Process generates questions from councilor

The Lake Oswego City Council last week appointed two new planning commissioners, but the vote was not without some controversy.

The council voted to give Adrianne Brockman and Ed Brockman four-year terms and made Bill Ward an alternate to the commission, made up of volunteers who review whether applications for things like zone changes in the city’s development code. A selection committee including Councilor Skip O'Neill, Councilor Mike Kehoe and Commissioner Bill Gaar recommended those appointments after interviewing a slate of candidates that included two incumbents, Jim Johnson and Todd Hennelly, who applied for another term.

Councilor Jon Gustafson, liaison to the planning commission, took issue with that decision at the council’s May 7 meeting. He said he should have been on the selection committee but the mayor removed him.

Especially with one of the two sitting commissioners, he said, a wealth of experience would be lost. That commissioner has been deeply involved with an ongoing effort to update the city comprehensive plan as well as a code streamlining initiative.

“Why wouldn’t you continue people with experience with all of these projects and (instead) replace them with someone who doesn’t have the experience?” Gustafson said. “It looks like the planning commission is being politicized.”

Mayor Kent Studebaker said the planning commission has spent a lot of time reviewing the ongoing comprehensive plan update and a separate comp plan advisory committee, including some planning commissioners, had advanced ideas that included higher density in areas of some neighborhoods, which “the majority of the community does not seem to want.”

“You have resisted changes along those lines as well,” Studebaker said to Gustafson. “In order to get a fresh look, I changed the interview committee, and we are getting different people on the planning commission, but they’re very well qualified.”

He added that the new commissioners have “no marching orders — except to use their best judgment.”

The last group of council members encountered a similar situation last December, when the outgoing mayor and two outgoing councilors voted to appoint new budget committee members who were different from those recommended for the board by a selection committee, in effect ousting incumbents. However, when Studebaker and new councilors took their seats in January, the council overturned the December decision and appointed committee members in line with the original recommendation.

The council vote was 6-1, with Gustafson the lone dissenter.

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