During the Nov. 27 Lake Oswego City Council meeting, council voted 5 to 2 (Kehoe, Olson) to move forward with code and comprehensive plan changes that will facilitate the dense development of the Foothills floodplain area.

Mayor Hoffman was very enthusiastic about the passage of these changes and (as quoted in last week’s Review) said, “It sets the stage for property owners. It basically is a message to the property owners that if they invest in their property they will be able to invest and maximize the use of their property with this zoning. It’s looking at creating an opportunity for the highest and best use for the property owners in the Foothills district.”

With the passage of this new zoning opportunity, the Foothills property owners have just won the up zoning lottery. Their properties are now worth a whole lot more with this new dense, urban zoning opportunity that allows up to 120 units per acre, 100 percent lot coverage and 90-foot tall buildings (eight to nine stories).

There is no other area in our community with this type of dense urban zoning and lot coverage. And, it’s ironic that it is being permitted in, of all areas, the Willamette riverfront and floodplain area.

Conversely, the city has limited the use and reduced the value of single-family residential properties with the arbitrary “sensitive lands” program, which the mayor has on many occasions termed “zoning.” So, with a vote, the city council can up zone or down zone your property and greatly impact your future and pocketbook. Certainly, the Foothills property owners — who knows how many or who they all are given the LLC structure of the ownership — are now poised, as the mayor pointed out, for great financial gain. Meanwhile, we know of many individual citizens who have been unable to sell their homes, unable to use what should be dividable land that has been in family ownership for decades or only able to sell at a significant financial loss (often 40 to 50 percent less than market value) because of “sensitive lands” being arbitrarily applied to their properties.

For some time now, LO Stewards has talked about the “trade” element of “sensitive lands” and this recent action demonstrates this trade concept. Dense development in a sensitive floodplain area is counterbalanced by limiting use of residential backyards and establishing regulations that require that the yards be maintained as natural areas. It’s a disgusting scheme and decision made some time ago, supported by Metro, practiced in Portland and detailed in old city documents.

The use of some residential properties for natural areas/habitat to offset the development of truly sensitive areas that are viewed as important areas for city economic development not only disrespects and harms citizens but also is actually damaging and disrespectful of the environment. Insisting that some citizens must carry the environmental responsibility for the community and sacrifice the use of their backyards and value of their residential properties “for the good of the community” is a hypocritical and divisive policy that must end. And, hopefully, with the newly elected city council, it will.

For more information about “sensitive lands,” see our website at

Bob Thompson, Lake Oswego, is the treasurer of the LO Stewards PAC.

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