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Planning commission to consider cleaned-up code

The Lake Oswego Planning Commission will consider approving a new draft community development code next week.

Clarion Associates was initially hired to conduct an audit of the code, and in July 2010 the firm recommended the city begin a two-step process to 'fix' the document. The goal was to start by cleaning up the code, making the format easier to understand and overall more user-friendly. The second phase will involve making substantive changes to the language.

Don Elliott of Clarion Associates spoke with city planning commissioners and councilors at a meeting Nov. 8.

'Your property rights have not been affected,' because the regulations haven't changed, Clarion said. 'We think it's a lot more usable and a better foundation for making substantive changes.'

When he began reviewing Lake Oswego's code, what he found wasn't pretty.

Clarion cited problems with the overall structure and mixing of overlay and use standards and procedures. He said the layout and graphics were difficult to navigate, and he'd never seen an appendix with so much in it.

Offering the table of contents as an example of the document's poor organization, he compared Lake Oswego's development code to the city of Philadelphia's.

And the code in Lake Oswego had more variances, adjustments and alternatives than any other city he's seen.

But Clarion hopes the new draft code will be easier for citizens to use.

'We think this gets at what people want to know when they read a code: What district am I in? What can I do on this property? What can I build on this property? How can I get a permit for that?' he said. 'This makes it easier to find the answers to those questions.'

The new structure, which doesn't sprinkle things like variances throughout multiple chapters but instead separates them in their own section, will also make it easier to amend the code in the future.

Grouping like things together is 'A, good practice,' Clarion said. 'B, it helps you identify when the ordinance you are about to approve is just slightly off from one you approved 10 years ago.'

A public hearing is scheduled before the planning commission at 6:30 p.m. Monday at city hall, 380 A Ave. If approved, the reorganized code would then go to the city council for review.