Due to concerns voiced by many members of the community, the multi-year process of updating Jacksonville’s municipal code section has been temporarily called-off. In a statement to the Jacksonville Review dated February 13, 2017, Jacksonville City Attorney Sydnee Dryer wrote:
On February 1, 2017 the Jacksonville Planning Commission voted to continue the public hearings indefinitely on the Comprehensive Plan Historic Element and land development code amendments. Though the record remains open for purposes of submitting written testimony on such amendments, the City determined that it would be best to continue the public hearings in order to allow City staff sufficient time to review all the comments submitted by the public to date and to determine what steps are appropriate to respond to such concerns. The City will be determining what steps, if any, should be taken to address issues raised. It is anticipated that in the future, public hearings will be re-noticed and scheduled, however, the date of such hearings in unknown at this time. In the meantime staff will be working to address concerns, and is considering additional public involvement in the interim.
Public hearings on the proposed changes to Jacksonville’s development code drew large crowds, including a February 1 meeting with 150-175 residents attending and a January 18 meeting that drew around 140 residents. During the sessions, nearly a dozen residents provided written and oral testimony, the majority of which accused the Planning Commission of improperly conducting the process. Concerns voiced by the public included changes to codes that would fundamentally alter the character of town, alteration to the 5th Street gateway and changes to the makeup of the Historic and Architectural Review Commission, that would be replaced by a Historic Preservation Committee to oversee the downtown historic district.
Interim Planning Director Dick Converse suggested that the Commission table the code revision process. In the meantime, it’s probable that the mayor and staff will explore the formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee to study the code and bring updated recommendations to the City Council through the Planning Commission. Since 2012, the code revision process has involved city officials, study groups and an advisory committee. However, critics of the process convinced the Planning Commission that the public wasn’t properly noticed and/or involved and that the city may have violated Oregon’s land use Goal 1, which strives for deep public participation.