“The attempt and not the deed confounds us.” in Shakespeare’s play the “deed” is a murderous one so the quote may seem misplaced in an article on a Shady Cove city council meeting. Yet with citizens packed into City Hall like sardines and tension so thick it could be cut with the proverbial knife – one was hard pressed to keep in mind the issue discussed was “merely” an application to re-zone two parcels of land. The quote rings true in the most literal sense; the deed; the re-zone itself should be a matter of simplicity; it is the attempt which seems the confounding point of contention.
Applicant Attorney Mark Bartholomew spoke directly to rumors of innuendo, backroom deals and/or conspiracy regarding the original sale of the property (first from ODOT to the city, then from the city to developer Mike Malepsy) stating that a) the rumors are false b) even were the rumors true and the property bought by “unclean hands” it would be irrelevant to the hearing at hand. All the applicant needs to do for zoning approval is meet the criteria for same. To that end Clark Stevens the applicant’s consulting planner took his full 15 minutes of speaking time verifying how each condition has been met.
However, before the hearing even reached this point, the attempt was questioned during the jurisdiction and ex parte section of the hearing. To the first Jane Hagan began reading her comments noting she felt some or all of the council members had pre-decided how they would vote on the issue. She was cut off by Mayor Ron Holthusen as her point seemed off the topic of jurisdiction. City Attorney Steve Rich intervened asking Hagan for clarification. Hagan noted bottom line, she felt the council could not make an unbiased judgment. As Hagan then began to speak to the ex parte issue, she was again cut off by Holthusen as the ex parte question is not one to the public, but to council only. This time the intervention came from applicant council Bartholomew, he advised the public could speak to this issue. Later he said he’d intervened because he wanted no one to have cause to question the proceedings at a later date. Hagan questioned council – had any of them discussed this application outside of public view – a la executive session? Rich clarified that executive session is council and staff only and does not fall under ex parte. Hagan asked that minutes from the 11/1 executive session be entered into the record as the sale of the property had been discussed. After much discussion the minutes were entered, Rich still confirming a) the sale is separate from the zoning b) regardless the session was attended by neither the applicant nor public – so no ex parte.
Back to the prop/opp section of the hearing: following Bartholomew and Stevens, Ruth Keith stood as the sole public proponent of the zone change. She felt it was a much needed step toward the city having a park and should be approved.
Five – some traveling from Ashland – stood on the opposing side. Though opponents ranged from individuals to those representing groups such as the Flyfishers Association and the Rogue Riverkeepers, the overall opposing theme ran in a similar vein. The opposition at large felt the land should remain public. With little public access left on this section of the Rogue it was felt to develop this last bastion of fishing and recreation would be a disservice to the city, tourists and not least of all to the salmon. Last up for the opp was Bud Rees who called for a continuance based on the approximately 500 pages of documentation the city has received on this issue (some coming in the day of the meeting) and conflicting language within city codes regarding construction in the flood plain. Rees felt the tome should be turned over to a Special Master for review before a decision was made.
The continuation Rees suggested was denied, Rich felt it wasn’t prudent as no such path has been taken before and rules would need to be made up “on the fly”. However following a brief recess the applicant requested the hearing be closed, but the deliberation/decision be continued for at least 30 days. Their proposal: allow anyone to submit even further written documentation on the matter for 14 days (11/18); allow the applicant another 14 days (12/2) to rebut to these final submissions. Deliberate/decide at a date certain in December. After the Mayor confirmed with Rich that he could allow this continuance without motion or vote and a 12/16 date was decided as allowing enough time for final review; he granted the continuance.
As the bulk of the audience left City Hall, the meeting continued with the appointment and swearing in of a new councilor to fill former Councilor Bradburn’s vacant seat. Two applications were submitted and council recommended appointing Jim Ulrich; who was lauded for his participation on the budget committee, work with the Sheriff’s Department contract and other community contributions. The motion to appoint Ulrich was passed 4/0. Interim Admin Dale Shaddox performed the “repeat after me” swearing in; upon being asked to affirm that he was accepting the position with “without any mental reservations” Ulrich paused dramatically, holding for the inevitable laughter from the audience who all felt the tension from the earlier proceedings release with that pregnant pause.
Ulrich gave a brief speech advising his only promise would be to always give the public the truth. He said that was the best and only promise he could make as everyone had earlier witnessed that the council would always face issues of controversy with firm opinions on either side.
“Screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.” William Shakespeare
By Christy Pitto
Of the Independent