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Comp plan update looks toward the future

by: VERN UYETAKE Lake Oswego Senior Planner Debra Andreades, right, talks about a map showing what Lake Oswego might look like if the city continues growing according to its existing comprehensive plan, as resident Janine Dumphy looks on.

Three decades from today, Lake Oswego might have tiny mobile businesses and satellite markets in neighborhoods linked to larger commercial areas by pedestrian and bike paths. Empty-nesters and first-time homebuyers might find more reasonable housing opportunities downtown and in Lake Grove.

On the other hand, the city might focus its efforts primarily on the east and west ends of town, continuing downtown and Foothills development efforts while building a stronger connection to Marlhurst University to the south, and transforming Kruse Way and west Lake Grove into booming business centers competing in regional, national and international markets.

Or, Lake Oswego could stick with the status quo, pushing expected newcomers toward infill and redevelopment opportunities in existing neighborhoods.

Those ideas emerged at an open house last week at the West End Building, where more than 100 citizens considered three land-use scenarios mapping where and how the city might develop in the future.

The event was part of an ongoing effort to update the city's comprehensive plan, last reviewed in the 1990s. Required by state law, the plan will take a total of three years to update. The long-range, community-shaping document governs where housing can be built, how commercial districts grow and how waterways and forests are protected. The update process began last year.

An estimated 43,000 people live in the city's urban services boundary. Another 4,000 to 9,000 might move here by 2035, as the entire metro region grows. Having a plan ensures Lake Oswego is ready to handle a bigger population, which could create more housing, transportation and job needs.

'We're trying to find ways to preserve what our community likes,' said Lake Oswego Senior Planner Sidaro Sin, project manager for the comprehensive plan update. 'We want to meet our state requirements but maintain the quality of life we have today in Lake Oswego.'

For that reason, some of the differences between land-use scenarios are 'subtle,' he said. All three land-use scenarios meet the same goals for a healthy, well-rounded community.

But in some cases, such as the 'Village Centers' scenario, growth would center on places where infrastructure already exists, like existing town centers and busy corridors.

'This reduces the development pressure on existing neighborhoods,' Sin said.

Accomplishing the targeted changes would require 'loosening up development code' in some areas, such as school parking lots that could serve as neighborhood hubs with small businesses or new seasonal events, said Dennis Egner, the city's long-range planning manager. 'We don't allow that (use) today.'

Some ideas, such as local bus service between the east and west ends of town, would also require government spending.

'We're not going to get development like downtown without some sort of public amenities being provided,' Egner said. 'It requires some public investment. … But in theory it pays that back in the value it builds.'

Sharon and Mark Morehart, who live in the Lake Forest area, didn't immediately have strong preferences for any of the scenarios presented at the open house.

They were unsure of Lake Oswego's ability to keep pace with population projections as the number of families appears to be on a widespread decline. They liked plans focusing on new development, including more affordable housing options, downtown and in Lake Grove.

At the same time, Sharon Morehart said, 'It's all planning for growth that might never take place. It's just a plan.'

'But people do care about the future and growth here,' she said.

Added Mark Morehart: 'It's a great place to live.'