Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Thursday, September 4, 2014

No joke

Update:  I have been asked to clarify the purpose of this post.  Some thought I was siding with the property owner in his dispute with the city and that he may have brought his problems on himself.  I agree.  There are two sides to every argument and I do not know all the particulars of this case, nor do I want to.  The points I want to make have to do with how the city handles land use cases.  These issues are important to the city as a whole, but more importantly, important to people's lives and fortunes.  

  • Are they consistently fair to each applicant using the same rules and interpretations for each, or are some singled out for harsher treatment?  
  • Are there internal communication problem within the city bureaucracy that confuses issues?  Does the staff know the amount if time and money involved in property?  
  • Do they ignore or use delaying tactics or regulatory means to make the process more burdensome for the citizens?  
  • In their position as city planners, engineers and city manager, do they understand the awesome power they yield over the lives they touch when the write rules, interpret and enforce them - sometimes even playing the judge also?   
  • Are rules and enforcement activities even fair to citizens (like Sensitive Lands)?
  • Do they do simple tasks like keep records in a professional and retrievable way?  
  • And finally - how long does it take to solve a problem?  No matter who caused the problem, if one party has the upper hand, they will have to be realistic and act humanely to get to a decent solution that is fair to all.  

A man walks up to the counter...

............. and asks for a an annexation application.  The bar keep first told him what to do, and then ttold him he was a tree killer and would have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees, wait for years, and put up with years-long supervision if he ever wanted to have water or sewer for his new home.  

The man thought it was a joke and laughed!  

I didn't say it was a funny joke.    

The joke is that this is what passes for customer service in Lake Oswego City Hall.  

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday night (09/02/2014), a man appealed the denial of his application for the annexation of his property at 14061 Goodall Rd. into the City.  

USC does not know all of the history of this case.  We tried reading through the exhibits for Case Number AN 14-0004 on the city website, but parts of the case are missing, namely the "agreements" between various city departments and the applicant that were referred to in several of the exhibits.  We hope the city puts such agreements in writing.  It is not good for the planning staff to produce exhibits in a judiciary finding that are, in their own words, incomplete.  Be forewarned people - get any agreement with city in writing lest you need it later - and make sure the person has authority to make the agreement.  

The unbelievable part of this case is that it all began when the owner applied for annexation 
8 years ago in June, 20006 (AN 06-0002). 

As USC read through the documents - but not all 165 pages of city produced reports and correspondence - it is possible that there were miscommunications along the way.  There may be a simple explanation and I just don't know enough about annexations to answer this question: 

In Exhibit E-8 in 2006, the Community Development Director says that the applicant will be getting building permits from the county and that the home will be completed under county inspections.  However, in Exhibit E-10 in 2007, an Associate Planner writes to say that, "Typically resource protections designations occur upon annexation and development occurs thereafter."  Hmmm.  I am not an attorney, nor am I a Community Development Director or an Associate Planner, but there seems to be some inconsistency.  You can build with county codes, permits and inspections, but you need to be annexed to the city first which would take you out of county jurisdiction.  The junk keeps piling up from there and the list of "must dos" and finger-wagging gets worse each time.  

Whatever the cause of this dispute, whoever is to blame, 8 years is too long for a solution.  Justice delayed is justice denied.  The code writers, interpreters, enforcers and penalty-creators (aka planners) gave the City Council 2 options for approval or denial of the annexation.  NO ONE would want or should have to endure what the city wants to do to the property owner.   If mitigation is part of a negotiated settlement - where one party does not have an unbelievable power over the other - then why would the city require total legal access to this "private" property via an easement for 3 years to see if progress is being made on the mitigation plan?  Two trips at a time and date agreed to by both parties at the beginning and end of the 3 years to check on the mitigation areas only are all that is needed.  Since it's not necessary, an easement can only be for punishment, power and control.

Reasonable people can come to reasonable solutions.  Taking 8 years with punishing consequences makes the process a joke, but it is no joke to the public that has to live under these rules and this type of enforcement.

HERE's the REAL joke I promised:

A cowboy walked into a bar...

                                       ...................... and ordered a whiskey. When the bartender
                                                                         delivered the drink, the cowboy

asked, "Where is everybody?" The bartender replied, "They've gone to the hanging."  "Hanging? Who are they hanging?" "Brown  Paper Pete," the bartender replied.   "What kind of a name is that?" the cowboy asked. "Well," said the bartender, "he wears a brown paper hat, brown paper shirt, brown paper trousers and brown paper shoes. "Weird guy," said the cowboy. "What are they hanging him for?"

"Rustling," said the bartender.

NOW you can laugh!

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