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The top 10 stories of 2012 revisited

As a community, year in and year out, Lake Oswego generates more than its fair share of news. Sometimes this can be a heartbreaking crime story, other times a momentous political decision and occasionally a decision by voters that shakes up the landscape.

Such was the case again in 2012 when a variety of stories generated interest and captured the attention of readers of the Lake Oswego Review.

We are taking a look back at 10 of the most important stories that affected Lake Oswego during 2012.

— Martin Forbes, editor

No. 1: Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar decision

For years, the streetcar concept had played out to a divided constituency in Lake Oswego. Some citizens relished the idea of connecting the existing streetcar system in Portland with a line coming down along Highway 43 into Lake Oswego. Others verbally winced over the project’s anticipated costs that were initially estimated to cost $347 million in 2010 dollars or $458 million in 2017, when the line was projected to open. Lake Oswego was one of several partners lined up to pay for the project.

A majority on the council, led by Mayor Jack Hoffman, supported the project. Numerous citizens, voicing their concerns, filled the opinion pages of the Review with thoughts about the price tag, the necessity and whether the streetcar would change the dynamics of the city.by: REVIEW FILE PHOTOS - The Portland to Lake Oswego Streetcar hit a snag one year ago when the Lake Oswego City Council withdrew support for the project.

But just about a year ago — on Jan. 10 — the city’s involvement in the project came to a screeching halt when Councilor Bill Tierney withdrew his previous support for the streetcar coming into Lake Oswego.

“Someday, I can see a streetcar connecting us with the services and jobs in OHSU and downtown Portland,” he said. “Right now, we just aren’t ready.”

Tierney based his remarks on the slow economic recovery as well as the division in the community and on the council itself plus his feeling it should be “put on the shelf” for now.

The streetcar, in some ways, became a lightening rod for some city residents, who repeatedly pointed to it as one of the ultimate examples of a city council that was overly ambitious with big spending projects.

No. 2: Suspect breaks into home, kills homeowner and is later captured

The tranquil feeling that permeates Lake Oswego’s core was rocked and ruptured Sept. 17 when long-time resident Frederick “Fritz” Hayes Jr., 57, encountered a man coming out of his house, brandishing a machete and a knife. Hayes was attacked by the intruder at his house on Atwater Road in an unincorporated pocket of Clackamas County.

He died in the arms of his wife, Maggie, in the driveway of the home where they raised their three children over the past 25 years.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s office launched an immediate nationwide manhunt after identifying the suspect as Erik John Meiser, 37.

Meiser was taken into custody four days after the killing outside a motel in Corvallis. He was charged with aggravated murder, robbery and burglary.

A former white supremacist, Meiser was brought back to Clackamas County where on Dec. 11 Judge Eve Miller ruled he was unable to aid in his own defense and was sent to the Oregon State Hospital for a mental evaluation. He is due back in court Feb. 4 for a status check. If the case ever is cleared for trial and if he should be found guilty, Meiser could face the death penalty on the aggravated murder charge.

No. 3: Oswego Lake access

Interest in the lake at the center of the city of Lake Oswego reached new heightened levels during 2012 as evidenced by the fact that it was a featured story on page 1 no less than nine times.

Stories dealing with public access to the lake ranged from threats by the Portland Occupy movement to put boats on the lake to questions raised by Lake Oswego Planning Commissioner Todd Prager, to a lawsuit filed by Prager and Mark Kramer, a Portland attorney. Both Prager and Kramer are supporters of water-based recreation and contended that the state of Oregon owns the lakebed and the city of Lake Oswego unlawfully barred the public from the water. Last spring, the city council adopted new rules prohibiting anyone from accessing the lake from Sundeleaf Plaza, Headlee Walkway and Millennium Plaza Park.

The effort to open up the lake grabbed the attention of the Lake Corp and its members and the city of Lake Oswego was dragged into the controversy by virtue of the suit.

U.S. District Judge Ancer L. Haggerty dismissed the suit in federal court on Oct. 11, noting, “it is clear that the state would incur obligations to protect the public’s interest in the lake if this court determined that the state owns the lake.”

Haggerty left the door open for the suit to be heard in state court where Prager and Kramer refiled it during the last week of October. The suit names the city of Lake Oswego, the Oregon State Land Board and the Department of State Lands but does not name the Lake Corp.

No. 4: Foothills

This is another story that took on a life of its own, repeatedly coming back to our front page in various forms. At one point there was a decided link between plans for the Foothills district between Highway 43 and the Willamette River and the Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar. After the council pulled out of the planning for the streetcar in early January, a scaled-back plan continued on the drawing board with the Lake Oswego City Council.

This is the last big chunk of open space inside the city limits. If developed, the city hopes to boost its tax base considerably. In July, the council narrowly approved a revised Foothills development plan that didn’t rely on a streetcar line to spur economic activity there.

