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Jacksonville City Council reconsiders church's permit

JACKSONVILLE ' The rest of the City Council sat silent Tuesday as Councilman Bill Leep moved to reconsider First Presbyterian Church's conditional use permit.

The City Hall was packed as members of the church and the community group, Friends of Jacksonville squeezed in on opposite sides of the aisle to see what action the council would take to resolve a hotly-debated Land Use Board of Appeals deadline issued by the city on advice of its attorney.

Friends attorney Liam Sherlock says he relied upon the following excerpt in the city's written Notice of Decision:

You must appeal this decision within 21 days of the date it is mailed. This decision is being mailed on Jan. 13, 2003, and the LUBA appeal period will expire on Feb. 3, 2003.

Based upon that notice, Sherlock says he filed his intent to appeal on Jan 31.

Alan Harper, attorney for the church, says Sherlock's motion was actually due on Jan. 28.

Harper says LUBA law states the 21-day LUBA deadline clock started on the date of the council's Jan. 7 decision, not the date of notification.

When he realized Sherlock had failed to meet the deadline, Harper says he filed a motion to dismiss, stating LUBA no longer had jurisdiction based on Sherlock's untimely filing.

On Monday, Sherlock said his response to Harper's motion is ready, but he hoped the council would make the need for a response moot.

Sherlock says City Attorney Kurt Knudsen told him the city's intention was to provide the Friends an opportunity to appeal their case on its merits, not a deadline technicality

Attorney John Hassen said the city is not responsible for correct deadline notification.

Their attorney (Sherlock) is responsible for knowing the deadline, said Hassen.

Trish Bowcock says the council has behaved unfairly toward Friends.

The city chose to give us the dates so we should be able to rely upon them,said Bowcock. If the dates are correct, why did the church file a motion to dismiss?

Friends spokesperson and former councilman John Dodero said he was disgusted by the city's inaction.

Pastor Lawrence Jung felt the council had made the right decision.

I think it's great, said Jung. This is good news!

Harper said he expects to hear from LUBA on the deadline issue within a couple weeks.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail .