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Contract To Upgrade City Zoning In Limbo

City may not have money to pay for the work

It was a case of good news/bad news for a local planning consultant contracting with the city of White Salmon.

The good news was, the city agreed to her contract. The bad news, however, was that the city no longer had money in the budget to pay the consultant to do any work.

On March 15, the City Council approved a $28,500 contract with Dotty DeVaney of Lyle-based DeVaney Consulting, Inc., to help revamp the city's zoning ordinances.

DeVaney said she was hired to work primarily on updating the city's zoning and its critical areas ordinances, and to ensure the city's policies mesh with changes in state laws.

"They are really in need of an upgrade. There will be a big benefit to the city," DeVaney said.

Council member Susan Benedict made the motion to authorize DeVaney to do the work.

"I think we need it," Benedict said after the meeting. "The zoning ordinances are way out of date and are not compliant with state regulations. Dotty was hired to get our ordinances into compliance. Our city attorney has told us year after year the ordinances need to be redone."

Mayor Roger Holen said the changes DeVaney would address were badly needed.

"The city has been trying to do this for five years," Holen said. "Zoning changes are needed to comply with state law. There have been changes around zoning issues, and we need to revise our zoning regulations."

The motion to accept the contract with DeVaney was approved, 3-2, with councilors Benedict, Richard Marx, and Brad Roberts in favor, and Timi Keene and Francis Gaddis opposed.

Before the vote, Keene sought to delay making a decision on the deal.

"I would like to suggest this be reviewed for comment by the personnel committee prior to further consideration," Keene said.

Keene explained that she thought the contract was vague, and pointed out that the agreement did not specify the maximum numbers of hours DeVaney would work for the city.

"That's why I voted against it," Keene said.

The issue became moot later in the meeting, however, after the council voted to override the mayor's recent veto of a budget amendment. The override meant that money that could have been used to pay DeVaney was moved from current expense into reserve funds.

Holen said the fallout from the council's approval of the new budget ordinance would be immediate.

"Dotty DeVaney's contract was approved, but there is no money to spend. We can't authorize any work without money to spend. It's crazy," he said.

DeVaney, who has 24 years of experience in planning, was philosophical about the snag.

"The city feels it is important to do planning and zoning work, and I also believe the city as a whole needs to be comfortable with the nature of the funding sources before the work begins," she said. "When they are ready to proceed, I'll have to schedule it."

DeVaney noted that revising zoning for the city would be a big undertaking.

"There is a lot of work, and the city is already behind its original timetable," DeVaney explained. "They were hoping to start in January is what I was told, and finish in December. That was already a pretty aggressive time frame."

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