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Metolius planning officials resign

Five of the seven-member planning commission walk out on the city frustrated with the political environment
News Editor
   March 20, 2002 — Five of the Metolius Planning Commission’s seven members resigned abruptly Friday, citing several reasons that ranged from being upset with the city’s divisive political environment to wanting to end wasteful taxpayer spending.
   In a letter addressed to Metolius Mayor Kathie Rohde, chairman Foncie Elliot, vice chair Barry Davidson and members Rae Taylor, Don Martin and Carl Breazeale wrote, “There appears to be entirely too many personal agendas, conflicts of interest and personal biases.”
   The letter also said that under the present administration, “we have found it a waste of our time and the citizens’ money as we have tried to do our duties as Planning Commissioners.”
   Individually, the five expressed varying reasons for their decision.
   Chairman Elliot, who has served on and off the commission since 1989 between stints as Metolius mayor, said the relationship between the planning commission and City Council had deteriorated.
   “It seemed like no matter what we did or how hard we tried, there was no consideration for us,” Elliot said. “They didn’t want to hear what your ideals or concerns were. We had concerns, we’d ask them about it and it was like, ‘Don’t ask us your concerns, you’re just an advisory committee.’”
   The Planning Commission had recommended approval of the controversial Avila annexation more than a year ago — which the City Council rejected on March 4 — but those who resigned Friday said their reasons went beyond that issue alone.
   “I like my city and I liked what I was doing but the stress of it all was too much,” said Rae Taylor, a longtime member of the commission. “I’m tired of the bickering between the people I care for and I’m tired of seeing them tear each other apart.”
   Metolius Mayor Kathie Rohde said she hadn’t had an opportunity to discuss the future of the planning commission with members of the City Council in light of the resignations, but disbanding it could be a possibility.
   “I appreciated the time they spent serving on the planning commission and wish them well,” she said.
   Metolius’ planning commission is an advisory body with little real decision-making power even though it holds hearings and make recommendations to the City Council on land-use issues.
   Doug and Shawn Dunlap, who are married, are the only members of the commission that did not resign. Shawn Dunlap filed an ethics violation against Carl Breazeale over the Avila annexation proposal last year. A state ethics commission upheld the charge and slapped Breazeale with a fine last fall.
   The City Council in December debated whether to have Breazeale and Don Martin removed from the commission when it dicussed rewording its ordinances to require that members be Metolius residents, but the idea was never acted on.
   “They don’t have to worry about us anymore because we’re gone,” said Martin, who is also chairman of the Jefferson County Planning Commission. “I doubt they’ll even put another planning commission together because they seem to love the control.”
   Elliot said the divisiveness and threats of ethics violations were too much to handle.
   “You got real careful about what you said and what you did,” Elliot said. “I don’t know what the solution is. We’re such a small town there shouldn’t be so much bickering going on.”
   Martin said the Avila annexation controversy was the final straw for him. He said the City Council was frequently duplicating the planning commission’s work by holding public hearings on the same topics when it could have just acted on the commission’s recommendations.
   Barry Davidson echoed similar sentiments.
   “They didn’t have to agree with everything we say,” he said. “We’ve had public hearings and then the council turns around and has the same public hearings. It’s been a waste of time and money. In the present form I’d just vote to disband the planning commission the way its set up.”