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French school needs permit, city says

For the past two months, the new International Leadership Academy has been operating a school in downtown Lake Oswego without a city permit required to do so.

Now, the city is giving school leaders until Tuesday to submit an application for a conditional-use permit or to cease offering classes at 10th Street and C Avenue.

The International Leadership Academy, a French immersion school for children in preschool through sixth grade, opened this fall. Families who enroll children there pay as much as $9,900 in yearly tuition per child and another $250 in fees, according to information on the school's website.

City officials accidentally issued the academy a building permit July 1, before school leaders applied for the conditional-use permit necessary to operate a school on the site. On Aug. 18, city officials met with academy representatives to warn them of land-use requirements, and the school applied for a pre-application conference - the first step in the permitting process - the following day.

However, despite warnings in August and at the September pre-application conference that they would be cited for a code violation if they opened the school without a conditional-use permit, school leaders still have not moved ahead in the city's planning process.

Academy director Massene Mboup said he met with city officials on Tuesday to figure out what steps to take to secure the proper permit.

He said because a church has operated at the site, it was unclear what additional issues - such as noise control, traffic and parking - school officials would have to deal with to run an educational program in the same building. Fifteen students attend the school.

'We are working with the city on a permit, and everything is OK,' Mboup said. 'We are doing what the city wants us to do and following all of the steps that are needed for a conditional-use permit.'

Lake Oswego planning director Denise Frisbee said the city has extended a grace period of sorts to academy leaders because it appears they intend to comply with city requirements.

A letter sent to school representatives earlier this month gave them until this coming Tuesday to apply for a permit and avoid facing citations.

'As long as they are making good progress we'll delay initiating any action' on a violation, Frisbee said. 'But they do need to move things along.'

Area residents are hoping the situation is resolved soon.

In an email to city officials, Maria Meneghin of the First Addition-Forest Hills Neighborhood Association questioned the legal implications of having students at a site that hasn't been approved for use as a school.

She also said though neighborhood residents have some concerns about the school's impact on their community, they believe those issues can be resolved through the city's required permitting process.

'We understand that some procedural mistakes were made, and that humans do make errors, but it compounds the error and alienates the neighbors when the city doesn't stand by the standard procedures which allow for citizen input at the appropriate time in these types of decisions,' she wrote.