Damascus, Oregon makes Significant Progress in the Development of a Comprehensive Plan

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A joint work session on January 31, 2012 with the Damascus City Council, Planning Commission, and Development Code Team brings serious progress in moving forward the Damascus Comprehensive Plan.

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Ernie Platt, Chair of the Damascus Development Code Team, opened a joint meeting of his group, the City Council, and Planning Commission by pointing out a large image of a steam locomotive on the back wall of the City Council Chambers. The locomotive is heading down a track marked from February to July. Platt pointed out to the City Council that Damascus is on this train and it has to adopt a Comprehensive Plan by July to both meet state requirements and get it on the November ballot for approval by the citizens. Platt told the group, “That train is moving down the track and you all have to be on it if we are going to succeed.”

In Oregon, the purpose of comprehensive plans are to coordinate the harmonious development of counties, cities, and towns in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources in order to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the inhabitants.

“The plan has to meet state laws, and it will do that,” said John Morgan, Director of Community Development for the City of Damascus, “but it needs to reflect what we want in Damascus. This meeting was a great step in the right direction for the city.”

Kathryn Ruthruff, Chair of the Planning Commission, opened the discussion by reporting on her appearance before the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission on January 24th at which the state commission granted Damascus an extension to August 2013 to get the plan completed. She said the Commissioners said, “This is the last chance for Damascus to get this done.” The state commission has the authority to enforce state law and take over responsibility for preparing and adopting a Comprehensive Plan and Development Code. Ruthruff told the group the Commission asked her and Community Development Director John Morgan to appear again before them in May to make a progress report. At that same meeting they will be discussing enforcement if Damascus is not making progress.

Chairman Platt led the group through a round table discussion of several key issues especially dealing with the proposed Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map and the zoning map. Votes were taken at several points as elements of the maps were discussed and refined. The maps will form the foundation of the draft Comprehensive Plan that will be presented to the Community at three scheduled town halls in February and April, and public hearings in May and June.

The draft Comprehensive Plan Map, which reflects the desired land use pattern in 20 years, has a broad designation of “Neighborhood” covering much of Damascus. Three different zones will apply to land when the documents are adopted for this area, low and a medium density residential zones, and a neighborhood commercial zone.

The joint group had a great deal of discussion about how to zone land not needed for development in the next 20 years, which is much of the eastern half of the city. The votes of the group led to zoning it for urban use but putting a notation on the maps that utility services are unlikely in these areas for 20 years and therefore land development will not occur in the near future.

The Planning Commission is still refining a Natural Features Protection Strategy, which includes both Comprehensive Plan policies and proposed zoning ordinance language. Discussion of that key topic was deferred to mid-February.

At the end of the meeting, Senior Planner Erika Palmer, said that in almost six years with the city, “Tonight’s meeting was the best and most productive meeting ever working on the Comprehensive Plan.”

The City encourages all of the citizens of Damascus to come have their questions answered and their voices heard concerning the the proposed Comprehensive Plan at the town hall meetings.

Future Town Halls:
February 23 – Land Use, Housing, Economic Development, Parks and Zoning Map
Sunnyside Community Church
16444 SE Highway 212
Damascus, OR

March 16 – Transportation System Plan (part 2)
Sunnyside Community Church
16444 SE Highway 212
Damascus, OR

(Locations and times to be determined)
April 6 – Development Code and Zoning Map
April 27 – Comprehensive Plan and Development Code

Public Hearings on the draft Comprehensive Plan, Development Code, Public Facility Plan, and Transportation System Plan will be held in May and June. It is anticipated the draft plans will be on the November 2013 election ballot for citizen approval.

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John N. Morgan AICP, Community Development Director
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