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Two-way street decision headed to court

The city of Hillsboro might want to hold off on removing any “one-way” street signs for a little longer.Photo Credit: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Signs like this one have been appearing in and around Hillsboros downtown business district in recent weeks, but a complaint filed in Washington County Circuit Court seeks to overturn the project.

On Dec. 26, Hillsboro attorney David Noren filed a claim for “relief-declaratory judgment and injunction” against the city of Hillsboro, contending that Ordinance 6080 — which authorized the conversion of several streets in Hillsboro’s downtown area from one-way traffic to two-way traffic — is not valid.

The lawsuit, filed in Washington County Circuit Court on behalf of Hillsboro resident Carol Faber, seeks to overturn the ordinance, which was adopted May 20, 2014, when Mayor Jerry Willey broke a 3-3 tie among Hillsboro City Council members. The lawsuit claims the vote to approve the ordinance was not legitimate because Section 16 of the Hillsboro City Charter requires at least “four councilors” to gain approval, and the mayor is not a councilor.

Noren’s legal filing points out that in Section 16 of the city charter, adopted in 2007, “the council must adopt an ordinance with the approval of four councilors at two meetings” and that “the charter consistently distinguishes between the ‘mayor’ and ‘councilors.’”

The lawsuit asks that the city be prohibited from moving forward with the street conversion project, and that the Hillsboro City Council declare that Ordinance 6080 has not been adopted.

“I’ve asked the city to expedite getting this issue before a judge,” Noren said. “Our objective is to have a judge rule that the mayor is not authorized to vote on it, so the ordinance could not be adopted or enforced.”

According to Noren, the city has 30 days from the date of the lawsuit’s filing to issue a motion in response to the complaint, but Hillsboro officials had not yet responded.

Patrick Preston, public affairs manager for the city of Hillsboro, said the mayor and members of the city council planned to discuss the issue in a closed session Tuesday evening (Jan. 6).

“We have received the lawsuit,” Preston said. “An executive session has been scheduled following the council meeting.”

In the Dec. 26 complaint filed with the Circuit Court, Noren described Faber’s opposition to the two-way street conversion proposal.

“Plaintiff (Faber) uses the downtown streets affected by proposed Ordinance 6080 in the course of her daily work and for shopping and leisure,” read an excerpt. “She opposes the conversion of the streets from one-way to two-way on the grounds that it will create additional congestion and confusion for her and for others, at considerable public expense and without significant public benefit ... plaintiff is entitled to have the validity of Ordinance 6080 determined by this court.”

Reconfiguring the downtown streets comes with a price tag of approximately $2.5 million. The streets that would be affected include Main Street and Lincoln Street from First Avenue to Sixth Avenue, and Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth avenues between Lincoln Street and Walnut Street.

Noren said he is not yet sure how the city will respond.

“They may take a fairly aggressive approach and try to get the lawsuit dismissed,” Noren said. “They may also go ahead and present an argument before a judge and see what the judge decides.”

Despite the lawsuit, Preston indicated the city was forging ahead with plans to convert the downtown business district to a two-way street grid.

“The project schedule is for construction to begin later this year, with the conversion taking place next summer,” Preston said.

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