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Ruling shields city's natural areas.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

The Eugene City Council on Monday approved years-in-the-making natural resource protections, but a few extra minutes proved too much for a pair of councilors.

The council on a 7-0 vote passed required minimum building setbacks on more than 2,000 properties throughout the city that have creeks, drainages or wetlands on or near them.

After a long meeting that included comments from residents on several subjects, the council voted to extend the meeting time by 10 minutes past its scheduled ending at 10 p.m.

When that happened, two councilors, Gary Pape and Jennifer Solomon, walked out on their colleagues rather than stick around for a last bit of business requested by Mayor Kitty Piercy.

Though the council's vote in approving the natural resources ordinance was unanimous, a disagreement about procedure played a role in Pape and Solomon's walkout.

The ordinance establishes building setbacks on properties near waterways.

City officials say the setbacks would not prevent someone from constructing a home on their property.

However, it's possible the restrictions might stop property owners from building an addition or removing plants and trees from part of their land.

The restrictions, which are to take effect next year, are part of Eugene's effort to complete a state-mandated land use study to comply with a statewide planning goal, called Goal 5, which requires cities and counties to protect natural resources and conserve scenic, historic and open spaces. Council President George Poling, who is on a hunting trip, had asked his colleagues to postpone taking action on the natural resource rules until he returned.

Solomon asked for the delay on Poling's behalf. Councilors Bonny Bettman and David Kelly, however, argued that a hunting trip wasn't a good enough reason to postpone action.

If it were a family emergency, that would be different, Bettman said. "But a hunting trip, although I wish him the best of luck, I think we need to continue to conduct business," she said.

That stance, which ultimately prevailed, upset Pape, who said councilors had previously honored requests by other councilors to delay votes until they had returned.

After passing the natural resource protection ordinance, Piercy asked the council to extend the meeting by 10 minutes so councilors could approve several appointments to boards and commissions.

Solomon said she couldn't stay.

"I'm going home," she said, and she and Pape left the Council Chamber.

It is somewhat unusual for more than one councilor to leave a meeting that has not officially been adjourned.

Among the appointments was that of David Monk, president of the board of the Oregon Toxics Alliance, to a three-year term on the Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority.

Monk told councilors earlier in the evening that he understood the Eugene Chamber of Commerce was opposed to his appointment.

"I am unquestionably an advocate for the public interest and public health, but I am also pragmatic and understanding of the realities that dictate what can be accomplished," he said.

Councilors also heard several residents speak in favor of new building guidelines for the neighborhoods and commercial areas around Chambers Street and West 11th Avenue.
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Title Annotation:Government; The Eugene City Council votes to preserve resources, but two councilors leave the meeting in a dust-up over procedure
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 15, 2005
Previous Article:BRANCHING OUT AFTER 80.
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