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Plenty of positives heard at Boones Ferry open house

Some liked the sidewalks, others favored the new crosswalks and narrower roads, but optimism ran high among more than 100 curious Lake Grove residents who turned out Monday for a first open house on a final plan for the Boones Ferry corridor.

Called the Lake Grove Village Center plan, the blueprint for a future Lake Grove has spent half of its seven-year inception in the hands of a city steering committee, known as the Lake Grove Village Center Implementation Advisory Committee or the IAC. Monday was the plan's debut in its final form, a prequel to a series of public hearings set for October.

On display were the plan's basic concepts: Narrower roads lined with trees and bike lanes, new zoning regulations that will push building bulk toward Boones Ferry Road and away from neighborhoods, better crosswalks and sidewalks, a series of gathering places and - yes - a center median to slow traffic flow.

That last point has met with some opposition from business owners. Monday's crowd of mostly neighbors, however, expressed enthusiasm for the plan and an eagerness to see it move forward. The plan targets the stretch of Boones Ferry Road between Kruse Way and Madrona Street.

Of the few complaints on the evening, this one came from Matt Seibt, father of two and a Lake Grove resident who plans a lengthy stay in the area:

'It's going to take too long,' Seibt said with a smirk. 'There's no better time than the present.'

Both Matt and wife Andrea said they look forward to a more pedestrian lifestyle on Boones Ferry Road, to a future of shopping and walking with their two daughters, ages 2 and 4.

'We're excited about what it offers as far as a sense of community,' said Andrea.

Others echoed those remarks between posing questions to IAC members, who hosted various info stations at the Safeco building on Kruse Way.

'These are people that came out to try and understand what's going on,' said Ken Sandblast, chair of the IAC and a former planning commissioner.

Sandblast said most questions he heard Monday dealt with whether elements of the plan were optional or required and whether, at first glance, the future of Lake Grove would all look the same.

Properties in the plan area would not be required to make immediate changes. Instead, design standards apply to new construction whenever major projects - projects valued at 50 percent or more of the property's assessed value - take place. The plan must clear the Lake Oswego Planning Commission after public hearings this fall before a timetable and costs for public investment in features like sidewalks and paving are known.

'I'm glad that the plan is now moving into the adoption process so it can go through the policy refinement process to make it a success,' Sandblast said.

David Janzen, a Brookside-area resident who said he's seen the Lake Grove Village Center evolve for years, said his main concern was that parking and road use might be so restricted it could impact neighborhoods.

He said he hadn't made up his mind whether he will support the plan but was excited for the opportunity to see its final form and to talk with the plan's creators.

Dan Vizzini, chair of the Lake Oswego Planning Commission, said talks were intended to foster a better understanding of the plan so that public hearings in October could focus less on generalities and more on its critical details.

'The best thing we can get out of this evening is that people come away with a better understanding of the plan … Maybe we can get deeper into a conversation that way. Not so much a meeting for talking heads.'

Mich Conklin, a Lake Grove resident, said she was willing to leave much of the plan's designs to the experts, but favored less-visible parking on Boones Ferry Road and more pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks.

'Even though it will take a long time to materialize, at least there is a plan and some thought to character that is pretty identifiable to Lake Grove,' she said.

Denny Egner, a planner with the city of Lake Oswego, said the turnout of more than 100 residents exceeded attendance expectations.

While public hearings may draw both supporters and opponents to the plan, Egner said he hoped future discussion could provide creative ideas that, even if they change the plan, can still achieve the pedestrian character of the Lake Grove Village Center.

'I want people to at least understand what are the variety of ideas expressed in this plan and the variety of compromise it has taken to get neighborhood and business support,' he said.