Crest Kerfuffle: Tonight’s City Council meeting features a public hearing over a 35 home, 17 acre development in the affluent Timberhill area.
The Crest subdivision is slated for atop 29th Street, and was approved by the City Planning Division in August. What the Council will hear tonight is an appeal filed by Rachel Purcell, Pamela Burnor and William Buckley.
The appellants say the Zoning Map for the site is inconsistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. They also note in their appeal that legally, given the discrepancy, the Comprehensive Plan should be controlling – which would allow for higher density, but more open space. The Zoning Map, however, calls for a little lower density, without the same open space reference.
However, City Planning says the overlay was removed from the property in 2018, which would leave only the current Zoning Map as controlling.
Outside the appeal, the appellants have also said they object to the development based on concerns for open space and habitat preservation, and what they view as not enough fire escape routes.
New Media and Reporter Rules: On Tuesday, Sept. 19, County Commissioners will review, and likely approve, a new 19 page set of media policies. For instance, the new polices do codify that “contact from media should be returned as soon as possible, with effort to meet reporters’ deadlines when reasonably possible.”
The policy further holds staff to account, that at the very least, reporters can expect a same day response from County staff if a request comes in before 1 pm, otherwise it would be by noon the next day. There are some exceptions for weekends and holidays.
The new policy also means that most staff would run communications through the County’s public information officer, or PIO. Currently, the position is held by Cory Grogan. However, there are exceptions for law enforcement, the health department and, district attorney’s office and county commissioners.
The policy does require each County department to identify a spokesperson that will have media training from the PIO or an approved outside program. These spokespeople would also be accountable to speak directly to media.
What the County Says: Public Information Officer Cory Grogan said, “ This policy is important for the county because building strong connections with local media partners is important for our presence and transparency in the community. We want to be heard, stay connected and get the right information to the right people at the right time.”
County Can Decline Some Media Requests: The new policies would permit County staff to refuse an interview on a matter if there’s pending litigation, which is fairly standard. It also goes on to say they could also refuse an interview if, “Media or journalists are coming at a story with an angle without a willingness to be objective.”
Also, the policy defines a journalist as an employ with a credential from a media organization. They do not include an exception for subject expert freelancers that a news organization may contract for on complex stories, which is a growing news industry trend.
Rural Broadband: Also, at their Tuesday, September 19 meeting, the Commissioners will look at some next steps towards improving broadband service in the farther reaches of Benton County. Oregon has about $700 million for rural broadband improvement projects throughout the state, and almost certainly, portions of our fair burgh qualify for a chunk of those dollars. The funding would be distributed over a several year period.
Notably, deployment of broadband internet service throughout the rural parts of Benton County became a campaign issue in the 2022 race for County Commissioner.
The board will be deciding on partnering with Linn, Lincoln and Lane counties on a consulting contract with Rural Prosperity Partners, or RPP. Like the other counties, Benton County would pay in $20,000 to start.
The firm would provide engineering and design, and technical grant writing at $150 to $250 hourly, depending on the needs of specific grant opportunities. RPP points out that grant-writing for broadband applications is extremely technical, and that they’ve had successful contracts with the County in the past.