Coward: Planning should move forward responsibly

Jessica Coward would like to help the City of Sweet Home move forward through its planning process as she joins the Sweet Home Planning Commission.

The Sweet Home City Council appointed Coward, the sole applicant for a seat vacated by Paul Lott, to the Planning Commission last week.

“I live in Sweet Home, and I like my community,” Coward said. She would like to see it grow responsibly. “My interest is in being a real force in moving things forward.”

The Planning Commission is the usually the first step in making change, Coward said. She believes it should be making responsible decisions in how things move forward, (decisions) based on fact not fiction” and interpreting ordinances and regulations responsibly.

“My opinion is I think the city’s doing very well,” Coward said. It is following state laws.

If persons are concerned with how things are, Coward said, they should pursue changes in the laws and ordinances through their representatives and petitions rather than just complaining.

Land use actions in Sweet Home have become more controversial in recent years, with heavier opposition to proposals.

“I think it’s a result of the growth of the community,” Coward said. “It’s growing pains, I guess is what you call it. The key is trying to deal with people as adults. You have to follow law. You can’t just deny something because you don’t want it here.”

Property rights are important to Coward, she said. “That’s one of he foundations of the American Dream.”

Property owners should have the right to develop as long as they follow the laws of the state and city.

“You have to put the shoe on the other foot,” Coward said. “What if someone tried to stop you from doing what you want to do?”

Dealing with controversy, Coward said she would handle it the way she handles other conflict and “try to stay levelheaded,” sticking with facts, ordinances and laws.

In economic development, a facet of planning the Planning Commission and City Council will look at on Feb. 5, “I’d like to see the tourism aspect develop an identity for Sweet Home,” Coward said. She would like to see some kind of industry locate in Sweet Home and provide jobs that might keep families together in town.

Growth is going to happen, Coward said. “If you plan ahead, you’ll have more cohesive growth later.”

She stressed the importance of public input and encouraged the public to get involved in processes like the Strategic Plan, which held a meeting last week, and the Feb. 5 Planning Commission work session. For information about either, persons may contact Carol Lewis at 367-8113.

“I would encourage people who have views on things to come and get involved,” Coward said. “Make an effort to make some changes instead of just sitting back and complaining.”

Coward serves on the Sweet Home Budget Committee. She was a candidate for City Council in November. She also serves on the Linn County Affordable Housing Board of Directors.

Linn County Affordable Housing recently received approvals to develop a controversial low-income housing development at the south end of Sunset Lane. Opponents have filed intents to appeal the component decisions made by City Council to approve the project.

The City Council voted 6-1 to appoint her to the Planning Commission on Jan. 23. Voting for Coward were Bob McIntire, Tim McQueary, Jim Gourley, Mayor Craig Fentiman, Dick Hill and Jim Bean. Robert G. Danielson voted against the appointment.