Oregon Public Broadcasting

Leaders in the city of Damascus are in a stalemate over its state-required growth plan. Damascus has struggled to chart a way forward, ever since the Metro regional government decided ten years ago to bring the rural area into the urban growth boundary.

The comprehensive plan comes before the city council again Monday night.

This was supposed to be the final adoption of the comprehensive plan. But that was doomed last Thursday night, when a city council meeting degenerated, after a "first reading" vote failed to muster a majority.

The night concluded with an angry Mayor Steve Spinnett gaveling the meeting to a close.

Spinnett and two councilors voted for the plan. Three others voted "no," leading to a three-three tie.

Mary Wescott could have broken that tie. She was the seventh councilor, but she resigned in protest a month ago, following an unrelated -- and costly -- controversy with a former city manager.

Oregon requires cities to come up with comprehensive plans to chart long-term growth and to set zoning. Land-use rules call for Damascus to increase housing densities. That's been controversial in the rural area.

Damascus city leaders tried to meet state requirements with a plan in 2010, only to have it referred to the ballot and rejected the following spring.

The new plan has been the subject of more than a dozen hearings over the last month.

There are two camps on council who voted against sending the comprehensive plan to voters in November.

Councilor Andrew Jackman argues the city should first answer another question: whether Damascus voters want to be a city or not.

"I've said repeatedly that I feel like we should ask the voters do they want to disincorporate or not. Not based on an ugly plan or a good plan, but just the energy. I think not approving this comprehensive plan is the way to go," Jackman said.

The question of dissolving the city will be on the November ballot. If the city council approves the comprehensive plan, it's expected to be on that same ballot.

The other camp of "no" votes consists of two councilors who contend the city can't afford to implement the comprehensive plan because of voter-approved limits on city spending.

Councilor Randy Shannon suggested asking voters to approve the comprehensive plan and a repeal of limits on city spending. Shannon defended his proposal, against councilor Bill Wehr.

"I'm watching 12 years of work go down the bowl, if we can't reach agreement on this, but I'm willing to do that," Shannon said.

"That's exactly what the spending cap was all about - just what you said 'I'm willing to...' Wehr replied.

"You haven't even looked at the modifications...." Shannon cut in.

"I have Randy, I've read it twice already. But this is exactly, and it's unfortunate we're having this kind of display, but that is why the people voted for the spending cap 2-to-1 in the first place. It's because of your attitude in other things, and you're just doing it all over again," Wehr claimed.

"It's all my fault, that's fine," Shannon said.

Mayor Spinnett broke and less then a minute later he adjourned the meeting, with no progress on the comprehensive plan.

Deliberations are scheduled to resume Monday evening.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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