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Comp Plan II: It only gets more messy from here

Outlook Editorial


If you thought the May 20 primary election was a disappointment for Damascus, then buy your popcorn and tickets and get in line because it’s time for Comp Plan II (the sequel): It only gets more dysfunctional from here.

Consider these story lines:

• Ahead for this little burg is the selection of a replacement for an open seat on the City Council. As things stand, the council is at a 3-3 stalemate. That means someone on the council will need to break ranks in order to make the appointment. If unsuccessful, the seat will remain vacant until the November election.

• The run for the exit sign is still under way, with more than 27 property owners — and counting — having filed for de-annexation under the strength of legislation passed by Oregon lawmakers specifically targeting Damascus. More than 70 Damascus residents have been added to a city lawsuit challenging their right to de-annex, said Jim Syring of Citizens For De-Annexation.

• The town still lacks a comprehensive land-use plan, with none of the three plans on the May ballot even coming close to victory. In short, things are a mess in this Clackamas County town, and they aren’t getting better any time soon.

In Comp Plan II (the sequel), Mayor Steve Spinnett’s version of the development plan is being forwarded to the November ballot. That all but dooms the comp plan to another defeat, given the lackluster support given to Spinnett’s plan in the May election.

Meanwhile, we’re hearing that Spinnett is stubbornly unwilling to accept any compromise — big surprise — regarding his plan, which likely will lead to an effort to resurrect the “2013 citizens plan” and have it placed on the ballot by initiative petition.

If that happens, and if voters again are faced with deciding between two comp plans, both will lose, just like they lost earlier this month.

There’s another little twist: There’s a group of people in Damascus who want nothing more than to disincorporate the city. This group will loudly advocate for “no” votes on any comp plan, if only to further its agenda of sticking a fork in this city government.

There is only one way to get a comprehensive land-use plan approved in Damascus: Voters must be asked to consider one plan, and only one plan. And a majority of the City Council must stand in unity behind that plan.

Only then would weary voters have reason to approach this decision with anything other than doubt and skepticism.

What’s at stake? By virtue of the failed comp plans this month, the state will continue to withhold dollars from Damascus. And with another failed comp plan in November, that would even further delay the reinstatement of those dollars.

And with each passing election and each failed attempt at passing a comp plan looms the ever-present possibility that the state Land Conservation and Development Commission will take matters into its own hands and force a comp plan on the city — replacing local control with state and county mandates.

Spinnett has to see the madness of anticipating voter approval of a comp plan in November that the same voter base soundly rejected only months earlier, by a vote of 987 for and 1,877 against.

The only way a winning comp plan can appear on the ballot is for Spinnett to agree to a compromise between his plan and the “2013 citizens plan.” Or Spinnett could agree to make amendments to his plan once it passes voter approval.

The bottom line is that Mayor Spinnett is the center pivot in all of this. He can continue to move ahead with a plan that is all but doomed to fail, putting his stubborn pride and prejudice ahead of is town’s best interests.

Or, he can be the peacemaker by giving up a little in order to gain everything and come out of this as the hero.

Stay tuned. Comp Plan II (the sequel) is already showing. And you’ll be able to watch this saga play out over the next six months.



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