Damascus leaders fighting ‘unconstitutional’ law

Cars go over a hill in Damascus, Ore. Friday, April 25, 2014. (KOIN)
Cars go over a hill in Damascus, Ore. Friday, April 25, 2014. (KOIN)

DAMASCUS, Ore. (KOIN 6) — After residents in Damascus said they want to move their properties to another city’s jurisdiction under a new law, officials are fighting back, saying that law is unconstitutional.

Some people in Damascus said they want to move because they are fed up with the city’s government while others said they want to develop their land.

For years, John Hartsock said he dreamed of retiring on money he thought a developer would pay to put homes on his 5-acres of land on the edge of Damascus, which became a city in 2004.

Now, 10 years later, Hartsock said he cannot develop his property because Damascus still has no comprehensive development plan.

Damascus Mayor Steve Spinnett defended the city and said there are three comprehensive plans on the ballot in May to address numerous complaints similar to Hartsock’s.

“We had to establish ourselves as a city, brand new city, and come up with a comprehensive plan for the largest urban growth expansion in the state’s history,” said Spinnett.

However, Hartsock and at least a dozen other property owners are trying to de-annex from Damascus.

The legislature recently approved a bill that makes it possible for some residents living on the boarder of the city to move, but the city officials have filed a legal complaint, claiming the bill is unconstitutional.

“You cannot force a city, the local governing body. You cannot force them to change the boundaries to the city against their will,” said Spinnett.

In the meantime, Hartsock said he is trying to sell his property, but all the uncertainty means developers are not interested.

A public hearing on the issue will be held this Thursday evening.

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