Residents of the city of Damascus voted to disincorporate on May 17. Formal disincorporation occurred on July 18.
Damascus’ lands, businesses and former city residents have reverted to Clackamas County jurisdiction, as was the case prior to the city’s incorporation in 2004.
Understandably, there are many questions about this transition. Please find answers to some of the significant questions surrounding this unprecedented disincorporation.
All questions should be directed to Public Information Officer Tim Heider at 503-742-5911.
How will property tax rates change?
Damascus last levied a tax rate of $2.80 per $1,000 of assessed value (for the 2015-2016 tax year). The maximum tax rate that the city could have approved in the future is $3.88 per $1,000.
Currently, the county property tax rate within city limits is $2.4042 per $1,000. Prior to disincorporation, the county rural rate of $2.9766 per $1,000 of assessed value applied.
The net effect of eliminating the Damascus city tax and applying the rural tax rate is a reduction of $2.23 per $1,000. When taking into account all fees on a Real Property Tax Statement, this results in a reduction of approximately 14%.
For a home with an assessed value of $300,000, that represents an approximate savings of $669 annually. Damascus had an actual average assessed value of $260,500 last year. For a house at that value, the approximate savings would be $580.
Finances, assets and parks
Who will oversee existing city funds?
Clackamas County has assumed management of the city’s finances and accounts.
What will happen to the funds?
Existing city funds will be used to satisfy financial obligations such as payroll, rent, utilities, and outstanding bills. Approximately $3 million will be placed in a special county account and used to pay certain obligations related to transitioning Damascus employees to the county payroll (for up to one year), the continuation of law enforcement and other services that will be integrated into the County’s structure. Approximately $2.5 million in the city’s road fund will be transferred to Clackamas County for exclusive use on roads within the former city.
Once all financial obligations are realized, unspent money will be refunded to property taxpayers (who meet certain criteria) based on previous property taxes paid. There will be an announcement about this in the future from the Clackamas County Assessor.
What about city property and parks?
City assets, including city property, have transferred to Clackamas County.
There were four park properties located in the city. Two of these – Trillium Creek Park and the Orchard Summit Open Space – are already owned and operated by the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District (NCPRD) and are unaffected. Another, Damascus Centennial Park, is privately owned.
The last park asset, transferred to the county, is the Vogel house and property at Vogel and Foster Roads. This land/property will be deeded over, and at this time the plan is to work with NCPRD and Metro to determine the long range plan for the property. In the short term, we will work to set up an intergovernmental agreement with NCPRD to maintain the property.
How will disincorporation effect the zoning regulations for marijuana-related facilities and businesses?
Damascus did not adopt any land use regulations restricting marijuana production, processing, wholesaling or retailing facilities. Upon disincorporation, the Board of County Commissioners approved a plan to apply the county’s current Comprehensive Plan and Zoning and Development Ordinance, including recently-adopted marijuana land use regulations to any land de-annexed or disincorporated from Damascus.
Read the Planning & Zoning memo (dated April 25) to commissioners outlining the proposed plan. The specific approval standards for marijuana land uses are codified in Section 841 of the Clackamas County Zoning and Development Ordinance.
Will Damascus still receive law enforcement services?
Yes. There is no interruption in law enforcement services within the disincorporated area. Under an existing agreement, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office continues to provide dedicated patrols and police services. That contract will remain in place for one year. At that time, Damascus will return to a rural level of service similar to the level that existed prior to incorporation.
If sections of the Damascus community wish to create new Enhanced Law Enforcement Districts in the future and pay a special rate, a vote of the citizens of that area would be required and the Sheriff’s office would have to agree to it.
I did not need a permit for my burglary alarm system in incorporated Damascus. Do I need one now?
YES. Businesses and residential alarm users in unincorporated Clackamas County are required by ordinance to register their burglary alarm systems with the Sheriff's Office.
If your residence or business located in Damascus has an alarm system, you now need to register it with the Sheriff's Office Alarm Unit. If you live in Damascus and had an alarm permit prior to the incorporation of Damascus as a city, please contact the Alarm Unit to update your information.
You can contact the Sheriff's Office Alarm Unit at 503-785-5183 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roads and traffic
How will Damascus roads be managed?
Clackamas County is now responsible for addressing future transportation needs, including road maintenance. As a result, the county handles all complaints and manages traffic control devices. The Clackamas County Department of Transportation and Development is gathering information about plans the city may have regarding local roads.
Will city employees lose their jobs?
The county has hired the remaining city employees to work for the county for up to one year. As of early May, there were 9 employees.
Are there changes to sewer services?
Currently, Clackamas County Service District No. 1 (CCSD#1) serves a portion of Damascus (the Carver area) that was already annexed to the district when the city formed. The remainder of the city is not eligible to receive service until a comprehensive plan is adopted. CCSD#1 has a policy requiring unincorporated areas to annex into a city before allowing them to annex, so affected properties will need to follow that two-step process before receiving service. Disincorporation did not change service to existing customers, and did not materially change our ability to serve future customers. CCSD#1 continues to provide direct wastewater service to those areas within the district, and does not anticipate disincorporation materially changing future service plans.
Building codes and enforcement
Does the process of securing building permits, or code enforcement, change at all?
There is no impact on building codes at all, as Damascus never assumed responsibility for building codes. The Clackamas County Building Codes Division will continue to provide permitting, plan review and inspection services.
Clackamas County will also continue providing Code Enforcement by working to prevent, detect, investigate, resolve and enforce violations of statutes or ordinances related to public health, safety and welfare, business activities, building standards, land-use and neighborhood livability.
Dogs and pets
Are there any changes related to dog ordinances or related pet operations?
Damascus residents now fall under jurisdiction of the county barking dog resolution process (5.01.070 F). Further, any rescue entities operating within the city are required to license with Clackamas County Dog Services. Dogs will continue to be required to be licensed as per Clackamas County license requirements.
Garbage and recycling
Will local garbage management change?
The Board of County Commissioners has assumed the role of managing the solid waste collection system (County Code 10.04 & 10.05). Collection providers have not changed. Customers wishing to adjust their service may do so as usual, by calling their provider (Hoodview Disposal & Recycling, 503-668-8300; Waste Management of Oregon, 800-808-5901).
Fees for service align with county fees. Fees in Damascus have been very similar to fees in Clackamas County. Many residential customers will see no change, while others may see a small increase (up to about 40 cents per month). Businesses or residents may request assistance with recycling, waste reduction, or garbage service through the county’s Resource Conservation & Solid Waste program.
In summer 2014, all Damascus Municipal Court cases were transferred to Clackamas County Justice Court. Justice Court hears violations, including traffic citations, small claims and evictions filed in Clackamas County.
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