Lake Oswego’s request to bring 10 acres of Stafford-area land inside of the urban growth boundary for a new indoor tennis center drew mixed reviews at a public hearing last week.

While tennis supporters pushed for Metro’s approval of the city’s petition, opponents questioned the facility’s need and the chosen location, citing concerns about environmental impacts, potential traffic and planning in the Stafford area, now a rural buffer between Lake Oswego, Tualatin and West Linn.

Moving the line that limits urban sprawl is necessary for the city to build the new tennis center on what is known as the Rassekh property, which sits across Stafford Road from Luscher Farm.

Officials plan to fund the new eight-court building with revenue bonds backed by tennis center fees and reserves and the eventual sale of the existing tennis center property. The new courts would replace the old, heavily used Diane Drive building, which can’t be expanded in its current location next to Springbrook Park. The city submitted a petition for the boundary change to Metro, the regional government, earlier this year.

About 50 people attended the public hearing before Oregon Administrative Law Judge Bernadette House at Lake Oswego City Hall Sept. 20. Many testifying against the proposal came from Atherton Heights, a neighborhood that abuts the Rassekh property.

Andrew Gibson, a Stoel Rives attorney representing the Atherton homeowners association, said Lake Oswego’s request ignores a parallel planning effort for the city-owned Luscher Farm properties. He said the Luscher plan, when finished, should dictate whether the tennis center is built — rather than the tennis center’s plan informing the Luscher Farm process.

“I love sports, too, but simply wanting to play more tennis does not satisfy the criteria that this special application requires — not when it compromises our plan, not when it compromises our roads and not when it compromises our children’s safety,” Gibson said.

Lake Oswego City Councilor Mary Olson also testified in opposition to the proposal. She was against requesting a UGB expansion when the council majority voted in favor of it earlier this year.

Olson said long-range planning documents call for maintaining the existing urban growth boundary in hopes of reducing urban sprawl and maintaining a clear divide between urban and rural land.

“The Stafford triangle should be comprehensively planned as a whole and not in a piecemeal fashion,” she said. “This particular application continues the piecemeal approach historically utilized by our city.”

She added that demand of people from outside of Lake Oswego should not “dictate urgent need” for a bigger tennis center.

Over the past three years, the city has paid for studies analyzing the potential market for a new tennis center and the feasibility of building one. In 2009, consultants found the tennis market would be strong even if similar facilities were constructed nearby; they included existing competitors as well as planned but not-yet-built tennis courts in their calculations of demand.

The council is due to receive an update of those figures in the coming weeks, and Olson believes that information could sway Metro’s analysis of the city’s request.

Jim Zupancic, representing the new Stafford Hills Club in Tualatin, also questioned the need for new indoor tennis courts. He said his privately funded athletic facility, set to open around Thanksgiving, is only about two miles from the Rassekh property. It includes seven indoor tennis courts plus three outside that could be made into indoor courts.

From a regional standpoint, he said, Metro should consider his facility when looking at the need for a new Lake Oswego tennis center.

“It’s clear to me, and I believe the evidence shows, the need which perhaps did exist in 2009 does not now exist, because that need has been filled by the private sector,” Zupancic said.

He added that he had evidence showing that the city’s existing tennis center saw lower participation numbers this past summer.

But supporters of the tennis proposal countered that demand at the center always drops in summer months, because people would rather play outside and for free.

Parks and Recreation Director Kim Gilmer said the city’s 2009 market analysis already incorporated the addition of 11 new tennis courts anticipated at Stafford Hills, although the club ended up with one fewer than expected. Tennis enthusiasts contended more indoor courts are needed, regardless of the recent development in Tualatin.

Westview Circle resident Cyndi Murray said he has tried to join a city league tennis team in Lake Oswego for the past four years, but she never gets in because of high demand. As a result, she travels all the way to north Vancouver, Wash., about 30 miles away, for a team. Similarly, Murray said she has been locked out of court time four years in a row. Because of high demand, the tennis center grants court time using a lottery system.

While she acknowledged the existence of some private clubs in the area, Murray said, “Seniors like myself cannot afford the high dues, and in some cases there are long waiting lists to join.”

Stafford resident Jay Minor said he supports Lake Oswego’s proposal because it “will enhance the livability for everyone, including those citizens who are not in the city of Lake Oswego.”

“Transportation and crowded roads are always on everyone’s mind, but any traffic generated by tennis courts will be spread out throughout the day and won’t happen at any one time,” he said.

Still, other questions persist.

Rick Cook lives on Stafford Road “due south of the subject property,” which actually used to belong to his family.

Cook noted that the Rassekh property was once inside of the urban growth boundary, but the city agreed to trade it out in exchange for bringing a different property in. The idea then was to build elsewhere to avoid environmental impacts on the Rassekh site.

“I haven’t seen much change so I’m kind of assuming the environmental impacts are still there,” Cook said.

Lake Oswego must prove its need for a new tennis facility can’t be reasonably met on land already inside of the urban growth boundary, and that the city can’t wait on the project until 2015, Metro’s next scheduled analysis of whether to expand the urban growth boundary.

Within the next couple of weeks, House, the administrative law judge, will issue a proposed order to Metro. After receiving it, regional officials will set a meeting for the Metro council to consider it.

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