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Santa Clara plays urban-rural game.

Byline: City Beat / Eugene by Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

CITY OR COUNTY, urban or rural?

In the River Road/Santa Clara area, it often takes a plot map and an eye for detail to tell for sure. Some neighborhoods have been annexed into Eugene and others haven't; city limits lines jog this way and jut that way, often creating unseen but very real barriers between neighbors.

There are those who have city services that range from libraries and parks to police and fire protection, and those who pay lower noncity taxes and get by in a largely urbanized area with services generally geared toward rural living.

A 16-member committee of residents from the broad area of northwest Eugene has been meeting for the past year and a half to study the phenomenon, determine how the immediate future of the area can be improved and offer recommendations to the Eugene City Council and the Lane County Board of Commissioners.

The committee did that last week, submitting a 65-page report to the city and county that acknowledged River Road/Santa Clara is an area in transition from rural to urban and sought assistance from the two governments to make the change an orderly one.

"Committee members feel that a holistic, long-term solution to the wide array of problems is critical," the report said. "When discussing the future of the area, almost all committee members agree that eventually the area will be part of the city of Eugene. How long this will take is not clear."

The top priorities of the committee are establishment of a "transition manager" position to oversee and coordinate changes; development of a transition plan that would incorporate some of the committee's specific recommendations and include a fiscal analysis of various service costs; and replacement of an urban facilities plan for the area that was developed almost 20 years ago, before even sewer lines were extended from Eugene.

The City Council and the Board of Commissioners each agreed on split votes to develop a work program and proposed budget - including potential funding sources - to pursue the committee's recommendations.

A minority of the public officials, including Commissioner Peter Sorenson and Councilor Bonny Bettman, suggested that the whole thing should be discussed in a public hearing before any action is taken.

But others pointed out that the citizen study included extensive public input, and control over the area's rapid development is a matter of some urgency.

"Whether you live in this area or not, you're affected by what happens there," Commissioner Bobby Green said.

Marijuana fine may go up

Get this: The city once described in the Wall Street Journal as a "last refuge for the terminally hip" is about to consider increasing its fine for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Granted, Eugene's current maximum fine of $100 is well below the $500 to $1,000 fine called for by Oregon law. Possession of small amounts of pot is a violation - similar to a traffic crime - under both the city ordinance and state statute.

But because such violations generally fall well below the radar screens of county district attorneys around the state, most less-than-an-ounce cases wind up in municipal court and are tried under city law. The Eugene Municipal Court handled 560 of the cases in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

And that has led Eugene Municipal Judge Wayne Allen to suggest in a memo to city councilors that a realistic diversion program - similar to those offered to first-time drunken drivers - be offered to small-time marijuana law offenders. Conviction on even a marijuana possession offense can have negative consequences, including a potential loss of financial aid for college students.

"The court feels compelled to offer a diversion program which provides education to help young people make thoughtful life choices, is affordable, and will allow them to continue their education," Allen said in the memo.

He has recommended a diversion program that would include a 10-hour informational class and a total of $90 in costs and fees to replace the seldom-used diversion option now in place that typically costs participants well more than $1,000.

There's the matter of motivation - realistically, how many people would opt to pay $90 and spend 10 hours in class, rather than simply pay the current $100 fine?

Right. So Allen is recommending bumping the standard fine to $250, which would be imposed only on those who decline or fail to complete the diversion program.

The judge has asked city councilors to take up the issue later this year.

Silva Hall gets acoustic

The money is in the bank for a million-dollar, solid wood orchestra shell that will be in place on the Silva Concert Hall stage when the Hult Center celebrates its 20th anniversary with a Eugene Symphony concert on Sept. 26.

An acoustic retrofitting of the concert hall also includes a new electronic enhancement system that replaces the original equipment - controlled by an old Radio Shack RS 90 computer.

A fund-raising committee had raised $900,000 from a variety of grants and private donations by early summer.

The group hit the $1 million mark in recent weeks.

The new orchestra shell replaces a lightweight synthetic shell that has done a less-than-ideal job of containing sound and directing it into the auditorium since the hall opened in September 1982.

In conjunction with the acoustical improvements, the city is spending $700,000 in patron user fees to pay for other Hult improvements, including rebuilding the Silva stage's proscenium arch - a metal screen fascia that frames the stage's top and sides - to complement the new orchestra shell.

Reporter Joe Mosley can be reached at 338-2384 or by e-mail at jmosley@guardnet.com
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Title Annotation:Government
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 22, 2002
Words:949
Previous Article:From cops to campuses, officials brace for the worst.
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