The June 6 Shady Cove City Council meeting was filled with discussion and debate on matters of principle from start to finish. While votes were split, all councilors agreed their votes were based on what they felt was in the best interest of the city and citizens.
Discussion began with the Budget Hearing. Heather Johnson felt the city Assistant, Aaron Prunty should be moved into Administration and train him to be an in-house City Planner. Johnson also spoke out against Administrator Danise Brakeman’s budget meeting proposal to move monies back into Flood Plain and Planning lines (these suggestions were not approved by the committee). Johnson feels Brakeman cares only about “Her budget, her staff and her reputation” and not about the citizens.
Both the issues Johnson touched on were discussed by the city council prior to a budget vote. Mayor Ron Holthusen proposed increasing the flood plain/planning lines up to Brakeman’s suggested amounts. He advised he feels those are the accurate amounts, and if money has to be moved there from contingency funds during the fiscal year it will give the impression that transparency is not a priority. Councilor Jim Ulrich advised he feels the issue has been so extensively discussed, that transparency is not an issue. He feels the proposed amounts are sufficient with a likely slowing down of flood plain inspections over the next year. Councilor Leith Hayes commented that to make such a major change to the budget would be akin to telling the budget committee that they are not needed, nor heeded. Hayes also stated he feels Prunty should be moved to Administration. The Mayor reiterated what had been concluded in the budget meeting, the budget is about finances only, neither the budget committee nor council can make staff decisions. He also advised that per Hayes’ own words, they should not be making major changes to the budget at this juncture. Councilor Ulrich asked Brakeman if she had any comment or clarification regarding Prunty’s position. Brakeman said she is more than willing to discuss with council the possibility of the proposed changed. The motion to approve the budget carried 4/1 with Hayes as the “no” vote.
Two issues surrounding ordinances also warranted heavy discussion. First was a request to approve the use of a recreational vehicle as temporary living quarters. Three similar requests have been approved in recent years, though ordinance bans the practice with certain exceptions. Councilor Gary Hughes feels this type of request is becoming a “rule rather than an exception” and stated they either need to stick to the ordinance or eliminate it. Hayes advised that he’d been informed the requestor had found an opening in an RV Park and the request was no longer necessary. However Brakeman had not been so informed, so the motion proceeded. The motion did not carry 2/3. The second ordinance issue came from a citizen request to use their home as a vacation rental. Per the ordinance this is not permitted in an R1 Zone. Brakeman advised council could either ignore, grant or draft an amendment to the ordinance which would allow vacation rentals under Conditional Use Permits. Option 3 would ensure that neighbors would be notified on potential rentals, permits would be reviewed every two years and conditions could be placed on permitted properties. The majority of the council were in favor of option 3 and a draft amendment will be created.
Having received the counsel’s report on legal invoices and personnel issues, the city council was finally able to vote on whether or not to hold an Executive Session to discuss the issues in the memo. Hayes, Hughes and Ulrich were in favor of having the session and the motion carried 3/2, but not without more heated discussion. This led nicely to the final agenda item ; a proposal by Brakeman for the city council, herself and Prunty to participate in team building training. Hayes stated he has been through similar training in past jobs and feels it is not effective, he will not participate. Ulrich has heard that many feel the council is “dysfunctional” and this is a concern.
It was attendee County Commissioner Don Skundrick who spoke to this last during public comment. Skundrick said what he sees in Shady Cove Council is “no different” than what he sees in councils all over the county. He sees strong personalities with strong opinions, but sees them treating each other with civility. He feels diverse opinions bring good representation for the people; “Iron on iron, not a bad thing. Sharpens things up.”