- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

DAMASCUS, Ore. (AP) - Frustrated residents are wasting no time in their effort to de-annex from the Portland suburb of Damascus.

The Oregonian reports (https://bit.ly/RaouqC) that House Bill 4029, which passed in March, allows any property on the boundary and within a half-mile from another city to leave Damascus. At least 17 people have taken the first step, the newspaper reported.

It’s quite the turnaround from 2004, when Damascus - 20 miles southeast of Portland - became one of Oregon’s newest cities. Residents hoped to control their own destiny amid urban expansion. Instead, the city has been divided over planning issues while political infighting has led to a revolving door of city managers.

Hank Brown was the first person to file an application to leave Damascus. The property owned by him and his wife, Valerie, is fenced in all sides, creating the literal dividing line between Damascus and Happy Valley.

Hank Brown was excited when Damascus incorporated a decade ago. He didn’t want to be part of Happy Valley and was suspicious of the city’s plans for development.

He attended a lot of the initial meetings and asked to join a transportation planning effort. He backed away, however, when the discord began and things have only gotten worse.

Happy Valley is growing quickly and headed for Brown’s doorstep. He can’t do anything to prepare because Damascus has no rules governing what you can and can’t do with your land. Meanwhile, he and a few neighbors had to take it upon themselves to fix potholes in the road.

“We are the poster child for dysfunction,” Brown said of Damascus.

After a citizen-led disincorporation effort failed last fall, Brown met with Jim Syring, a neighbor and de-annexation advocate.

They threw their support behind the House bill sponsored by Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas, and Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, both of whom represent portions of Damascus.

Brown, who testified before the Legislature, said he was surprised the bill became law so quickly.

“What is needed doesn’t always get done,” Brown said.

But the exodus might not be as quick. Once the bill was signed into law, city councilors hinted they might challenge it in court, which would likely slow the application process.

Brown and others who live near Happy Valley hope the city councilors will just let them go.

“My hope is they take the money they’d spend fighting us and do something with it,” Brown said.


Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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