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Planning for the road ahead

As Lewis Carroll said, 'If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.' When it comes to taking a community vision to reality, communities need first to have a plan for where they are going, and a roadmap for how they will get there.

Recently the Lake Oswego Review has published letters from citizens expressing concerns about how the community will pay for various projects that it needs or wants. There are indeed many significant projects either under consideration, in the planning process or currently under way, and it can be confusing or overwhelming when you look at everything at once. As a full-service city, there is a multitude of ongoing services, programs, and infrastructure needs that are considered alongside the changing needs and future vision for Lake Oswego.

Luckily, there are powerful tools available that allow our community to achieve its goals. Some of these tools include zoning, capital improvement planning and budgeting. We have plans for big-picture items, such as open space, sewers, emergency management, land use and downtown redevelopment to name a few, as well as specific needs such as the purchase of new fire equipment. Just because you adopt a plan, however, doesn't mean that you build, implement or pay for the entire plan all at once, nor does it mean that projects or capital purchases are made from only one source of funding.

For example, the George Rogers Park Master Plan was adopted by council in 2002. It is a long-term vision for improving the park, including 13 implementation phases to address a lengthy list of proposed improvements in a measured and practical fashion over a 25-year period. Some elements of the plan might be modified or eliminated over time, and the associated estimated costs are subject to change. The plan is intended to be a guide. Much like a remodel on your home, finite cost estimates are not accurate until you know exactly what you're doing, when you're doing it and how you'll do it.

When implementing a project, funding can come from a number of different sources. The recently completed Phase 4 improvements in the lower section of George Rogers Park came from bond monies approved by voters. The likely next phase, addressing Ladd Street improvements, could be funded with street funds and Parks System Development Charges. The restoration of the historic Oswego Furnace will be funded in part by a grant and in part by local fundraising efforts.

Sometimes the community votes to pay for a purchase or a project that it feels is important through increased taxes. Citizens have been asked in the past - and they have approved - ballot measures for parks and pathways throughout the community, the Lake Oswego Library, and road maintenance and construction projects. This is, however, only one funding possibility among several.

No matter what funding source is used at any given time, a project competes for funding with other community needs through the capital improvement planning process. The CIP process provides the 'bridge' between the vision of the plan and the achievement of that vision by funding projects for implementation. Taking a five-year view allows the city to prioritize projects and make sure that the community's ability to pay in the future is not exceeded, allows resources to be balanced with needs, and allows for consideration of possible interdependencies among projects.

Planning for the future requires that time and effort be expended long before contracts are signed, checks are cut, or shovels meet the dirt. Much like a roadmap, without a plan it is easy to get lost. When you look at the many projects and proposals currently before this community, there are many potential routes to our destinations, and advance planning aims to ensure that we're headed in the right direction.

Mayor Judie Hammerstad, Council President Lynn Peterson and Councilors Jack Hoffman, Gay Graham, John Turchi, Ellie McPeak and Frank Groznik.