A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A question of notice: Too little, too much?

Written March 3rd, 2014 by Hasso Hering
The Carriage House Plaza on Santiam Road S.E.

The Carriage House Plaza on Santiam Road S.E.

Yuly's Bakery, another business in the Plaza.

Yuly’s Bakery, a business in the Plaza.

No one testified in opposition before the Albany Planning Commission on Jan. 6 when the panel unanimously endorsed a code change to allow a Bottle Bill redemption center. A month later, when the issue came before the city council, five people testified against the idea and two others wrote letters, also opposed. What made the difference? Hard to say, but two things did happen.

One was that Kate Porsche, economic development and urban renewal director, had sent emails to her contacts in the neighborhood near the proposed center before both hearings. She urged them to make themselves heard “pro or con,” and the first email was neutral on the issue itself. But before the second hearing, she made clear that she and the planning staff were against the proposal as being “not consistent with the purposes of the code for this area and we recommend denial.” And she reminded the email recipients, some or all of whom had taken part in the CARA urban renewal program earlier, that “your testimony can help shape your neighborhood.”

She was not alone in rallying voices to speak up. City Councilor Dick Olsen, who also opposed the zoning code change for the redemption center there, says he got on the phone and telephoned three or four people. At least two of them testified against the proposal before the council.

People with a likely stake in the decision who did NOT get special notices or reminders were the tenants with businesses in the Carriage House Plaza. They are across from 1224 Santiam Road S.E., the vacant former Salvation Army thrift store the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative had planned to remodel as a fully staffed bottle and can redemption center at a reported cost of $350,000. And they might have benefited from the additional traffic near their stores.

Tom Cordier, the civic activist, brought this lack of notice to the council’s attention on Feb. 26 and urged the city do a better job notifying all people with a likely interest in land use changes. This prompted City Attorney Jim Delapoer to explain that land use decisions are highly regulated as quasi-judicial processes and that going beyond the prescribed notifications might cause problems. He didn’t mention the special reminders the opponents got in this case. And Councilor Bessie Johnson observed that the “neighbors were all there,” so the city’s notification must have been fine. She didn’t mention the extra effort of opponents on the council and staff either.

As for the quasi-judicial aura, how would it look for a judge to line up witnesses for one side in a case coming up?

Chris Sutter, the owner of The Towne Peddler in the Carriage House Plaza.

Chris Sutter, the owner of The Towne Peddler in the Carriage House Plaza.

One of the businesses in the strip mall is The Towne Peddler, a second-hand shop. It was open Sunday afternoon, and Chris Sutter, the proprietor, confirmed he had not heard of the bottle center issue until after it was decided. He’s trying hard for his store to become known. Three tall advertising banners were fluttering near the street outside. Also open was Yuly’s Bakery, with a whole shelf full of pastries and a business card that says “todo tipo de Pasteles.”

Hard to believe these and other stores in the strip mall might not have had something hopeful to say about the prospect of a thriving new business across the street — if they had gotten a notice or reminder, whether by email or phone. (hh)


7 responses to “A question of notice: Too little, too much?”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    Maybe after the city rams through the location for the new police station, they’ll realize it’s too far away from the eastern portions of town.
    Maybe this land is in their plan for the 2nd police station?

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Did the city help the cooperative find a location that meets the code? What locations did the city recommend?

    And anticipated traffic is the concern? Isn’t that the kind of problem you want for nearby businesses? If putting a big box Lowe’s store on a crowded city street is an acceptable land use, then putting a redemption center in a low traveled area shouldn’t be a problem.

    Is Albany “open for business”?

  3. tom cordier says:

    Before the 2/26 Council meeting the owner of MoreInk located in the Plaza asked for input from the other businesses in the Plaza. Those two pages were sent to every council member just before the 2/26 council meeting. Only one Council member disclosed receipt of that info during the meeting.
    The original 2/26 Council agenda listed “business-from-the-public” as the first item. We had prepared a written statement to express the views of the MoreInk polling supporting siting the redemption center at the Salvation Army location, I also had 2 personal letters from those business in support. Plaza businesses want the additional traffic.
    Upon arrival at the meeting we were given a revised agenda which did not allow any public comment before the Council’s discussion and vote to deny the request. Who gave the order to revise the agenda and what reasons were given??
    The Mayor and Mr. Delapoer said it was unlawful for any Councilor to solicit or receive any input on the matter outside the the prior Quasi-Judical Hearing. Then it was disclosed that info on the matter could be received and discussed outside the formal Hearing on condition it was documented and properly disclosed. At the 2/26 Council meeting no disclosures were made regarding Hasso’s comments in this article. Clearly Hasso’s article shows there was “outside-the-hearing” influence and that it was not disclosed. I find the process was tainted by staff and Council membenrs and may infact have been illegal.
    The decision to deny the siting of the redemption center must be abandoned and the process must have a do-over. I can only hope Mr. Delapoer will act to protect to interests of everone and overturn to decision to avoid litigation.

  4. Jim Clausen says:

    If nothing else, and at the very least, the way the city handled this is just plain seedy. The events, as unfolded, show exactly how corrupt this regime is and that they will stop at nothing to fullfill their desires.

    I’ve long lamented how CARA works. I’ve long lamented how CARA favors certain clients over others. I’ve long lamented how “seedy” this environement has become. I’m glad to see it finally getting into print…

  5. Shawn Dawson says:

    Wow. Great reporting Hasso. The fourth estate still needs your work, and I’m glad you have a voice here for us Albanites.

  6. Jim Engel says:

    I’m thinking that our mayor & city council are following the example of Putin. Be as heavy handed as you want or change rules as you wish to suit your aims. Why bother with what the public thinks is fair,…”we’re in charge & we’re going to do as we wish”.

  7. Mary Brock says:

    Good work, Hasso, and good comments, everyone! Yes, the council’s workings are seedy, and, yes, they all need to be replaced including the mayor and the attorney and the economic development/CARA director. Their kingdom needs a comeuppance!


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