Council keeps comp plan

The Ashland City Council told representatives of the Ashland Planning Commission that the council, not the commission, should control updates to the city's comprehensive plan.

Members of the planning commission told the council Tuesday night about the commission's desire to amend its responsibilities. A provision about updating the comprehensive plan drew the most response. Councilors thought that power should remain with elected, not appointed officials.

"I find it a little scary that you want to take control of the comprehensive plan," Councilor Eric Navickas said. "You're an appointed body, not an elected body. You need to have some humility."

The planning commission's chair, John Stromberg, wondered aloud if the council's position, coupled with the council's decision not to prioritize an update to the comprehensive plan, meant the council didn't care that it is out of date.

"Are we to take from tonight's discussion that you don't think the comprehensive plan needs to be revised?" he asked.

Stromberg added that the commission could spearhead efforts to update the comprehensive plan at the discretion of the council.

"It's sort of like providing support services," he said. "You guys can't do it all."

Councilors Russ Silbiger and Cate Hartzell, as well as city staff members, agreed with Navickas that authority over revisions of the comprehensive plan should remain with the council. City Administrator Martha Bennett suggested the word "oversight" could be replaced with "direction to the council" in regard to the comprehensive plan.

Planning commissioner Dave Dotterrer said the language in the commission's proposed powers and duties was not meant to circumvent the council.

"At the end of the day, it has to come back to you," he said. "You can assign us authority, but you will always have responsibility."

State law says comp plans are to go through a periodic review process every 10 years. The last time Ashland's comp plan did so was 1982, when it was first adopted, according to Ashland Community Development Director David Stalheim. Depsite it's out-of-date status, the council did not identify an update as a high priority when it had its annual goal-setting session.

Dotterrer and Stromberg told the council they would report back to the planning commission and return with revised language for its proposed roles and responsibilities.

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