Monmouth looks for a ciy planner

MONMOUTH -- Monmouth leaders have hired an interim land use planner to fill its vacant city planner position.

City officials said they will wait until the city's 2006-07 budget process begins before they determine whether to permanently replace former part-time employee Martha Wiebe, who unexpectedly resigned in December.

Mayor Larry Dalton said he did not know the reasons for Wiebe's departure. Wiebe declined to comment on the matter.

"She is a great person and was a good ambassador for the city," Dalton said.

Council members in January agreed to contract with planner Mark Fancey of the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG) on an as-needed basis, City Manager Jim Hough said.

MWVCOG is a voluntary association of 42 local governments, which includes Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties, 31 cities and seven special districts.

The organization contracts temporary economic and community development planners to its members.

Hough said services through MWVCOG will cost roughly $72 an hour. The city paid Wiebe $44,000 as a three-days a week employee.

City planners are responsible for addressing issues related to zoning, city ordinances and state land-use practices.

The planner serves as a professional liason to the city's planning commission, which makes decisions -- or recommendations to the council -- on issues related to zoning, annexations and land-use matters.

Applications for annexations, for example, must be evaluated using a comprehensive criteria that gauges whether such an action would be beneficial to the city or violate state laws.

"Like all positions in local government, it's a key one," Hough said.

Dalton said he the city requires a full-time employee to handle an increase in commercial development activity in the community.

A more promising budget outlook for 2006-07 than in years past might allow for a new hire during the summer, he said.

Benefits would include better long-term planning and a faster land-use process, Dalton said.

"We've had a need for many years," he said. "There were a lot of things that took months to get done, which could have been cut down if we had had a full-time person."

"Martha was great," he also said, "but you can only do so much being part-time."

Wiebe, who earned her urban planning and landscape architecture degrees at the University of Oregon, spent most of her professional career in San Francisco before moving to Monmouth in 1990.

"I went to the city looking for part time work and spent the next 16 years as their part-time planner," she said.

Wiebe said she enjoyed working closely with city staff and planning commission members, as well as fielding questions from the public on issues ranging from back-yard projects to commercial developments.

"I'm pleased to have worked there for as long as I did," she said. "I think we managed to do a lot of good projects done."

Wiebe said she plans to devote time to her and husband's 40-acre hazelnut farm south of Monmouth while while seeking planning work.


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