Historic preservation topics drew a standing room only crowd to Astoria City Council chambers Monday night, but relatively few stepped forward to speak.

Mayor Willis Van Dusen's appointment of Tom Potter to the Historic Landmarks Commission prompted two rebuttals.

Linda Oldenkamp cited guidelines written by the state Historic Preservation Office which stipulate that members of city historic landmarks commissions "shall have demonstrated positive interest, competence or knowledge (in the topic).

"There is no way Tom would meet that (criteria)."

Potter, an architect who has served on the City Council, has expressed a desire that the commission be advisory.

KC McGee told councilors that she was "a dear friend" of Potter. "I know for a fact that Mr. Potter opposes the Historic Landmarks Commission," she said.

Van Dusen defended Potter's appointment. "I think he adds balance to the commission," he said. "I think Tom will do a good job."

Members of the audience were also provoked by Councilor Bob Heilman's proposal of a city ballot measure to strip the HLC of power, making it merely an advisory group.

City Manager Dan Bartlett told councilors there was insufficient time to have Heilman's referral placed on the November ballot. Bartlett said any amendments to the city's comprehensive plan must be submitted to the state Department of Land Conservation and Development 45 days prior to their filing for an election.

Hearing this, Heilman suggested that the council seek the public's opinion on the HLC. Bartlett noted that "it is advised to avoid using elections for preference polls." He also noted the cost of placing such a measure on the ballot.

Laurie Caplan asked whether Heilman's proposal of the ballot referral was a conflict of interest. "He has matters in front of the HLC," she noted, referring to a battle over windows at the Portway Tavern. "HLC is having an impact on your business."

Dave Pollard, chairman of the HLC, told councilors that "very few of the proposals before the commission are turned down. Many are improved. Those who are disappointed are in a significant minority."

Regarding Caplan's allegation of Heilman's conflict in proposing a ballot referral, Pollard said, "If it isn't a conflict of interest, it smells of conflict of interest."

In other business, the council approved by a 2-1 vote (councilors Don Morden and Blair Henningsgaard were absent) a combined sewer overflow amended stipulation and final order with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

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