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New business group cool to village plan

A recently formed business group, organized in part to oppose a redevelopment plan for Lake Grove, turned out in force Monday at a first public hearing on the plan, held before the Lake Oswego Planning Commission.

The Lake Grove Commercial Association formed last winter in part to rally businesses against the Lake Grove Village Center plan, which proposes a center median on the road, one that would prevent left turns into businesses and require road widening, eliminating parking in some spots in favor of public parking lots.

Backing the commercial association were about 14 business and landowners who said they were left out of the process that shaped the Lake Grove Village Center plan, which has been in the hands of a citizen advisory committee for about three years.

The plan sets standards for new development along Boones Ferry Road between Kruse Way and Madrona Street. In addition to the calling for the median, it suggests traffic signals, pedestrian crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes and public plazas.

Frustrated with what they feel is a lack of input into the plan's creation, the commercial association called on the city to recognize it as the official business stakeholder in Lake Grove in testimony, dismissing the Lake Grove Business Association, long-established as the go-to group for west-end business issues by public officials. Those testifying said that business association failed to represent the majority of commercial interests in the Boones Ferry corridor during planning.

'For people who look at this as a concept plan, it is just that, but to the people out in this audience it is their lives, their livelihoods,' said Don Singer of Integra Realty Resources, speaking on behalf of the commercial association. Integra specializes in urban retail development in Portland.

Singer asked the planning commission to consider the unintended consequences of the Lake Grove Village Center plan and its potential effects on retailers.

The commercial association presented a petition to back its concerns signed by 2,458 patrons of Lake Grove businesses. The petition asked for an independent study of the plan's economic impact on Lake Grove.

But it was a tearful plea from Arolyn Whitney, part owner of a jewelry store on the corner of Boones Ferry and Bryant roads, that best captured the fear among small business owners in Lake Grove.

'Look at me,' she asked planning commissioners, who raised their heads above the dias as Whitney choked the words, 'Keep our businesses alive.'

Yet where the commercial association was long on criticism of the plan, few suggestions for improvements emerged. Planning commissioners have previously said they would look for constructive criticism at hearings and will support some level of planning for Boones Ferry Road to address safety problems and outdated standards for height, road expansion and parking inefficiencies.

'There are issues that are unavoidable that if you do avoid them will have consequences,' said Dan Vizzini, chairman of the planning commission.

Vizzini called Monday's testimony provocative and important. He said the commission plans to review reports supplied by opponents to the Lake Grove Village Center Plan but added he hoped proposed resolutions to those problems would be forthcoming.

'It's one thing to come to understand what the concerns are … but that alone isn't enough. We are looking for folks who not only bring us problem statements but also solutions,' he said.

Some felt safety issues should be at the foreground of any new plan.

'Pedestrian safety on Boones Ferry is of great concern to the surrounding neighborhood,' said Jay Clark, representing the Nola Court Homeowners Association.

Clark said the neighborhood wants to see pedestrian safety increased in Lake Grove in a way that minimizes cut-through traffic through neighborhoods.

Members of the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition also spoke in favor of safer bike routes.

But the focus of the evening was clearly on businesses. Representing the Lake Grove Business Association, Mike Buck, owner of Gubanc's restaurant on Boones Ferry Road, said weathering these last months of infighting among businesses was much like watching a community divorce.

'Lake Grove needs to change and we all know that,' Buck said, calling resistance to change 'a disease of the intellect.'

'I'm hoping that we can, as businesses, come together,' he said, to collaborate on a needed transition for Lake Grove.

'I am more fearful of what will happen if we don't adopt this plan,' said Buck, pointing toward competition for business from Bridgeport Village to the west and a need for more parking and greater road connectivity in Lake Grove.

He asked the planning commission to respect degrees of flexibility in the community in the course toward change and called on businesses to unite.