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Oy vey: Damascus council flip-flops on comp plans

Reverses decision from night before

Damascus City Councilor Dan Tomlinson hesitated for a few tell-tale seconds before voting to approve a motion that will place a citizen’s initiative comprehensive development plan on the March 2015 ballot — not the November ballot — at a hastily called special City Council meeting Wednesday night, Sept. 3.

And it only gets more confusing from there.

At the regular council meeting the night before, Tomlinson had voted “yes” to help pass a motion, 4-3, to have the city adopt the citizen’s plan, which could have been put into law without going on the ballot.

The City Council had already approved putting a competing comp plan — crafted by the mayor — on the November ballot but had not decided when the citizen’s plan would be voted on, November of this year or next March. Mayor Steve Spinnett argued having two plans on the ballot would “confuse voters” and urged that only his sponsored plan be on the November ballot.

Before Tomlinson reversed himself, he also voted in favor of a motion by Spinnett to reverse the vote from the night before that favored adopting the citizen’s plan. Instead, Spinnett moved to place the citizen’s plan on the March 2014 ballot, which passed with Council President Andrew Jackman and Bill Wehr voting with the mayor and Councilors Jim De Young and Randy Shannon opposed, along with newly-appointed Councilor Debra Stevens.

Stevens was sworn in at the Sept. 2 meeting to fill the term of Mel O’Brien, who resigned in April. Stevens also voted Wednesday night with De Young and Shannon to put the citizen’s comp plan on the November ballot, which failed 4-3.

Damascus politics are complicated, and as anyone who’s followed — or tried to follow — the complexities of competing development plans and state sanctions for not having one, there’s also the continuing push and accompanying lawsuits aimed at disincorporating the 10-year-old city and state legislative action that allows people to leave, or de-annex, from the city and shrink its boundaries, citizens the city then sued.

The upshot of Wednesday’s meeting is that the mayor’s comp plan will still be on the November ballot and the citizen’s plan will appear on the March 2014 ballot.

After the meeting, even though he is still pushing for the state Court of Appeals to allow disincorporation, Chris Hawes said he is glad of the meeting’s outcome because he says the mayor’s plan will likely fail at the ballot box and the citizen’s plan will pass next spring.

“It’s actually what I wanted, to have it (the mayor’s plan) stand alone so it can be defeated,” he said. He added his take on what happened between the Tuesday and Wednesday night City Council meetings.

“Dan Tomlinson reversed his vote. ‘Why?’ is the question,” he said.

When asked afterward what he thought of the meeting, Councilor Shannon paused for a moment before answering.

“The conflict continues,” he said with a smile.


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