Public hearing scheduled for Monday

More than a full year has passed since the city began its regulatory streamlining project, and the much discussed code amendments face one last hearing before they are either approved or struck down by the city council Monday.

In the months since the planning commission approved its version of the amendments late last year, the council has held multiple work sessions to discuss the project. During those meetings, the council discussed where it agreed and disagreed with the planning commission’s assessment.

The West Linn City Council is set to hold a final public hearing on the much-discussed regulatory streamlining project this Monday.

The project, which kicked off in April 2013, is a key facet of the city’s effort to foster economic development in its commercial areas. The plan calls for a number of amendments to the West Linn Community Development Code, with the intent to “remove unnecessary, inefficient regulatory barriers associated with doing business in the city.”

How to go about removing those barriers has been a source of disagreement between city staff and the planning commission. Two recent work sessions provided an informal opportunity for the city council to weigh in on the matter.

Most recently, during an April 21 work session, the council decided to table any discussion of tree protection code until further discussions could be had. Staff’s proposal was to eliminate language that requires developers to preserve “up to” 20 percent of significant trees on properties — an ambiguous designation that would technically allow a developer to preserve a much smaller portion of trees than the city ultimately desires.

Ultimately, the council decided to wait until the code language could be further clarified with more input. Thus, tree protection will not be considered as part of the final amendment package Monday.

At the April 21 work session, the council also decided to table amendments related to commercial setbacks, conditional use permits and fees for neighborhood associations wishing to file land use appeals.

On many other issues, which were discussed at a work session March 31, the council aligned with city staff proposals as opposed to amendments made by the planning commission.

The much-discussed switch from a “de novo” or “as new” appeal hearing process — which allows applicants to revise their applications throughout the appeal process, while also keeping the record open for citizens to add new testimony — to “on the record” was met with unified support from the council, despite the planning commission’s recommendation to keep the “de novo” process.

The council also decided not to consider two planning commission proposals relating to land and easement acquisition and trail plan reviews. Neither proposal was part of the original criteria approved by the city council at the start of the project.

The goal of these work sessions, according to City Manager Chris Jordan, was to create a cohesive proposal before the public hearing Monday.

“We are required to publish notice of this ordinance,” Jordan said at the April 21 work session. “And when we do that, we want to publish, if we can, a clean version of a proposed ordinance ... We could publish something that has all of the staff proposed options, all of the planning commission proposed options, and you’d have this huge document that probably nobody could understand.”

Jordan further elaborated that the ordinance would place an emphasis on areas where city codes could change drastically, for the purpose of public awareness. Public testimony will be accepted at the Monday public hearing.

After public testimony and deliberation, the council will vote to either approve or deny the amendments.

To read the full amendment package, click here

By Patrick Malee
503-636-1281 ex
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