Questions linger in Island City

By Observer editorial November 06, 2013 09:48 am

A number of troubling questions linger regarding a zoning skirmish in Island City.

This hometown conflict revolves around the city’s approval of a home occupations permit for a local trucking company and the effort by an area couple to ensure the firm — and the city — follow zoning rules.

This issue evolved from a fairly straightforward neighbor-to-neighbor dispute into a monetary war of attrition that has cost the taxpayers of Island City far too much money for far too long.

Already one elected board — the Union County Commissioners — ruled on the issue in favor of the two residents, Debra and Scott Stevens. Also, the Oregon Land Use Boards of Appeals ruled the city’s stand on the issue failed to pass muster. The problem is going before the Oregon Court of Appeals today.

At this point, Island City has shelled out more than $18,000 in taxpayer money to battle the homeowners on the issue and the big question is why?

Why was a seemingly mundane, and easily-solved zoning problem pushed so far legally? What justification do the city’s elected leaders have to spend that much taxpayer money on what was, in reality, a minor zoning problem?

So far, city officials are not doing a lot of talking about the issue, at least not on the record. Nor are elected city leaders doing what is necessary in a democracy — explaining very carefully to voters why a neighbor-to-neighbor zoning issue cost nearly $20,000.

Instead, voters are left with a series of nagging questions that may say a whole lot more about the city’s elected leadership than about the people actually involved in the dispute.

The zoning issue was an important one and deserved to be considered by a higher elected board such as the Union County commissioners. Once the commissioners made their decision, the issue should have been shelved.

Instead, the city elected to turn the problem into a political Verdun and leave voters — and anyone else — scratching their heads.

The entire episode just looks bad for Island City. It sends the message that elected leaders are not going to be accountable to voters and are going to do what they want with taxpayer dollars.

That isn’t very wise. And it isn’t the behavior usually associated with the ideals of democracy.