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Former planning commissioner 'felt your pain' if you wanted to give testimony on controversial development.

Tom GeilWednesday, Sept. 1, Oregon City held a meeting regarding an appeal for a three-story, 60-unit condominium on Holmes Lane trying to connect Mountain View Road and Holmes Lane with a road around an existing house.

Numerous people showed up to testify. Typical of countless meetings at City Hall, many of those who showed up were justifiably frustrated with the legal process. Anguishing over who represented the neighborhood, and what authority they had to speak took up the majority of the evening.

Typical of development process meetings, the "smarter than the average bear" applicant attorneys took their full allotted times to argue their case, challenge Commissioner Denyse McGriff and rebut some comments put forth. I've watched this before, over my eight years as a planning commissioner, where "highly paid" attorneys use/twist any existing code or law to sway the opinion in their favor. (I've watched a few attorneys during the Park Place annexation process who could most likely argue that Jesus Christ was an undercover agent for the Romans and only died simply to make the Romans look bad. But this is a subject for a different article!)

And so it went Wednesday night that those who showed up by 7 p.m. sat through a series of processes that took forever. It wasn't until around 10 p.m. that the commission got around to open up for public comment. But by then, they set a deadline for ending the evening's discussion of 10:30 p.m. so they could get on to other pressing government issues. However, the applicant's attorney then got another 15 minutes to present their case, leaving the next 15 minutes for the Barclay Hills Neighborhood representatives to present their argument. By then, it was 10:30 p.m., and for those who hadn't yet fallen asleep or given up and gone home, the evening was over. The public comment period was continued until the next commission meeting on Sept. 15.

Now I should clarify that I am well aware the legal process must be followed to avoid costly future lawsuits against the city by applicants or the neighborhoods. The city staff, the city attorney, the mayor and commissioners followed all the rules, and the laws of the state to the letter, and did no wrong. But it's the incredibly slow process that irritates the citizens who come to provide testimony.

I have no irons in this fire. What I found so frustrating was that I felt for those who attend these meetings hoping to have their voice heard, only to sit in the room, in uncomfortable seats, for hours, and have to walk away and wait another day (actually two weeks) for "maybe" their opportunity to speak their piece. For those unfamiliar with the process, this must be totally frustrating. For those of us who do know the process, I sat at home, watching the whole episode and even I was in anguish over the snail's pace of the necessary process.

All evening, I just wanted to reach through the camera and hand Kleenex for the tears and seat cushions to those who sat in the chambers for so long, waiting to get to a point where they felt that public participation was appreciated. I'm sure that the mayor and commissioners felt your pain. The staff, the applicant attorneys, all get paid to be there and do their jobs.

Let's hope that a better result can be had on Sept. 15.

Tom Geil is a resident of Oregon City.


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