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One vision, two views

A clash of visions for the future of Lake Grove's commercial corridor emerged Tuesday evening, as residents speculated on whether the proposed Lake Grove Village Center Plan will improve the area's livability or strip the area of its small-town character.

'I much prefer the look of Lake Grove to the polished look of Lake Oswego,' said Yvonne Campbell. 'This is precisely what's going wrong with America: We're being led by the people with the most clout.'

At a public hearing before the Lake Oswego City Council, opinions differed on whether the Village Center Plan is a step in the right direction or will lead to the demise of 'ma and pa' businesses along Boones Ferry.

The council closed public testimony Tuesday and is scheduled to make a decision at its 6 p.m. March 4 meeting.

At Tuesday's public hearing, 15 residents spoke in favor, seven opposed and three were neutral.

'The plan is consistently easy to understand and will attract development to the area,' said Sid Smither of Lake Grove. 'The area will become more attractive to customers.'

The plan proposes a planted median along Boones Ferry Road. The median would eliminate what some planning commission members feel are dangerous left turns that motorists make into businesses along Boones Ferry.

It would also call for wider sidewalks, additional bus shelters, bike paths through neighborhoods and undergrounding of utilities.

Dan Vizzini, former chair of the planning commission, said the plan is 'the mother of all overlay zones' and encompasses transportation, economic development, land use and natural resources.

The plan doesn't come with a budget, because more planning work needs to be done before determining funding mechanisms, Vizzini said.

The plan sets out to 'urbanize the core, make it more dense and at the same time make it visually attractive,' he said.

'The highest priority is the pedestrian environment,' Vizzini said. 'To have a vibrant commercial district, we need to have feet on the street.'

That vision runs counter to the way customers currently use businesses along Boones Ferry, according to critics of the plan.

Christina Eddy, owner of the Lake Grove Garden Center, said her customers need cars to pick up items at her store.

'They don't buy products I sell, walking on foot,' she said. 'I like Boones Ferry the way it is now.'

Nathan Spaccarelli, owner of Café Marzoccca Italian Espresso Bar, said the proposed median would make it more difficult for his customers to drive up, since they couldn't make left-hand turns.

'No left-hand turn access would decimate my business,' he said.

In addition, he told the council that the plan would mean higher rents and lead to national chain stores moving in and replacing locally owned stores like his.

Campbell echoed that sentiment.

'This (plan) creates an entity that is anything but a village,' she said.

Proponents of the plan said, in general, they like the changes and will endorse it.

Barbara Zeller, chair of the Lake Grove Neighborhood Association, said the median proposal will improve traffic flow. She said a traffic engineering and economic study are still needed to determine the scope of the changes.

Vic Keeler, owner of Vic's Auto Center, said he supports the plan but is concerned whether wider sidewalks would mean he would need to grant the city an easement on his property.

Vizzini said the plan calls for changes at the pedestrian level that will 'create a human-scale envelope around the corridor that makes it a comfortable place for people to come and shop, and that sort of thing.'

Opponents said they are skeptical of whether the city and business owners can afford the changes and whether, once the plan is implemented, it will be a change in the right direction.

'I fear the plan doesn't look at what the consequences will be,' said Spaccarelli. 'I don't believe there's enough built into the plan to put a stop to the problems in it.'