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Public input to extend Sauvie Island planning period

Draft plan takes criticism from community members


Photo Credit: COURTESY OF MULTNOMAH COUNTY - The cover of the draft update to Multnomah County's Sauvie Island/Multnomah Channel Rural Area Plan.Ongoing debate over a proposed update to the rural area plan for Sauvie Island and the Multnomah Channel will once again push back the time line for final consideration of the plan, a planner involved in the process said.

The Multnomah County Planning Commission was set to deliberate over whether to approve the draft plan on Monday, March 16. But County Planner Kevin Cook said last week that discussion will be deferred.

Instead, Cook said, the commission will likely hold a series of “work sessions” to specifically address suggestions from members of the public, beginning with the March 16 meeting.

The Planning Commission began a series of public hearings on Sauvie Island on Jan. 5. It met for its second hearing on the draft plan Monday, Feb. 2.

“At the first hearing ... we got a lot of public testimony indicating that folks would like to see potential amendments to policies and maybe stronger-worded policies,” Cook said.

One group of residents in particular has been lobbying for changes. The group of six is informally led by Mark Greenfield, a member of the community advisory committee convened by the county in 2013 and 2014 to provide input.

Greenfield, a longtime land use attorney who lives on Sauvie Island, believes county staff disregarded many of the advisory committee’s suggestions last year and came out with what he called an “incomplete, deficient and highly disappointing” draft plan.

He and his wife, Jane Hartline, have been working with other island and channel residents, including other committee members, to come up with “alternatives” to many of the proposed policies, as well as suggested additions.

“We don’t expect all of the policies that we’ve proposed to get adopted, but we needed to do something, because we felt that what staff came up with was not adequate,” Greenfield told the Spotlight.

Among the group, which Cook has dubbed “Greenfield et al.,” Greenfield is most vocal about preserving agricultural land, arguing that the draft proposal does not go far enough. Others have focused on different parts of the plan.

One source of unhappiness among the plan’s critics is the use of the word “consider” instead of “adopt” or other “active verbs” in many of the draft policies. Greenfield sees the language as noncommittal.

“The comment that I have made, and the comment that others have made, is that a comprehensive plan is supposed to make policy choices,” Greenfield said.

The draft plan states repeatedly that the use of the word “consider” in policies does commit county staff to propose amendments to the county code. The county’s elected officials would then decide whether to adopt them.

For his part, Cook said he thinks Greenfield and other residents have brought up “some pretty reasonable things” that commissioners want more time to consider.

Greenfield sounded optimistic that the commission will take the alternative proposals seriously.

“I had one Planning Commission member tell me that however long it takes, they want to do it right,” he said.

County planners originally expected to wrap up their work last year, but the process has stretched into 2015.

The commission will hold its next hearing on Monday, March 2, in the Sauvie Island Academy gym at 6:30 p.m. The focus of the hearing will be on marinas and floating homes.

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