Rich Rowley is new City Council member

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Sweet Home City Council has appointed Rich Rowley to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Jessica Coward.

The City Council appointed Rowely on Jan. 24 after considering four candidates, including Kim Lawrence, John Webb Jr. and T.R. Price.

Rowley is a 10-year veteran of the Sweet Home Planning Commission, more than half of that as vice chairman. He served six years on the Sweet Home Economic Development Group Board of Directors.

“I’m a citizen, someone who cares deeply for the community,” Rowley said. He said he has the experience to help, although he knows he does not have all the answers. He sees his job as a councilman as “primarily to help this city grow in a proper manner.”

Rowley said he is interested in planning and the Public Works infrastructure issues facing the city, he said.

“I like how the city looks,” Rowley said. “The challenge is to preserve what we have in the midst of inevitable growth.”

Sweet Home is growing, and it’s going to grow faster than planners project, Rowley said. “Let’s not lose the values and life we have here,” while at the same time “recognizing the right to grow.”

Growth is the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for Sweet Home right now, Rowley said. He said one of the main concerns he hears at Planning Commission meetings is how growth will impact the city’s infrastructure — “what’s going to happen with our services.”

While growth adds more demand to public services, a need for more schools and infrastructure, it can also help take care of the problems Sweet Home faces, Rowley said. That growth may help solve problems, especially if Sweet Home grows “without destroying the quality of life we have here….

“I know that funding is an issue. I do know as the city grows, the tax base grows and will contribute to that.”

The problem is that if demand increases proportionally to the growth, Rowley said, then the city makes no gains.

“I think the quality of the development that’s going to go on will benefit the community overall,” Rowley said. Some of the subdivisions coming in will bring higher value to the city while at the same time not placing a proportional demand on Sweet Home, “but we don’t want to lose the things we value just for the sake of growth.”

As people move into the community, they will bring different ideas and perspectives, Rowley said, so retaining community values and ideals is one of the more difficult things the Planning Commission has struggled with.

Property owners have a right to develop their property, Rowley said, but neighbors have the right to make sure their quality of life is not destroyed.

As a councilman, Rowley said, his goal is to “try to be a fair arbiter of the issues that arise.

“I think that’s the best thing I have to offer. In any type of situation that you have conflicting desires from people, there’s not necessarily a right answer, but there’s a fair answer. I think overall collectively (on the Planning Commission), we’ve made more (decisions) right than wrong.

“I hope to see us continue that from the City Council perspective.

“My main interest, in fact, the reason I got involved is I care for the city.”