Shady Cove park remains unresolved, city doesn’t want it at a loss

Ever have one of those moments where an hour after a conversation you think of the thing you wish you had said? Rarely do we get a do over on those moments, but once in while you do. So it was in the Oct. 6 Shady Cove City Council meeting as the anonymity phoenix rose again from the ashes. 

A little background:  in the Aug. 25 planning commission meeting planner Lois DeBenedetti read a written comment  regarding a previous similar application for an RV storage conditional use permit (from 6/10/10 prior to DeBenedetti’s hiring) and the commission’s decision on that case. DeBenedetti noted the comment was anonymous; but did not state who requested said anonymity. When commissioner Lalah Davis asked that the writer’s name be submitted for the record DeBenedetti did not say that the individual wanted to remain anonymous merely that it was anonymous. A matter of semantics possibly, but atypical enough to stand out. Davis’ request was granted and the writer was identified as councilor Leith Hayes. The meeting and decision then proceeded with no further comment on matter, not even during council or public comment. At that point the issue seemed more of a dodo, less of a phoenix; but some things require a bit of reflection before comment.

It first re-arose during the Sept. 8 planning commission meeting. After due contemplation commissioner Ed Mayer decided to speak up – do over number one. Commenting on both the written comment and on council liaisons to planning commission meetings, Mayer advised he felt neither were appropriate. He noted for the record that issues coming to the commission might at some point be appealed to council and any participation in the original meetings could lead to pre-conceived ideas on those issues which would be unethical. With several other important issues discussed in that meeting, the Independent decided to edit out the section on Mayer’s comments for future publication if the issue arose again – do over number two. (Note: this paragraph copied from the cut portion of that article)

Giving even more time to contemplation than Mayer was, Jane Hagan submitted a letter to the editor in the Sept. 27 edition of the Independent. Hagan voiced her disapproval of the anonymous submission, feeling it was Hayes who had requested anonymity and echoed sentiments that it was inappropriate – do over number three.

During the Oct. 6 council meeting administrator Danise Brakeman read two statements into the record in response to Hagan’s letter. The first was her own where she advised Hayes had initially sent the email to her with no mention of anonymity. Brakeman passed it on to DeBenedetti so she would be aware of that previous case and planner Dick Converse’s recommendation. DeBenedetti opted to read it during the meeting and gave it the anonymous moniker.

The second statement was from City Attorney Steve Rich, in part he advised that the 8/25 application had not come before council so bias was a moot point. He also noted the email was not ex parte contact as it was sent by Hayes to the administrator which is allowable.

After all that discussion, the afternoon study session centered on the park committee’s recommendation to council regarding the possibility of the city taking over the county park. Their report listed two options;
1.  Don’t take over management as the park runs at a severe financial loss.
2. See if the county would let the city manage the park for 5 years, while still assuming the loss, at the end of that period re-evaluate permanent city takeover (i.e. if the city could turn the park around financially with no new taxes or fees for citizens).

Overall councilors agreed with option 1, at a $38,000 per year deficit taking on the park just isn’t a wise choice. However, the park committee was given two new tasks; first to speak with the county about the city taking over just the vacant/unused area of the park to use as a community garden or dog park or concert site or something similar.

Additionally all agreed that the park is currently in bad shape and in need of repairs; some aesthetic, some safety issues. The committee was asked to list what would be necessary to bring the park up to standard, take photographs of issues and submit the packet to Council. Council will then likely set up a meeting with county commissioners to see what city and county can do together to at least make the park pretty and safe, to help it rise from the ashes as it were.
By Christy Pitto
Of The Independent


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