Featured Stories

Citizen's View: Being a policymaker and land use judge is difficult

In the past few months, the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard have made it clear that they will present applications to build a water treatment plant and put new water pipes that will run to Lake Oswego. This proposed construction has upset our citizens and has placed the city council in an unenviable position.  Because these applications may come to the council, the council must remain neutral on this matter.

We may have to act in a quasi-judicial role and we must be able to make a judgment based on the facts presented when the case is in front of us. 

Oregon land use law requires that the planning commission and city council remain free from bias. We cannot advocate one way or the other before we hear this case. While it may appear that the process of remaining free from bias means that the city council is not playing the important role of advocate for our citizens, it actually ensures it. It is imperative that we follow the rules in West Linn codes, as they will ensure a fair and unbiased decision. 

 Several citizens believe that the city has been too quiet on the Lake Oswego-Tigard project because we have had to establish rules to limit communication that might give the appearance of bias. While we cannot respond directly to these citizens, we can do everything in our power to create a fair and inclusive process in this matter. Our staff is not under any limitations and has responded to all questions and comments from the public. Here are some steps we have taken to encourage citizen involvement:

1. Joint pre-application meetings with Lake Oswego staff and Robinwood Neighborhood Association members;

2. Staff presentation at the June 14, 2011, RNA meeting for the sole purpose of outlining the project and answering questions;

3. Multiple staff meetings with the RNA to answer questions and address concerns;

4. The city hired a private planning consultant to work on behalf of the RNA during the application review;

5. The city hired a meeting facilitator to encourage open discussion amongst all parties;

6. There have been four planning commission meetings associated with this application, and more will be required; and

7. The city council hosted RNA neighbors at its work session this past Monday.

 We advocate for our citizens by creating code language and procedures that protect everyone's best interests. Changing the rules and bypassing those procedures for this application would not be fair to anyone in our community. Nevertheless, on Monday night, we took the unprecedented step of meeting with the RNA at our work session to hear their concerns regarding a pending application.

 Every member of the city council has been a member of the planning commission. In addition, we have all heard land use cases as members of the city council. We are aware that land use cases can be contentious and that decisions made may not satisfy all parties. Given the seriousness and implications of any land use process we, above all else, must be fair to all parties. Just as I have been elected to represent all West Linn citizens, I have also been elected to serve as a land use judge. I must balance these roles - it is my responsibility as your city councilor.

Mike Jones is a member of the West Linn City Council.