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Measure 37 claim may impact East Waluga Park if a deal cant be struck

by: Vern Uyetake, This pathway between East Waluga Park and the end of Parkhill Street marks the boundary of land that could develop to the west. A local couple that owns a 3.78-acre parcel there has filed a Measure 37 claim to develop it but could cut a deal with the city of Lake Oswego.

A development proposed next to East Waluga Park may not call for removal of the park's treed border if the city of Lake Oswego can work a deal with the land's owners.

The 3.78-acre parcel lies immediately north of East Waluga Park along a pathway that separates its baseball fields from the west side of the complex. It is located south of S.W. Parkhill Street between Waluga Drive and Waluga Park in the Lake Forest neighborhood.

In a Measure 37 claim filed Nov. 29, Gerald and Agnes Mock asked the city to remove regulations that prevent them from developing 12 houses there or to buy their land, which was blocked by park zoning and sensitive land restrictions.

However, negotiations between the Mocks and the city could lead to a deal, which could lessen any development's impact on Waluga Park.

At issue for the Mocks is a resource conservation zone that prevents them from disturbing more than 50 percent of the trees on their land if they develop. The land is also zoned parkland in the city comprehensive plan, an error the Mocks contend has been noted by city officials but never fixed.

The couple's long-time ownership of the acreage makes them eligible for a claim under Measure 37. The voter-approved law reimburses property owners when zoning changes decrease property values.

Changes to the land's zoning, tree protections and limits on density have all been applied since the Mocks first acquired the land in 1973. Today, the family can build eight houses, as compared to 12 houses 33 years ago.

Without approval of their Measure 37 claim or a green light to build 12 homes, the Mocks stand to lose $1.6 million on their investment, they contend.

Andrew Stamp, attorney for the Mocks, said his clients are currently working with the city to see if some form of development under today's code will net the same value as the 12 homes: $3.5 million.

Planning for a potential fix is projected to take about two months. If successful, the city could see some park-friendly designs in the deal.

Potentially, new development could retain trees on the park-side of the lot and concentrate building in other areas, allowing the Mocks their 12 homes but retaining a tree-lined buffer alongside East Waluga Park.

'We know we have some development potential, it's just a question of what that development is, how it's going to look and is it marketable?' Stamp said, adding the concentrated development could result in a dense, unsaleable design.

'It's one thing in theory to say you can have development transfer rights but it's another thing to get a saleable development,' he said.

Stamp said the Mocks would consider selling the land to the city for Waluga Park, if officials are interested.

'I think (Gerald Mock) definitely does have the neighborhood concerns in mind but he also wants to balance that with a reasonable return on his development,' he said.

As negotiations roll forward, David Powell, attorney for the city of Lake Oswego, said he does not expect the Mocks' development issues to impact plans to apply tree protections to other lands in town.

Approximately 50 parcels are slated for a city review that could add the same protections now at issue on the Mocks' site. If applied, owners of those lands would be required to preserve 50 percent of the trees if they develop, like the Mocks.

Much of the protections would apply when the land is sold, since current owners would be eligible to make Measure 37 claims to take trees down to build.

Of the lands eyed for protections, a number are also in the Lake Forest area, described as long, deep lots with tree groves at the back of the property line.

'Measure 37 is here for the foreseeable future. People recognize that Measure 37 may be a factor every time a new regulation is adopted,' Powell said.

He said the new law will not, however, stop city business from moving ahead.