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Westfir council denies Trans Cascadia plea for more time on campground application

Westfir City Hall logo. City Hall is in the background. Herald photo

By JOY KINGSBURY/The Herald — At the City of Westfir’s Sept. 11 meeting of the planning commission and city council, Blair Banker attended by Zoom to request an extension of time to present application for Trans Cascadia Excursions’ campground project.

The hearing was to be held on Sept. 28, but a conflicting hearing was scheduled for the Mill Site project on that date.  It was moved by Mayor D’Lynn Williams and seconded by Councilor Edward Johnstone to allow the extended time to Oct. 16. In the call for a vote, Councilors Katherine Bishop, Deretta Huey and Kelly Packard voted nay.  The motion failed.

Banker requested that Councilors Bishop and Huey recuse themselves because of their strong opposition to the project from the beginning.

“You are not even supposed to be talking right now,” he said. “I could very kindly ask you to not even speak right now.”

Gary Darnielle, planner from L-COG, the Lane Council of Governments, told the council, “My advice is that those individuals need to recuse themselves. Decision-makers who have voiced their opposition should not vote.”

Huey said she would like to have a legal opinion on whether she and Bishop should recuse themselves. There was argument and discussion back and forth about recusal with Bishop and Huey skeptical about the necessity for them to do so.

It was decided that legal counsel will be presented with the specifics of these decision maker’s stance in the matter and the nature of their opposition to the project.  Ultimately, if this cannot be resolved, Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals would determine whether decision makers should have recused themselves.  Much depends on the strength of the bias.

Unless the application has been significantly modified, it is the same application that was submitted previously, which was to be completed within six months. Code gives applicants one year to complete the application and up to one year’s extension.

There is a difference between extending an existing application and one that has been significantly modified, which would then be a new application.  As soon as the documents are ready, Banker will submit them to L-COG, which will in turn get them to the City by the Oct. 9, prior to the agreed upon time, so the councilors have opportunity to look them over.

Legal Counsel will be asked to discuss the matter with Darnielle, who will review recordings and all information regarding the opposition voiced by Councilors Bishop and Huey.

That Planning Commission meeting was adjourned and City Council meeting opened.

The anniversary of 9/11 was commemorated by Mayor Williams.  She recalled that she was in hospital at the time in 2001 and on her way to surgery.  She harkened back to her strong concerns about what the news would be after she recovered enough to hear of it.

Williams proclaimed this week to be Septic Smart Week.  Proper septic system use is critical.  Efforts will be made to educate homeowners on proper design and use of septic systems.

Randy Drieling, private citizen, proposed that council consider a position for himself as a tourism coordinator for the Oakridge/Westfir Chamber of Commerce.  He gave council a briefing on his past performance, along with a resume and an explanation of his proposal for the job and why the position would be a good investment.

The Oakridge/Westfir Chamber Board has approved the idea.  Westfir and Oakridge would share the expense through tourism funds. Williams will attend the Oakridge/Westfir Chamber Board meeting and get its perspective on this.

Resolution 5.38, the Oakridge smoke, safety and community flight plan, was adopted.   Those who are doing the Under Burning’s fires need to be able to exceed smoke intrusion threshold for a short time to accomplish that.

The Public Safety Advisory Committee has requested that the Municipal Court post its docket on the Oakridge website regularly, beginning this month.

Next up for discussion was Councilor Kelly’s revamp of Westfir City Hall to make a home for the fire engine. The space has been redone and officials will determine whether they can modify to make the engine fit. The length is not a problem, but the height is a concern.

Fire Chief Jim “Gunny” McKee has requested a water and sewer stipend.  Councilor Kelly said she would be in favor of doing this since McKee has been doing so much for the city.  City Recorder Nicole Tritten raised the issue about the loss of revenue to the water and sewer fund.  This item will be tabled to next month.

Portal Park Report: a decision was made to supervise tasks that need to be done, when, and how often.

Bobby Archer gave his water and waste water report.  Usage is down a bit from last year, but there was a break in the water line last year at this time.  City will obtain a tablet for Archer to maintain his records.  It is easier for Tritten, in the office at City Hall, that all city workers use the same brand devices for all city business.

A motion was made and seconded to approve minutes from Aug. 7 and 23 meetings. The motion Passed.

Mayor’s update for the month: The Total Minimum Daily Load Report was completed, photos taken at both bridges. The boat launch at Turtle Island Park’s baseline water monitoring was done to track change over the years, management plan for the boat launch is being formulated.  Students have done weed removal, blackberries cut and will be removed,

Recreation Committee: Two vehicles on Oakridge/Westfir Road. Councilor Packard will talk to the occupants, but, it is a county road and that makes it more difficult. The Recreation Committee members are in the running to convert the trestle on Salmon Creek to a bicycle path.

The Fire Station update feasibility study is ready for review and for Council to decide what to do.

Rural housing flyers sent out to home owners for home updates regarding funding availability for revamping homes. Oakridge and Westfir are targeted for this program. St. Vincent De Paul is in charge of administering the program.

Lane County’s transportation priorities within Westfir are speed reduction on Oakridge-Westfir Road, along with crosswalk and sidewalks installation in uptown Westfir.

Code Enforcement: Councilor Kelly pointed out that Westfir does have a couple of nuisances to abate and what do we do? A city volunteer put stickers on abandoned cars, and, it was noted that this person was carrying a firearm at the time. Police were asked to accompany him, which they did. The city’s insurance company’s

risk management consultant suggested that a person be designated to do a ride along to learn the process of distributing flyers and notices.  All but one vehicle was tagged illegally because of an error in a document.The City Attorney tells City they do have the authority to abate nuisances, including abandoned vehicles. Mr. Tritten will devote one hour per week to manage and track code nforcement problems, with no other diversions.

Tritten, the city recorder, reported water and sewer lines mapping completed,  A sustainable Infrastructure project grant to evaluate the water lines in the city may be available to the City of Westfir.

The Water Resources Dept. conservation plan is updated each five years and ready to be redone.

Winfrey Road tree work has been done and the work will be reviewed prior to paying the invoice.

Financial report: the city audit has been submitted to auditor for 2022-23, and is scheduled for Oct. 3 review.

Registered Domestic Partnerships can now be covered under CIS Health Plan due to changes in Oregon law. City approved registered domestic partners plan insurance coverage under the health plan.

City now has coverage for spouses, so it may not be much different, cost wise.

City has opted to have the Lane Electric profit sharing amount due them applied to the city’s monthly bill.

Monthly expenditures by the city were voted and approved.

Police reports are now made quarterly.  Mayor Williams will obtain monthly copies from the public safety meetings she attends.

A letter was received from Viki Burns, volunteer, with many good ideas and suggestions about bridge lighting. A date will be set to discuss ideas and plans regarding bridge lighting celebration. Councilor Huey will get together with Viki and have something to report by next council meeting.

Councilor Packard suggested there be a community citizen commendation acknowledgment to recognize some of the outstanding citizen volunteers who do so much to help in the community — possibly a special time of recognition during the bridge lighting celebration.

City Council meetings are open to the public.  They take place each first Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.  There is a hybrid option available through the city website. A sign-up sheet is available for public comment.

Joy Kingsbury is an Oakridge resident and regular contributor to The Herald.
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