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forest defense | sustainability

Sandy mayor wants to oust planning commissioner because of his advocacy for healthy town

Sandy Mayor Linda Malone becomes infuriated by Planning Commissioner Steel for his lone advocacy of sustainability for the town and its surrounding countryside.
</b>Preserving the countryside in Clackamas County is crucial to restoring and preserving the health, safety, and livability of Portlanders. Yet the Sandy City Council continues to approve massive developments within minutes to the Mt. Hood National Forest and the Sandy and Clackamas River Watersheds. In 2002 they allowed all kinds of environmental zoning variances to allow a 135,000 sf Fred Meyer, then earlier this summer they approved a clear-cut and development for 126 single-family houses on 12 acres, on the outskirts of town, right along Tickle Creek on a road that was illegally built. The next development that they unanimously approved is for another clearcut, road-building and dense development on 225+ acres in the rural countryside outside the town. Steel's "no" vote to all of these projects plus his enthusiastic advocacy for a small, walkable Sandy supporting local business and sustainable industry has so deeply angered Sandy mayor Linda Malone that she has taken to bullying the councilors to remove him from his volunteer position as planning commissioner.

This article misquotes Steel as saying that "housing kills people." What he said is that the increased traffic this so-called village's dense sprawl would increase the risk of illness, injuries and deaths. No matter how much we progressives may get frustrated with Portland city and suburban office holders, the mayor, city councilors, and commissioners are more broadly ill-informed about sustainability and heavily biased towards growth and destruction of the natural beauty that is Oregon's countryside. So when one planning commissioner has the courage to speak out for alternatives to more housing, roads, giant corporate-industrial outlets, they become enraged and attempt to get rid of him.

Below are the email addresses of Sandy's mayor, councilors and planning commissioners. Let them hear your outrage at the breach of democracy that ousting Steel from his planning commission post, just because of his personality and divergent views, would represent.

M. Scott Jones

 lmalone@ci.sandy.or.us,  jbobrion@hotmail.com,  roberta.kennedy@verizon.net,  rnsteiner@transport.com,  don@allenhqtrs.com,  m.achterman@worldnet.att.net,  tfrostad@ci.sandy.or.us,  Jerry.Crosby@interactministries.org,  MargaretHolman@hotmail.com,  Locole50@hotmail.com,  mail@schoolhousemedicine.com,  slazenby@ci.sandy.or.us

M. Scott Jones


from PETER FARRELL, Oregonian reporter

SANDY -- An elaborate plan to guide the development of hundreds of homes in a village-style community sailed through the Sandy City Council on Monday. A planning commissioner who attacked the plan didn't fare as well, and the mayor said Tuesday that she was researching how to replace him.

Steel, the planning commissioner, who uses only one name, voted for the Bornstedt Village Plan, the result of a year's worth of community meetings and planning, at the July 28 Planning Commission meeting. The vote in effect recommended that the council approve the plan.

When Bornstedt Village came before the council on Monday, Steel sent a written statement saying he wanted to change his vote because housing kills people and development is destructive. He said the housing densities in the village were too high, and the village is too far from the center of town for people to walk.

Mayor Linda Malone said at Monday's meeting that to her knowledge, it was the second time Steel had unleashed a "diatribe of inflammatory language" with broad condemnations of growth and development. That, she said, made it unlikely he could reach fair decisions in the Planning Commission's public hearings.

A planning commissioner who "is basically calling development a plague on the world probably cannot review planning applications in a fair and unbiased way and free of preconceived ideas," Malone said.

Steel said Tuesday that he is not anti-growth but anti-destruction, and development in Sandy is creating places where people will not want to live. A 22-acre tract recently cleared of trees "looks like an airport. That's not saving anything," he said.

Steel said he would like to discuss his ideas with Malone, but said the City Council usually dismisses what he says.

"It's not my life's passion to be on the Sandy Planning Commission," he said. "It is my life's passion to help Sandy be a better place."

At one Planning Commission meeting, Steel's views so angered Malone, who was watching on cable from home, that she got dressed and drove to City Hall to suggest that he resign.

"Every human is biased," Steel said Tuesday. "I'm just trying to speak as objectively and as caring as much as I can."

Malone said she is not sure Steel understands the legal issues involved in land-use decisions. On Tuesday, Malone said she was certain the council would vote to unseat Steel. The full council appoints planning commissioners.

"I have had council members ask me, 'How do we get this guy off of here?' I know a majority would like to see him removed. I'm sure we would have a lot of able and willing people to serve," Malone said.

Also on Monday, the council approved a settlement with developer Baltazar "Buz" Ortiz to cover the city's legal costs in a land-use case the city won after an eight-day trial. Ortiz agreed to pay $50,000 immediately and the balance of $117,000 plus interest when the property involved near Sandy Cinema is sold or developed.

The city also adopted a policy on annexations that says if a proposed annexation is defeated by voters, which happened for the first time in May, the applicant must start the annexation process over, paying all fees and making new filings.