City press release at odds with jury verdict.
I was interested to read the press release about a jury awarding David Hill Development $6.5 million as a result of delays caused by the Forest Grove city staff.
I have lived this drama for the past seven years as a land use consultant for the developer.
Until the trial, this debacle was the best kept secret in the city and I think that the citizens have the right to know what really took place because it might cost us all some money.
The original application was made for a 217 lot subdivision known as 'The Parks in Forest Grove' in February 2005.
The developer paid the appropriate fees to the city and in addition paid $14,000 to 'expedite the plan review.' Thirty months after the initial application, the city demanded an additional $123,000 for 'engineering services' and refused to issue the building permits until that money was paid.
After six months, I met with Mayor Richard Kidd and the City Manager, Michael Sykes, asking that they intervene in the review process. Mr. Kidd gave me a lecture on the negative impact of residential development, and Mr. Sykes didn't offer any assistance.
I met several times with Public Works Director Rob Foster, who had no response except to say the project was under review. I met with Steve Wood, the plans examiner, who assured me that the plans would be 'out of my office next week.' That was in April 2006. The plans were out of his office in August 2007!
In an email dated Nov. 2, 2005 the City Attorney, Andy Jordan, advised the City Manager to issue the Building Permits because the developer had met all of the Conditions of Development. No one listened.
Michael Sykes said in the press release, 'The City does not believe it delayed this project. In fact, if anything, the City bent over backwards to assist an inexperienced developer to complete the job so the lots could be sold.'
The jury obviously didn't share that opinion. City staff and others did everything they could to frustrate the developer and delay the subdivision. A very disturbing note was added to the record at the end of the trial: 'We, the jury, believe there are more people within the City of Forest Grove who played a role to some degree of responsibility in this case.'
I believe that City Manager Sykes should be terminated immediately. Public Works Director Foster should be terminated immediately. Wood has gracefully 'retired.'
All of you should examine your responsibilities to the citizens of this city who elected you to ensure that members of city staff are in fact public servants. Any questions?
- Aldie Howard is the former planning director for the City of Forest Grove.