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Boring man ousted by county power bloc

A 3-2 vote changes the character of the county's Planning Commission


Clackamas County commissioners, in their latest political shakeup, targeted the county’s Planning Commission, resulting in the dismissal of Brian Pasko, a planning commissioner who lives in Boring and works as Oregon’s Sierra Club director.

Apparently disgusted with the commissioners’ disregard for Pasko’s understanding and knowledge by not interviewing him, Beavercreek Hamlet Chairwoman Tammy Stevens resigned from the Planning Commission position she’s held for the past 10 years.

The commission is the county’s most crucial advisory body, Stevens said.

“I’m shocked by this situation,” she said. “It takes about four years to get new planning commissioners up to speed, but he was already a valuable member after two years. He didn’t vote for whatever people think would be the Sierra Club vote.”

Commission Chairman John Ludlow suggested his vote against Pasko had more to do with exclusive farm use advocates associated with the Sierra Club, an organization that doesn’t get involved with local land-use issues.

“I don’t have any particular rub with the Sierra Club,” Ludlow said. “However, some of the progress that we’ve (been) trying to get, particularly on exclusive farm use lands, is stifled by some entities.”

Once he heard a recording of Ludlow’s comments, Pasko noted that he has never had to make such a land-use decision as a planning commissioner.

“His assertion that I have brought a private agenda to the Planning Commission is completely without foundation whatsoever,” Pasko said. “It shows a complete lack of understanding as to what we do.

“The Planning Commission serves the role of taking time to understand complex issues and thoughtfully making recommendations as a team.”

When reviewing permit and zone concepts, its votes have almost always been unanimous and until recently were generally accepted by county commissioners.

Split decision

County commissioners in a 3-2 vote on June 25 appointed Jennings Lodge resident Hank Doane to Pasko’s seat. County Commissioners Martha Schrader and Jim Bernard were opposed to the choice.

Commissioners Ludlow and Tootie Smith noted that Doane is vice president of operations for R.S. Davis Recycling, which runs scrap-metal facilities in Clackamas, Gresham and Hermiston.

“We’re lacking an industrial representative on this commission,” Ludlow said. “I think it’s vitally important that we have a diversity on there, so that a person is a user, so to speak, a person that pays the fees, a person is in an industry which we all think is so important be represented on this Planning Commission.”

Smith said she hopes Doane’s position in the metals recycling business would help the county find a site for a composting facility.

“Lord knows it’s been so hard for us to get any traction on that issue, especially in this legislative session,” Smith said. “Maybe he can offer some expertise.”

Planning commissioners didn’t have to weigh in on a hearings officer’s reversal of the Clackamas County Planning Department’s decision last year to allow a controversial composting facility in Redland. After large community protests, the officer decided such a facility had no place in the farming community.

“It’d be great to have a compost facility — where does Tootie live? Because she seems really keen to live next to a dump,” Stevens joked.

Bernard, noting that Pasko “did represent the environmental community,” argued that it was also important to retain Pasko’s representation of rural interests.

Schrader, who voted against ousting Pasko, echoed Stevens concern about the learning curve for planning commissioners.

“I see merit in both of these folks,” Schrader said. “(But) I do feel more comfortable in appointing someone who’s already served.”

County commissioners also recently appointed West Linn Planning Commissioner Gail Holmes to the countywide planning commission. Although the county’s advisory body deals mostly with unincorporated areas, it now has a majority of folks living in urban areas, an issue that also irks Pasko and Stevens.

County Commissioner Paul Savas, however, considered a majority of planning commissioners from urban areas to be a “better mix.” Savas asked whether the Planning Commission had seven or nine members to make sure that the balance had just tipped in favor of urban areas of the county.

“It’s just unfortunate that I got in the middle of all the political finagling,” Pasko said.

Moving forward

For the new planning commissioner, it was the furthest thing from a political gamut. Working for the family business since 2007, Doane had the opportunity to apply to the county for a planning permit and looked for ways to become more involved.

“Things are always changing politically, but for me it’s about working with the county and trying to help this area be successful,” he said. “I’m not looking to do anything out of the box at this point when I’m just learning the ropes.”

Although the Planning Commission has a lot of important work on its agenda, Stevens resigned rather than face what she saw as inevitable dismissal in a couple of years.

“I am not going to work my butt off just to have done to me what was done to Brian,” Stevens said. “I, unfortunately, am not going to spend my extremely limited spare time serving a county that treats people with disrespect, that makes uninformed decisions, that finds citizen involvement a burden and the care of citizens less important than the almighty buck.”

At the next Planning Commission meeting, tentatively scheduled for July 22, Stevens plans to testify against proposed expansions to allowable uses in industrial parks. Now that’s she’s off the commission, which has been wrangling with county commissioners and staff on the proposals for months, she feels freer to be openly hostile to the county’s new direction.

“We undid about 75 percent of what the staff did to give an excellent balance of citizen and industrial consideration,” she said. “If they go much more liberal, then we’re going to have to file an appeal with LUBA, because these zoning changes are going to affect people who weren’t notified.”