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Court date scheduled for Damascus disincorporation ballot title

A Clackamas County judge has scheduled a hearing on a complaint filed by a Damascus political activist who says a proposed ballot title doesn’t do a good enough job explaining the effects of disincorporation.

Judge Robert Herndon will hear the Monday, March 11, at the Clackamas County Circuit Court in Oregon City.

The hearing comes after a month-long wait by legal representatives for the city of Damascus to respond to the complaint filed on Dec. 31.

In the complaint, Dan Phegley of Damascus challenged the wording of a proposed ballot title that, if approved by voters, would disincorporate the city. His attorney, Bruce McCain, filed the challenge in Clackamas County Circuit Court on the grounds that the ballot title caption — Vote to Determine Whether to Disincorporate the City of Damascus — is insufficient because it doesn’t explain that disincorporation also would surrender the city charter and result in all city property being transferred to Clackamas County.

Phegley objects to the ballot title question — “Shall the City of Damascus be Disincorporated?” — calling it unfair, in part because it is too concise. The title can have as many as 20 words and Phegley thinks if more words were added, the title would provide more information, allowing voters to make better informed decisions.

For example, disincorporation will result in the loss of services now provided by the city, such as law enforcement.

The judge will decide how the proposed ballot title should proceed.

Once the issue is ironed out, proponents of disincorporation will have to wait longer before they can begin collecting the signatures needed to place the ballot before voters in November.

Damascus residents in 2004 voted to create a city out of the area’s 18,000 acres in order to have more control over how it is developed. Metro had expanded the regional growth boundary to include Damascus, earmarking it as a potential suburb ripe for development. But residents and city leaders have been unable to agree on a comprehensive plan, and Metro officials have said they overestimated growth projections for the Damascus area.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, among other things, two Damascus residents on Dec. 6 filed the paperwork to start the process of disincorporating the city.



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