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Philomath City Hall artwork

For those who have put down roots in Philomath, it could be assumed that many of them would have an interest in the future of the community with their own opinions about what would be important.

Joseph Sullivan, a local businessman and one of the newest members of the Philomath Planning Commission, is one of those citizens. He told his fellow commissioners Monday night that he senses other residents would also like to know just where the small community could be headed.

"When we think about the future of Philomath, each one of us has some vision," Sullivan said while using things like lots of trees, safe routes to school, housing opportunities and providing "someplace to get away from the constant traffic on Main Street" as possible examples. "Our job here is to find things we can agree on so we know where we're headed as a community."

To move toward putting together a vision, Sullivan suggested the establishment of a subcommittee to look at the issue. After going through a process of listening, gathering information and discussion, perhaps it could eventually be included in an updated comprehensive plan document, he said.

"I'm hoping that we'll have some things to vote on and to do things like holding a public forum specifically about the future of Philomath in 20 years," Sullivan said.

Through discussion and information provided from the deputy city attorney and city manager, the subcommittee idea that would include up to three planning commissioners was pushed aside.

"If the subcommittee idea doesn't float, that's fine, but I would like your collective blessing on me doing some research and putting together some ideas and presenting before you guys," Sullivan said.

Commissioner Jeannine Gay suggested not relying on other planning commissioners and having people from the community, perhaps some of those who have been vocal at meetings, become involved. One of those at the meeting, local resident Robert Biscoe, volunteered his help and he believed others would as well.

Questions were raised on whether Sullivan should identify himself to others as a private citizen or as a planning commissioner.

As an example, Sullivan suggested contacting other governments in what would be seen as model cities to gather details on their positive outcomes. City Manager Chris Workman voiced reservations about the idea and cited municipal code involving a planning commissioner's scope of duties.

"I'd recommend that if this is something we want representing the planning commission, it really needs authorization from the city council who appoints members onto this commission," said Workman, who said he hadn't done any research on the topic ahead of time because he didn't know that specific issue would be a part of Sullivan's discussion. "I feel like it's getting outside a little bit of what you've been appointed to do. Going to the city council and having that same discussion may be appropriate rather than the planning commission sticking their neck out."

Sullivan said he would seek further information.

"I will check with the city attorney to make sure what I do is definitely within the scope," he said.

Gay, who has a long association with city government, said that if he had made such a request 20 years ago, there would be no problems moving forward. But now there are so many laws in place, that public officials need to proceed with caution.

David Stein, planning commission chair, also recommended that he be careful about being perceived as an official representative of the city.

In the end, Sullivan was to get more information from the city attorney on how he should proceed on the matter.

Earlier in the evening, the planning commission scratched a scheduled discussion on possible municipal zoning code changes because the city had overlooked posting the meeting on its website's online calendar.

The planning commissioners initially decided that they would go ahead with their discussion after Workman said the city had fulfilled its legal obligations related to posting notice of the meeting.

However, after hearing public comment from seven citizens who urged the commissioners to reconsider, it was decided to delay the discussion until a future meeting.

The planning commission already has a meeting scheduled for March 18 with an agenda focused on discussion of annexation criteria. As a result, it was decided to stick with that meeting's original intent and take up the municipal zoning code changes either in April or May.

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