It was an interesting Town Hall Forum this evening at Damascus City Hall. The positive aspect was that there were folks who stated that this was their first city event. The negative is that there were some in attendance, that rather than ask questions pertinent to the current situation, they tried to take the opportunity to go after certain individuals on Council.
Moderator Louise Nielsen, did a good job of keeping the event on task, even though we felt it could have gotten started a little more quickly.
Most of the questions related to the Comprehensive Plan process, status and the future impact it would have on taxes and System Development Charges (SDC's). There was discussion about the estimates of costs and how they are being reported by the "sides" in the current campaign.
There was an interesting comment by the Mayor regarding his opinion that the referendum vote would have no effect on the Comprehensive Plan. That it would just keep "rolling along," or may "slowed a bit". A question from the back of the room of why then were we voting went unanswered.
One of the most pertinent questions of the evening, was if the Council was coming together enough to talk about the next steps after the elections results. Did they have a plan depending on the result?" That question also went more or less unanswered and showed the deep divide that exists.
There also appeared to be some inconsistencies from Councilors Ledbury and Shannon in regards to whether or not development would take place, whether or not a Comprehensive Plan was in place. Both painted a picture that developers could come in and develop without paying any SDC's and would take advantage of or city. Councilor Shannon did expound that development would probably only take place near existing infrastructure, primarily sewer and in the Carver area and along the 172nd corridor. A question was asked if that were truly the case that developers would be getting away "scott free" regarding fees, and whether or not there would be fees collected by Clackamas Co. and not the City of Damascus. Councilor Shannon stated that yes, he felt that at a minimum they would have to pay sewer and water SDC's. Councilor Ledbury wandered off into a comment about one home per parcel with septic. This can happen at this time with County approval and really added nothing to the discussion.
There was discussion about the Strategic Plan and Critical Path. Both Council and City Manager Dan O'Dell did their best describing a complex issue. There was also discussion about high density housing in which Councilor Helm shared her opinion that it would be spread out throughout the city and not condensed into pockets such as Rockwood. This is an admirable idea but may not be able to be reality. High density apartments are normally along traffic corridors and not nestled into Villages or Centers as proposed on the Comprehensive Plan map. This is another item that needs to be monitored closely moving forward.
All in all, it was a decent discussion. The Mayor at times took to making statements rather than answering questions and folks in the audience needed to be put back on track that they were there to ask questions and not make statements. For only the second of this type of event, it went well and we hope that the Committee for Citizen Involvement (CCI) will continue to host these events and we would suggest moving them around the city and into different venues. This would reach others in the city and break the stigma that some may have about coming to City Hall.