Residents primarily from outside city limits pack the conference room at the Justice Center July 25 to address Lane County commissioners via remote teleconference.
A stalemate continues between the City of Florence and Lane County in regard to finalizing the city’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan, a document required by the state to guide land use throughout the town and its urban growth boundaries (UGB).
In a process that began years ago, pinning down the language that dictates rules of annexation has become the final stickler.
As many as 40 residents, primarily from the urban growth boundaries of north Florence, participated in a live remote viewing of the Lane County Board of Commissioners Wednesday afternoon, during which commissioners had hoped for final deliberations on the topic, which specifically covers Chapter 14 of the comp plan, but instead were faced with pleas to stop annexation and at least leave the public record open for more debate.
About a dozen people testified before the commission, including Florence Community Development Director Sandra Belson and Daniel Stotter, a Eugene attorney representing a group known as Citizens Against Annexation.
The name of the group defined the arguments presented throughout the meeting.
Belson, speaking as the hearing’s applicant, pointed out that the process of approving the 2020 Comprehensive Plan allowed for “extensive opportunities over the last four years for public comment.”
There have been 12 readings of the plan before the commissioners since 2008. An additional four hearings have been held concerning revising Chapter 14. The city has not attempted any forced annexations in that time, although the current comprehensive plan allows it. Neither the city, the county Board of Health or any developers have plans known to be in the works that would require annexation.
Belson said in the July 25 meeting’s opening discussion, “The city’s annexation policy as adopted by Florence City Council ... precludes the city from using an annexation method allowable by state law, the method known as island annexation. The city council is willing to give up this option to ensure annexations are agreed to by a majority.”
Attorney Stotter responded, “The City of Florence is proposing to modify state law by limiting island annexation; we (Citizens Against Annexation) are suggesting some limitations. … This is not a legal issue; this is a question of what is best for the people you represent.”
Dani Matthews, a Keizer resident who stated that her family has owned property in Florence since the 1800s and speaking from Eugene, backed Stotter’s argument.
“The disregard that is being shown by trying to hurry past the concerns of what appears to be many, many people … is threatening their economic well-being. … Many people will lose their homes, go into deep debt trying to hold on to them.”
Said Jerry Christien, “I’m in the area that’s contemplating to be annexed. I think that public bodies should represent the will of the people they purportedly represent. If the county commissioners would just put this to a vote of the affected property owners, you would understand how we feel.”
Christien added a sentiment that was also widely shared by the group testifying. “Probably the majority of the property owners are on fixed incomes and they’re not in a position to pay the city’s bills. For the complete article see the 07-28-2012 issue.
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