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Damascus meets to plan future

Thursday's meeting follows voter rejection of a comprehensive plan

Damascus city councilors are hosting a meeting to discuss how to move forward with a new comprehensive plan now that residents have made it clear they don't support the previous council-backed plan.

The 'post-election planning session,' as it's called on the study session agenda, is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 9, at Damascus City Hall, 19920 S.E. Highway 212.

Sam Imperati, a Portland-based professional moderator and executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management, will moderate the discussion.

Damascus voters Tuesday, May 17, failed to approve an ordinance already OK'd by city councilors - basically reversing the City Council's effort to adopt a comprehensive plan for how the area should grow.

A total of 2,289 voters, or 65 percent of those who cast ballots, voted against the ordinance, with 1,224 voters, or nearly 35 percent, voting in favor of adopting the comprehensive plan.

'A 2-1 vote, by any stretch of the imagination, is a pretty clear message,' said Mayor Steve Spinnett, who did not take office until after the council approved the plan and was the only member of the council who favored repealing it. 'The message was a vote of no confidence with the current council.'

Damascus city councilors passed the comprehensive plan in December after 16 public meetings before the Planning Commission and City Council.

Under state law, every city must have a comprehensive plan outlining future growth. And controlling how the rural, pastoral area grows and is developed was a cornerstone of the 2004 vote to incorporate Damascus as an official city.

Damascus city officials have said they want to protect the area's rural landscape, natural areas, wildlife corridors and forested buttes. But they also want to create a pedestrian-friendly town center and strived for a plan that balanced conservation and development.

Opponents said the council pushed the plan through without enough citizen input and feared it would destroy the area's rural character. Some also considered the plan too restrictive on future development.

Spinnett hopes Thursday's meeting sets a tone of cooperation and makes it clear that citizen involvement will be a valued element in future meetings on the comprehensive plan.

'I have hope,' he said. 'I believe we're all going to come together somehow.'