On Dec. 20, a divided council approved forming a new urban renewal district to pay for public projects in the Foothills area. Officials hoped the area eventually could enjoy the same sort of success that Lake View Village has. The plan authorizes urban renewal funding for about 20 projects intended to attract private investment and spur redevelopment in a 58-acre area, including relocating sewer and storm water mains, landscaping, transportation upgrades such as a “northern portal” into the district via a new intersection, reconstruction of Foothills Road, an extensio of B Avenue across State Street toward the river and a new staircase leading to a public plaza by Foothills Park. Some $8.8 million also was set aside to help developers who build affordable housing.

However, with four new people coming on the city council this month, the whole issue could come back before the council this year.

No. 5: School funding woes and school closures

No matter how you look at it, funding has been a problem for the Lake Oswego School District along with all other school districts in Oregon in recent years. Continually forced to make cuts that don’t impair educational programs in one of the state’s top districts is the mode that the local school board and its superintendent, Bill Korach, have been in over the past several years.

Among the tough decisions made was the closing three elementary schools: Palisades closed two years ago and this year Bryant and Uplands shut their doors although Bryant was repositioned as part of Lakeridge (formerly Waluga) Junior High School.

While the Lake Oswego School District Foundation does an amazing job of generating additional funds to help keep teacher-to-student ratios as low as possible, the cold, hard truth is the district no longer receives enough funding from the state to cover its costs, especially with a declining student population. Add in increasing contributions the district must make to the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System, which are estimated to rise from $4.5 million for fiscal year 2012-13 to $5.5 million for FY 2014-15, and it’s clear that the district is forced to struggle.

This problems associated with this topic will definitely continue in 2013.

No. 6: Motive unknown in double homicide

On June 4, Saundra Sue Wallace, 71, and Nicolas Brian Juarez, 16, were gunned down as they attempted to leave Wallace’s home on Indian Springs Circle in the Lake Grove area near Bryant Woods Nature Park. Juarez was Saundra Wallace’s grandson and he was visiting her from his home in Mountain View, Calif.

Immediately arrested was Wallace’s son and Juarez’s uncle, Adrien Graham Wallace, 41, who shared the home with his mother.

Wallace remains in the Clackamas County Jail on two counts of aggravated murder. He is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 2.

No. 7: New era with election of new mayor, new councilors

It was clear going into the Nov. 6 general election that the city council would be undergoing a significant changing of the guard. Mayor Jack Hoffman and councilors Sally Moncrieff and Mary Olson all opted not to run for re-election; councilor Bill Tierney did seek another term.

When the dust settled, Kent Studebaker was elected the new mayor, defeating Greg Macpherson for the post.

Of the six candidates running for three council slots, Karen Bowerman, Jon Gustafson and Skip O’Neill emerged the winners. The foursome will join Donna Jordan, Jeff Gudman and Mike Kehoe on the new council later this month when they are sworn in.

There is no question that a number of big-ticket projects spawned by the council led to an equal number of big-ticket concerns for a number of Lake Oswego residents. The new council features enough new faces to ensure that the new year will see a different focus for the elected body.

No. 8: Boones Ferry Road bond measure passes

Two bond measures faced Lake Oswego citizens on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. One was a measure aimed at making the Lake Oswego Public Library a cornerstone of the envisioned North Anchor project along B Avenue in downtown Lake Oswego; the second was a measure allowing the city to issue general obligation bonds for Boones Ferry Road improvements in Lake Grove.

While there was pre-election interest in the library measure, due to the enormous popularity of the facility within the community, voters chose to throw a kink into the city’s North Anchor plans by turning down that measure.

Conversely, while Lake Grove over the years has played second fiddle to downtown Lake Oswego, voters turned the tide by approving the measure not to exceed $5 million for improvements consistent with the Lake Grove Village Center plan.

No. 9: UGB expansion

West Linn and Tualatin are on record as not wanting to expand the metro area’s urban growth boundary into the Stafford area. Lake Oswego is marching a bit to a different drummer.

In May the city of Lake Oswego scaled back its original request to bring almost 100 acres of Luscher Farm and surround properties into the UGB. Instead, the council amended its request to add about 10 acres known as the Rassekh property into the boundary with the hope of building a new replacement tennis center there.

In December, the Metro Council approved the city’s request for the expansion. And on Dec. 18, the city council directed parks staffers to commission a traffic study for the project, at 18011 Stafford Road. If all goes according to plan, the 68,760-square-foot, eight-court facility would replace the heavily used four-court building near Springbrook Park.

No. 10: Sensitive lands

One of the most contentious issues in Lake Oswego — sensitive lands — got another look from the city council when the body moved forward with a plan that could remove sensitive lands protections from all private residential properties. The move was made despite questions about how the idea will be received by Metro, the regional government.

Back on Oct. 9, the council voted to send Mayor Jack Hoffman and Councilor Mike Kehoe to Metro with the proposal, which could eliminate sensitive lands protections on about 1,000 private residential properties.

The sensitive lands concept has created divisions within the city, as many residents with various natural features on their properties were included in the program despite the fact that the city opted to not include public properties like parklands and open spaces or property along Oswego Lake.