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Damascus wants you to get involved

As a longtime resident and one who has been part of the conversations initiated by Metro and Clackamas County regarding Damascus, I believe I can comment on the opinions regarding citizen involvement as expressed recently in the Gresham Outlook.

Back in 1998 this long journey began with a quasi-planning/discussion labeled 'Conversation with Damascus.' I was part of a small selected group chosen by county planning staff to begin discussions of the possibility of unincorporated Damascus being brought into the urban growth boundary, (UGB). From there the county, which still served as the planning department, initiated another process to develop a concept plan.

As one of the few local citizens on this task force, I often complained of a lack of public involvement. Citizens would come to our meetings and have only a few minutes to express their concerns. At the final two meetings, more than 200 citizens attended and at last were able to speak. It was clear they were angry, both with the plan and the lack of citizen involvement.

When Damascus incorporated, the City Council went out into the community to listen and take notes. After a year, the council created the Community Coordinating Committee, which was referred to as the C3. As the C3 continued to work on the draft of a comp plan, we were also out in the community hosting numerous meetings in various sub-areas of the city. Citizens attended these meetings, saw the initial drafts of maps and gave feedback. After the maps and drafts were handed over to the City Council, they went back out into the community for their input. Citizens had many opportunities to see the ongoing work, as well as attend council meetings and voice their opinions.

Early last year the City Council selected members for our first Planning Commission. There were three consecutive evenings devoted to taking public testimony, and we spent hours of our time reviewing the public documents. It was clear to us the citizens had opinions and wanted to be heard. All of our meetings and discussions were broadcast twice weekly on Community Access Cable. This was another example of implementing State Planning Goal One, which addresses public involvement required of our plan and the state DLCD (Department of Land Conservation and Development).

Now that the citizens of Damascus have voted to send the Comprehensive Plan back to the City Council, those who feel they were not represented can become part of the process of citizen involvement that has always been available. We are the first area since the 1970s to incorporate and therefore address the challenges of becoming a unique city of the future. In 50 years many of us will have passed on. What has occurred will be part of the history of Damascus, and many will never know what occurred in the beginning. But hopefully they will marvel at what our city has become and be proud to live, work and play in this city of the future.

Katherine Ruthruff has lived in Damascus for 43 years. She is a member of the Damascus Planning Commission.