Dear Molalla City Council,
Reading the whiny letter from your “environmental” lawyer and the reply from DEQ was a laugh a minute. It’s certainly not “Seas of Fun” these days, as the broken down sign at a long abandoned business “welcomes” drivers into Molalla’s downtown Decayville.
There are two kinds of lawyers/ consultants. One kind eggs on clients to get the most money and to drag out issues. That kind of lawyer/ consultant will do/say anything a client wishes, even when the demands are unrealistic, to keep billing the big bucks. The other kind of lawyer/ consultant will quickly tell the client the truth about legal issues and urge speedy mitigation so the legal bills don’t bleed the client dry on futile legal quests. I’ll leave it to you to think very hard about the kind of “talent” and “advice” Molalla hires.
Molalla spent years paying through the nose for land use “advice” from lawyers and consultants on the futile Urban Reserve quest that was roundly attacked for years by agencies before it was shot down at County hearings. Mayor Thompson was party to that wild spending adventure where lawyers and consultants were laughing all the way to the bank to produce the ultimate failure. The city went into the red because it would not listen to the sage advice from agencies that told the city it would fail.
Molalla spent about a year and a half paying though the nose for legal “advice” on the Clean Water Act lawsuit, which it could and should have settled quickly. I’ll only speculate what kind of behind the scenes legal “advice” was given. I do know that the big winner was Molalla’s law firm. And now it’s back, writing whiny letters about changing permits and dodging mandates. I’ll leave it to you to decide what kind of “advice” your city pays though the nose for.
Finally, it’s clear from attending the so-called Planning Commission meetings that the highly paid land use consulting firm Winterbrook is back floating urban growth dreams. Wow! The very consulting firm that cost the city a fortune to lose a land use quest about five years ago is back – are you really paying for that “advice” out of public funds?
Here’s a fantastic study done by the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association Challenges to Development in Oregon: It’s Not Just About the UGB”.
I highly suggest it as required reading for any person tasked with spending public money on land use issues in Oregon. Molalla is frankly the perfect poster case for how limits on budgets and broken down infrastructure are huge red flags when it comes to UGB expansion.
It’s all up to you – are you going to learn from past planning fiascos/ permit violations and cooperate fully with state and county agencies and, for a change, be responsible and realistic stewards of public money? Are you going to hire lawyers/consultants who will tell you what you think you want to hear and fund pipe dreams or are you going to hire people who carefully explain the truth about how land use rules and wastewater permits work in Oregon? Are you rubber stampers or do you have the capacity to do your homework, ask questions and carefully husband Molalla’s funds to provide a decent city for those who have invested here and who fund the City via their taxes?
Molalla is clearly in big trouble with DEQ – do you REALLY think whining is going to fix your wastewater capacity problems? Do you really think Winterbrook and the fledgling Planning Commission is going to prove you can grow onto land that isn’t even in your exception lands? If you think those two points are true, then I truly pity those who have invested in your city because you clearly have failed to learn from the past ugly history of lawsuits and wasted money on land use quests. For those who are new to Molalla’s huge DEQ problems, another letter from DEQ addressing the long standing need for a Mutual Agreement and Order is provided.
It would be easy to crash the computer adding the reams of DEQ violation letters/ Civil Penalty notices that have piled up over the year. Perhaps the new City Councilors should ask the City Manager for a file to review to understand why Molalla is at a rock and hard place and the only way out is to accept that the sewage infrastructure is a disaster and work with DEQ to fix it. And yes, it will be costly, but think of all the money the City wasted on its insane and futile land use quest in years past.
I’d also expect the recent Aug-Feb planning fiasco called Shirley Bank would be a heads up about your inability to navigate your own codes and cooperate with state agencies – if you take EIGHT MONTHS to legally approve a simple seven house development, just imagine what kind of ability your city has to successfully mount a UGB quest. Bon chance on that!
Needless to say, interested citizens will closely follow all these issues. We support our state agencies. They are highly transparent and accessible. Molalla could learn a lot from Oregon’s public agencies if it had the courage to cooperate instead of constantly questing for pipe dreams based on excuses. As your EXPENSIVE lawyer notes: It’s time for some “timely and efficient” solutions! Too bad he didn’t skip the excuses, what does he charge per word to write that whiny nonsense?
Bon chance, your taxpayers deserve “timely and efficient” solutions for a refreshing change.
Molalla, where even lowly resale stores can’t make it!