Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mayor's Statement on Oak Knoll Fire

Good morning.

Last evening a number of our fellow citizens suffered a tragic loss. Eleven homes were lost and three more suffered significant damage in the Oak Knoll neighborhood. One of our police officers was on duty directing traffic as his home burned.

These people are our neighbors. Even if we don’t know them personally we’ve likely stood in line with them in the grocery stores and passed each other on the sidewalk. On behalf of the City and all residents of Ashland I want to express our sorrow for their loss and our relief they are safe. We are grateful there were no injuries or loss of life.

Without the hard work and dedication of Ashland Fire and Rescue and more than 75 fire personnel from throughout Jackson and Josephine counties, it is likely even more damage would have occurred. We are grateful for their assistance, dedication and quick response.

Ashland is no stranger to fire. Just eleven months ago, the Siskiyou Fire raged in the west hills of Ashland. We live with the threat of fire. Fire is our potential disaster.

As you go about your daily lives please be mindful of the danger of fire and do what you can to reduce the risk.

Thank you to the members of the media who assist us in getting the word out to our citizens during emergencies.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guest Editorial

Guest Editorial
Chief Terry Holderness

I was recently contacted by a group of citizens expressing concern about the crime and disorderly contact in the downtown area and thought my response to them may be of interest to the larger community.

Reported crimes and drug related calls have been dropping in the downtown area for several years. Overall activity last summer was about half of what it was in 2007. While other crime and reports of drug related problems are consistent with 2009 we have seen an increase in disorderly conduct problems in downtown Ashland this summer. I am not sure exactly why this is happening other than there have been several groups of people in town this summer that are being unusually rude or obnoxious and causing problems.

The Ashland Police Department monitors the issue closely and is aware of the activity.

One uniformed officer is assigned full time to deal with issues in the downtown area. We always have more officers on duty on Friday and Saturday nights when it is busiest in the downtown area. All of our uniformed officers are expected to do both vehicle and foot patrol in the downtown area. In addition several times each month, during the summer and occasionally during the winter, we have officers in plain clothes patrol the area. The number of citations written in the downtown area for non traffic related offences this year is actually at an all time high for the City of Ashland. Most of those citations were written early in the summer and we have seen a significant reduction in actual violations occurring during July and August. In spite of that calls related to disorderly conduct remain high.

Because of the increased activity this summer we have increased the frequency of both uniformed and plain clothes officers patrolling the area on foot for the remainder of the summer. We will continue to devote resources and develop new strategies to deal with changing problems we encounter in the down area.

We are limited by Oregon law as to how we can handle certain situations. There is no law in Oregon against “aggressive panhandling.” However, panhandlers cannot be so aggressive that they violate laws against disorderly conduct or harassment. Unfortunately, simply being rude or obnoxious, which is the complaint we most often receive, is not covered under “disorderly conduct” or “harassment”.

Per Oregon Law:
166.025 Disorderly conduct in the second degree.
(1) A person commits the crime of disorderly conduct in the second degree if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, the person:
(a) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior;
(b) Makes unreasonable noise;
(c) Disturbs any lawful assembly of persons without lawful authority;
(d) Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic on a public way;

(1) A person commits the crime of harassment if the person intentionally:
(a) Harasses or annoys another person by:
(A) Subjecting such other person to offensive physical contact; or
(B) Publicly insulting such other person by abusive words or gestures in a manner intended and likely to provoke a violent response;

Possession of drugs or use of drugs or alcohol in a public place is against the law but an adult being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not a crime in the state of Oregon unless they are operating a vehicle. Police can take a person to a detoxification center if they are so intoxicated to be unable to care for the welfare of themselves or others. Generally this requires that the person be unconscious or unable to walk safely on their own. In spite of those limits we will respond and at least attempt to deal with any report of problem activity in the city.

Please call the police if you see activity that disturbs you. We will respond and try to resolve the issue. If you would like more information, have suggestions or would just like to talk about these problems I would be happy to meet with you in person and discuss the issues and what we have been and should be doing to address them.

Terry Holderness
Chief of Police

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

September 7 Council Meeting

Council -

As you know, the land use appeal hearing on the AT&T Cell Tower was originally planned for your September 7 meeting. This appeal has been continued to the first meeting in October based on an agreement with the applicant and the appellant.

Although the agenda will be rather light as a consequence, there are several remaining items scheduled for September 7 that cannot wait until September 21. Therefore, we will hold the regular meeting of the City Council on September 7. It is possible that you will be done early.

All the very best.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Appeal on the Record

**This entry was edited on August 4, 2010**

A recent land use decision of the Planning Commission for an application for in the installation of wireless communication facilities at the Ashland Shopping center has been appealed to the City Council. This is the first appeal under the new process and is referred to as “An Appeal on the Record.”

What is “An Appeal on the Record”?

An “Appeal on the Record” is an appeal of a land use decision where the City Council must consider the same facts and information (the record) that the Planning Commission saw. The City Council may not consider new facts or information.

Prior to 2008, the Council could review new information during an appeal that was not previously included in the record on which the Planning Commission based their decision.

What are the steps to appeal?

Once the Planning Commission makes a decision on a land use matter, a person can appeal that decision to the City Council. The appellant must identify, in writing, specific areas where they think the Planning Commission made a mistake. The mistake has to be an error in interpretation of a fact, an interpretation of a rule or regulation, or in procedure. The City Council will review only those specific issues raised as “errors.”

The Council will decide: 1) whether there is substantial evidence* to support the decision of the Planning Commission and 2) if the Planning Commission committed an error.

What will happen at the hearing?

At the City Council meeting, the only people who will be allowed to talk directly to the Council will be the City staff, the applicant, people who have filed the written appeal and participants who provided oral or written testimony during the original Planning Commission hearing and who submit written arguments at least ten days in advance of the City Council meeting. The applicant will be allowed 10 minutes and the people who have filed the written appeal will be allowed 10 minutes. People who have filed written arguments will be allowed 3 minutes to summarize their argument for the City Council. No one can introduce new information or facts.

Ultimately, the Council may:
Affirm the decision of the Planning Commission and reject the appeal or
Reverse the decision of the Planning Commission and support the written appeal or
Modify the decision of the Planning Commission or;
Send the decision back to the Planning Commission with instructions for further proceedings. Subsequent actions by the Planning Commission will be the final decision of the City.

The final decision of the City can be appealed to the State Land Use Board of Appeals.

* AMC 18.108 110 (D) Upon review, and except when limited reopening of the record is allowed, the City Council shall not re-examine issues of fact and shall limit its review to determining whether there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Planning Commission, or to determining if errors in law were committed by the Commission. Review shall in any event be limited to those issues clearly and distinctly set forth in the notice of appeal. No issue may be raised on appeal to the Council that was not raised before the Planning Commission with sufficient specificity to enable the Commission and the parties to respond.