Unanimous city council vote ends year-long project

One year after the regulatory code streamlining project began in earnest, the West Linn City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the proposed code amendments.

At a May 12 meeting, the council agreed to delay its final vote to Monday in order to allow for all testimony to be properly considered.

"The economic development committee and planning commission spent a lot of time on this, and we spent a lot of time on it," City Council President Jody Carson said. "I really think a lot of things that have caused problems in some sections of the code have been addressed. Lots of good is done with these changes."

The project, which kicked off in April 2013, is a key facet of the city’s effort to foster economic development in its commercial areas. A series of amendments to the community development code were created with the intent to “remove unnecessary, inefficient regulatory barriers associated with doing business in the city.”

The final amendment package included changes that would eliminate the 2003 City Council goals from the comprehensive plan; move quasi-judicial appeals to an “on the record process” as opposed to “de novo” or “as new”: and require a majority of members of a public meeting to “call up” or review a decision made by a lower approval body, as opposed to just two members.

"On a personal level, de novo is one thing I've wanted to change for the past eight years or so," City Councilor Mike Jones said. "The code changes strengthen the planning commission, the planning process, and at the same time allow for what we want: reasonable, thoughtful development."

In past hearings, some residents voiced concerns that eliminating the de novo process would hinder their ability to voice opinions during the appeal process. However, Jones and other councilors believed moving to an on the record appeal process would hold applicants to their word and eliminate the confusion stemming from revised applications.

In the end, the message was that approving the code amendments would help foster a better economic climate in West Linn.

"It's the council's job to represent everyone, including business owners and developers," City Councilor Thomas Frank said, "not just residential property owners.

"We need to encourage business development, not hinder it," he said.

Previous amendment packages also included alterations to tree protection codes, commercial setback provisions, conditional use permit language and fees for neighborhood associations, but the council decided in an April 21 work session to table those until a future date.

To learn more about the approved amendments, click here.

By Patrick Malee
503-636-1281 ex
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