But when Keith Cyrus, the chairman of the planning commission, uses his position to push the agenda of Keith Cyrus, the would-be resort developer, that's a problem. A big one.
Cyrus, whose family has farmed in Central Oregon for nearly a century, has been trying for years to convert his Aspen Lakes subdivision near Sisters into a destination resort. To accomplish that, he needs to have it included in the county's map of areas designated for such purposes.
Under a new comprehensive plan developed by county staff through a year-long process and presented eight months ago, Aspen Lakes and other already-developed subdivisions would have been removed from the destination resort zone. But in February, the planning commission voted to put "cluster subdivisions" - a category that includes Aspen Lakes and only three other residential developments in the county - back on the destination resort map, apparently clearing the way for Cyrus to go ahead with his project. The planners also recommended bringing a passel of other new areas - including almost 60,000 acres now zoned for exclusive farm use - into the destination resort zone.
Cyrus has always been careful to recuse himself when the planning commission takes a vote on the destination resort mapping issue. But there are ways to influence things without actually casting a vote, and Cyrus hasn't been shy about using them.
According to former planning commission members and minutes of commission meetings, Cyrus has freely taken part in discussions about destination resorts, including his own project. He also admits he's discussed the issue with his fellow commissioners in informal settings, including a planning commission retreat a year ago.
All this prompted the local chapter of the Sierra Club to send a letter to the county commission asking that Cyrus "be required to explain why he feels he cannot only participate in, but direct meetings when he has a direct financial stake in the outcome of destination resort remapping." But the county commission brushed the criticism off and Cyrus continued his lobbying efforts.
The Oregon Public Meeting Law says that "a quorum of a governing body may not meet in private for the purpose of deciding on or deliberating toward a decision on any matter." When Cyrus had his little chats with his colleagues about his pet project, the letter of the law may not have been violated - but the spirit definitely was. The whole process has been tainted with an unsavory aroma of good-old-boyism.
Cyrus, incredibly, has claimed that serving on the planning commission actually hurts his chances of fulfilling his resort dream. "It would better serve our interests to be sitting in the audience," he told a reporter.
If that's true, there's nothing to stop him from resigning from the commission and making all the comments he wants from the audience. To help him along, here's THE BOOT.