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Football fans, residents clash over game

Lakeridge neighbors voice opposition to possible ball game on campus next fall

For years, some residents living near Lakeridge High School complained about parking, noise and traffic stemming from use of campus' athletic fields.

With their input, Principal Mike Lehman worked to lessen those problems. He told the school board at a recent meeting that Lakeridge now has 'full support' from its neighbors.

A few days later, he found out that the peaceful scenario just isn't so.

On Monday, Lehman and other district administrators met with residents who live near the school to discuss how well Lakeridge was adhering to the requirements of its conditional use permit.

Some neighbors praised Lehman for the positive relationship he has established with them. Others said they want to see further proof that the school is doing its job.

Neighbors voiced complaints ranging from stray lacrosse balls to port-a-potties near houses and drivers dropping kids off on Cloverleaf Road. Neighbor Jill Easley suggested building a fence to prevent street access to the fields. Molly Miles suggested parking permits to allow residents to park there.

'One thing people have to remember is that Lakeridge was built in a neighborhood but at Lake Oswego High School, the neighborhood was built around it,' said Ann Powers, who moved to the area before Lakeridge was erected.

'There has been an ongoing history and it's a history of disrespect,' said Cindy Lewis, a 17-year resident of Ridge Lake Drive, adding that the situation has improved in the past year.

More contentious of a topic, however, was Lehman's proposed plan to hold a Pacer varsity homecoming football game at the school next fall. The school board gave the thumbs up to the idea and said it will work with Lehman to secure the proper permit changes from the city. That process could take up to nine months, they said.

According to Lehman, the game would last about three hours and require permit changes for additional seating, a play-by-play speaker system (possibly aimed away from houses), lights and shuttle buses to prevent uncontrolled parking around campus. Neighbors would receive Pacer sweatshirts and coupons for free concessions as a gesture of goodwill from the school.

Lehman estimated about 3,000 fans would attend and told the neighbors that a lacrosse double-header and college-level lacrosse game were played there without a problem.

'We realize it would take us working through a lot of things to do it, but I think it would be good for Lakeridge and good for the kids,' he said. 'I believe we could craft an understanding ... to test this and pull it off.'

Many neighbors said Lehman's plan shows the school does not intend to keep its promises. Neighbor Renee Kennedy said she felt officials were being dishonest and that she was 'deceived.'

'I say 'yes' to a game and it goes well, then what?' she asked.

'The neighbors have compromised again and again,' echoed Michael Murphy, Cloverleaf resident.

Katie Dulin, a Cloverleaf resident, said a football game at Lakeridge is 'out of the question' and that the school had no intention of hosting a varsity football game there when it secured its permit.

'It's important to acknowledge that and comply with that,' she said.

Dulin suggested holding the homecoming game at the city's Lusher Farm turf field, which is now under construction. She urged citizens to approach city councilors with the same idea.

Pacer parents and coaches also attended the meeting to support Lehman's proposed game.

One parent told the crowd that conditional use permits are meant to be flexible and change according to conditions and needs. Another said the original permit included an outline for a full football stadium at Lakeridge and that the permit was altered.

Lakeridge parent Jim Rivera pointed out that although he doesn't want to trivialize their complaints, neighbors are lucky to be near a school where kids want to play sports, rather than deal drugs or commit crimes.

'These are issues that other schools deal with on a daily basis,' he said. 'I do want people to get a perspective on what kind of community we live in. We are privileged to live here and we need to invest in our youth.'

At times, neighbors struck back in defense of their opposition to the game.

'We're not against you. We're for you, too,' said Brad Hollabaugh, a Cloverleaf resident. 'We want livability as well as safety. We can move forward if people will listen and understand that we're not evil people ... Of course we're about kids. We love this community.'

Greg Palmer of West View Road said he supports the school's long-term goal to hold a full football season of home games on campus.

'If we cannot have four or five games here, that's just ridiculous,' he said. 'I don't think anyone's tax dollars are more or less important than anyone else's.'

Cece Clark said if the school doesn't disturb the neighborhood with a loud speaker system, she would support Lehman's idea.

'I don't see a downside,' she said.

Supporters of the game pointed out that many cities in the Portland area hold major events at stadiums that are located in residential neighborhoods.

As an example, Tim Dungey, a West Linn native who now lives in Lake Oswego, recalled his experience at a hometown football game.

'It promoted a positive community atmosphere,' he said. 'There were big crowds and it set (West Linn) abuzz every Friday night.'

At the end of the meeting, Lehman said the district is already aware of most of the concerns brought up by neighbors.

The district plans to make changes according to those concerns so Lakeridge can successfully pull off the game with full neighbor support.

'I know this is pushing the limits, but I think it's good for the kids and that's why I'm proposing it,' Lehman said.