Resident demands the removal of commissioners Dustin Svenson and Shannon Howland

The Dundee City Council is considering requests that two members of the planning commission be removed from office.

The council heard from citizens demanding action at its Sept. 4 meeting; a formal request was filed with the city previously on Aug. 16.

The citizens' ire is concentrated on planning commission chairwoman Shannon Howland and vice-chairman Dustin Svenson.

"A citizen has made allegations and is requesting the removal of both the chair and vice-chair," City Administrator Rob Daykin said prior to the Sept. 4 council meeting. "I am going to simply provide a report to the city council on these allegations."

Dundee resident Don Lowe spoke during the public comment period of the Sept. 4 meeting, reading from a letter he had sent to Mayor David Russ on Aug. 16. The letter documented his concern about Howland and Svenson's treatment of the public at an Aug. 15 planning commission meeting, saying the pair had verbally abused members of the public at the meeting.

"As a resident of Dundee, I'm writing to you to discuss the reprehensible statements showing bias, verbal berating and verbal abuse of myself from the vice-chairman …," Lowe said in his letter. "Verbal attacks, abusive language and name calling is unacceptable and can't continue and (Svenson) should no longer be allowed to serve the residents of Dundee on this or any other committee due to his actions and the liability he poses to the city."

Attempts to contact Svenson for comment were unsuccessful by press time Tuesday morning. Howland, however, did comment to say "I've not been made aware of an attempt to remove me from office ..."

The council listened to the complaint and agreed to hire a third party to review the documents and recordings from the meetings. The outside party's report will be presented to the council, which will determine if it should schedule a hearing. The third party, so far unidentified, will also look at documents and recordings of previous meetings as Lowe maintained that the abuse has been ongoing.

The trouble started when several residents were present at an April 18 planning commission meeting to air their concerns over the McCaw development, a four-unit subdivision proposed for construction on Southwest Ninth Street. The developer was requesting a zone change from R-1 (low density residential) to R-2 (medium density residential), but asked for a continuance until the information that the planning commission requested could be gathered.

"Howland needed to be told by city staff that she needed a motion to have it seconded," Lowe said. "This is not the type of person that we need leading the commission and again it poses a liability to the city in regard to lawsuits and overturned decisions."

Due to the continuance, the commission did not allow residents to testify about the project, drawing protests from some in the crowd, which prompted a commissioner or staff member to summon the police.

"They were not yelling or screaming and could not speak, but they had filed to speak," Lowe said. "It is reprehensible for commission and city staff to call the police on the residents of Dundee because the chair and vice-chair did not and could not control the meeting due to the lack of experience and poor judgment."

The commission will hold a public hearing on Oct. 2 to hear the additional information requested for the McCaw development.

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