Featured Stories

A divided community?

Community center supporters, Ask Lake Oswegans are active

FORUMS SET

Public forums to discuss the community center steering committee's draft recommendations will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at the West End Building, 4101 Kruse Way.

BY SAM BENNETT

Staff Reporter

As city officials refine their wish list for a new community center, a group of Lake Oswego residents is gathering support to derail the plan.

A group called Ask Lake Oswegans, which includes former Lake Oswego Mayor Bill Klammer and former city council member Bob Chizum, wants to collect enough signatures to challenge the council's authority to purchase property for the center.

They want a charter amendment that would require voter approval for any land purchase by the city of more than $2 million. That would effectively mean that residents could vote on the city's $20 million purchase of the Safeco Insurance building at 4101 Kruse Way. The city originally moved to condemn the building but was able to negotiate a buy that took place in July 2006.

In a draft recommendation released Tuesday, a city-appointed community center steering committee estimated the center's total cost between $75 million and $80 million, including the $20 million land acquisition. If a main library were added, that would mean another $20 million to $25 million, according to the report, bringing the total to as much as $105 million.

Those figures include design and construction costs to remodel the existing 89,000-square-foot building, which was built in 1980 and has been re-named the West End Building. The remodeled, 114,000-square-foot community center would have a recreational pool, a lap pool, two-court gymnasium, a community 'family room,' and community hall.

The committee's report said the city could re-capture nearly 100 percent of operating costs by charging $6 daily admission for adults, $4.50 for youths/teens, or $5 for seniors. Annual passes would cost $475 for adults, $300 for youths/teens and $350 for seniors. Annual families passes would be $725.

The committee recommended that a therapy pool be funded through a private partnership that would build and operate the pool. 'Public/private partnerships could also include adjacent on-site private development, and possibly residential or office development,' the report said.

But opponents vow to collect enough signatures by July to put the charter amendment before voters in November.

Klammer said the city has more pressing needs - namely, replacing the sewer interceptor line - than a community center.

Estimates for the capital cost of the interceptor line are between $92 and $112 million.

'I think it's just a grandiose idea, and the city has needs for too many other things,' said Chizum, referring to the center.

Klammer said the tax burden of a new community center would 'force people out of the city.'

Gathering signatures outside the Lake Oswego Albertson's last Friday, Klammer and Chizum attracted young and old to sign the petition.

'When the city purchases large chunks of land, we should know what's going on with the land,' said Candice Henkin, who recently moved here with her husband.

City council member Donna Jordan said the Safeco deal, which includes two lots on 14 acres, was a 'smart purchase' and should not be reversed by voters.

'It would have been difficult, as time goes forward, for the city to have found another piece of property like that,' said Jordan.

She said the proposed ballot initiative, if anything, should focus on the Safeco building and not include a charter amendment forcing the city to require a vote for all land purchases more than $2 million.

'If we have to go a vote every time, that will cost money,' she said. 'The community needs to have a discussion about the impacts of such a ballot measure in the community.'

As a former Realtor, Jordan argued that municipalities 'can't negotiate a real estate deal in public,' because it damages the city's ability to negotiate the best price.

Brant Williams, director of Lake Oswego's community center development, said the Kruse Way location is an ideal spot for a community center.

Although the council was not sure if the Safeco building was appropriate for a transformation to a community center at the time of the purchase, the council felt it was too good to pass up.

'When a property of this kind comes up for sale, you take advantage of it or forego it forever,' he said. 'There were other potential developers who would have redeveloped it.'

The city is paying about $1 million annually in interest for the property, according to the steering committee report. The city's parks and recreation department has completed its move into the West End Building.

Dennis Elliott, a member of the steering committee, said the committee has set a goal of using the existing building as much as possible to hold down costs.

The committee report recommends a sustainable building that meets the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold rating, if possible.

'With priorities in place, the project design team can then focus its attention on the most state-of-the-art technologies and opportunities for incorporating sustainable designs into the project,' the report said.

The report also recommended that the city enhance the property's natural features, such as its wetlands, streams and tree groves.

Even with money-saving sustainable features, the project will be scrutinized for its financial impact.

'There's always a battle with the issues of balancing community needs and desires with the cost of the facility,' said Elliott. 'I think it's a great opportunity that will greatly enhance the experience of living in Lake Oswego.'