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Home field discussion draws a crowd

Some dream of tailgating parties before Lakeridge High School football games on - yes, their long-awaited home field. Others' ideal picture of the world includes quiet nights enjoying the stars in the hot tub in their backyard, next to - yes, you guessed it, an empty football field.

It is this controversy, which has been cooking for years, that drew 160 community members to a Development Review Commission hearing at the Lake Oswego City Hall Monday.

The issue has recently seen a renewed effort to change the city's conditional use permit, which currently restricts the Pacer fields from being lighted past 9:30 p.m., keeps them from any play-by-play announcements during games, significantly limits parking for spectators and restricts the use of bleachers.

This time around the issue has garnered support from a well-rounded group of community members including Lakeridge Principal Michael Lehman, the school district, students, parents and neighbors.

'I believe that we are making a very strong effort in the time frame that Lehman has been at Lakeridge. You're looking at different time frames,' said school Superintendent Bill Korach. 'There's no question that we were unsuccessful with a different administration at Lakeridge. I've owned up and now our neighbors are giving us strong support.'

Feeling that the timing was right, the school district applied to change the city's CUP. Still, some neighbors remain unmoved from their previous stance that the fields should be restricted from certain uses, including Pacer home football games.

Monday's hearing, which lasted four-and-a-half hours, opened with a recommendation from city staff to approve the CUP application with a review again in two years. Then the floor opened up for public testimony, which included 25 in favor of a change to the CUP, 18 against it and one who expressed no partiality to either opinion. Then the commission listened to a rebuttal from the school district and then postponed action until a Monday, June 2, meeting.

Proponents of the CUP change went beyond mere nostalgic descriptions of what it would be like to have a Pacers home field (although they gave those, too) and made promises to the neighbors to respect the guidelines that the new CUP puts forward.

'The importance of accommodating the neighborhood will not be overlooked,' said Phil Rogers, Lakeridge sophomore class president and varsity football player. He collected 457 student signatures in favor of the change in 45 minutes. 'The students are reminded of this as well. We're willing to cooperate to make this happen,' he said.

Rogers' comments were reiterated by Lehman and Ian Lamont, the Lakeridge athletic director. Lake Oswego High School Principal Bruce Plato even committed to encouraging LO fans to carpool or take a shuttle to any games held at the Lakeridge stadium.

Though many community comments were emotional responses, Larry Lapardo, vice-president of Lake Oswego Soccer Club, presented photos from Google Earth of 25 other high school stadiums that are adjacent to single family dwellings including Tigard, Southridge, Westview and Oregon City.

Sally Moncrieff, chair of Palisades Neighborhood Association, cited 93 percent support from the neighborhood that surrounds Lakeridge. A vote was taken at an Oct. 17 meeting that 110 people attended.

Lynda O'Neill, who lives at 1830 Cloverleaf adjacent to the field, felt that all neighborhood concerns have been addressed in the new permit application and has seen the students being very responsible.

Some neighbors felt unrepresented in the PNA and claimed the fall meeting was not advertised well enough. They expressed concern about emergency vehicle access during games, parking, noise and the lights. Some touted concerns about wasted resources that have already been used to build a facility when the district could be content with sharing.

Susan Steger, a Lakeridge alum and parent, vowed to do her part to be a good neighbor during Lakeridge home games.

'I will pick up trash. I will ride a shuttle. I will wear a reflector vest. I will do whatever it takes so that our Pacers can come home,' she said. Palisades neighbor Molly Miles, who is concerned that the CUP will pass, asked that Steger volunteer in front of her house.