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Water plant decision should be remanded back to planning commission

After a long process, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) has given its ruling on the appeal of the West Linn City Council’s approval of the Lake Oswego-Tigard water treatment facility in West Linn.  

There were a number of issues that were raised in the appeal, and LUBA decided that three of them warranted a remand back to the city council.

This remand should concern all citizens of West Linn because it validates yet again that we have a mayor and council who feel they are above the rules of the public process.

Two of the issues that LUBA remanded on were cases of our mayor and council circumventing the public process and ignoring the voice of a concerned and involved citizenry. In the third case, they chose to totally ignore valid testimonial evidence that was contrary to what LOT was trying to sell.  

What is important to realize here is that this council made a decision that was monumental for the city of West Linn, and because they did not follow protocol, that decision has been shown to be a seriously flawed one.  

It is particularly disturbing to me that a decision of this magnitude was made by a council within which there were serious questions of bias. Rather than facing and dealing with these questions, this council chose to ignore both of them and the process and move forward to what is becoming increasingly evident was a foregone conclusion.

The problem with this remand is that while it addresses what was mishandled in the process, it does not adequately address what should be done.

It is important to understand that this should not be about the substance of the wrongdoings. It cannot be remedied at this point by going back and filling in the blanks. This is about the mayor knowingly and willingly avoiding and denying the public process. The council then followed suit, also knowingly and willingly. The mayor felt that he was exempt from all criticism of his actions and the council did not have the collective integrity to challenge him.

The residents of this city would do well to consider how they can trust the decision-making abilities of a mayor and council that knowingly disavow due process. I would argue that the previous decision made by the mayor and the council was so tainted that the only proper thing for them to do now is to admit to their fumble and step down from the process. Their decision should be negated and remanded back to the planning commission’s original decision.

The LOT water treatment plant has been a contentious issue. Those who have opposed it have been marginalized by City Manager Chris Jordan and Mayor John Kovash since the very beginning of the process. The egregious errors in procedures and shutting out the public voice in the early stages is well documented but was conveniently swept under the rug, and no doubt there will be an attempt to do the same now.

This council needs to be held accountable for its flagrant disregard for the public process and the public voice. I can only hope the people will demand some answers and accountability from this group as the process moves forward.

Scott Gerber is a resident of West Linn.



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