and building could make the land more valuable and usable, which “outweighs the value of retaining the landmark.” The property’s underground chamber and settling ponds will be filled in, as well. However, current signage explaining the landmark’s history will remain on the grounds.
Engineering Director Ron Whitlatch further indicated the city has had “multiple issues of transients” using the site and setting fires inside the building. He added that many discussions involving the city council regarded plans for the site, including a park, parking lot or city storage.
Earlier in the meeting, the planning commission approved a permit for a mini-storage facility.
A conditional use permit was approved to build the facility on a 1.38-acre vacant Weldwood Drive lot south of the Spin City Laundromat and T-Mobile. Last year, the commission approved a subdivision plat of nine lots and variance for a private street on the property, but developers told Lebanon Local that costs prompted them to move in a different direction.
The commission also approved an administrative review for a 24-unit apartment complex at Airport and Stoltz Hill roads. It will consist of six studios, 12 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments.
The proposal had been discussed and tabled April 19 as City Engineering Director Ron Whitlatch investigated potential setbacks involving a traffic-signal installation at the intersection. Chair Don Robertson had questioned whether apartment occupancy would only be allowed afterward, which could tie up the developer’s money. Whitlatch returned to announce that no issues existed should the complex be move-in-ready before the signal installation is complete.