City may alter its rules for PUDs

The city of Lake Oswego may ease open space set-aside requirements for planned developments.

The city currently requires that 20 percent or more of a planned development must have open space set aside. The requirement attempts to ensure that developments are more visually appealing.

But in recent years, developers have had smaller parcels to work with, prompting the city to consider eliminating the 20 percent open space requirement in most cases.

'We're seeing smaller and smaller pieces of land being developed,' said Jim Bolland, a member of the city-appointed Infill Task Force.

A group of Lake Oswego city councilors earlier this month toured local planned developments - each of which had four or more homes.

When the group pulled up to Ford Estates on Washington Court and Ford Place in Lake Forest neighborhood, which was built in 2004, the development was introduced by city officials as the 'poster child' for why the open-space requirement should change.

The four-lot development has lots that are about 7,000 square feet. About 23 percent of the development was set aside as open space. Bolland said the problem with the development and others like it is that the homes are squeezed too tightly on smaller lots, leaving little space between them.

'It's a classic case of why are we doing this?' he said, referring to changing the open space requirement. 'We want to put the space back on the lots.'

Ford Estates met its open space requirement by setting aside a blackberry patch along Washington Court as open space. The developer or homeowners' association of developments such as Ford Estates has the option of leaving the open space in its natural condition or sprucing it up.

Other large developments and subdivisions have done more extensive landscaping.

But, as the city has grown, Bolland said developers are finding that lots are smaller than ever. Most lots that developers are working with are in-fill lots.

'We need to look at the real world today,' he said. 'When we do these planned developments, they're typically eight to 10 or 12 houses.'

If 20 percent is set aside, that's a prescription for homes that are built too close to one another, he said.

'We want to put some space back between those houses,' he said. 'Now, we've got these huge houses so close together and completely incompatible with other homes in that zone.' Larger lots for each home would be more compatible, he said.

At the same time, Bolland said he believes in protecting open space. If there is a natural resource, such as a tree grove on the site, he said it should be preserved.

And if the development is more than 75,000 square feet, the task force also recommended that the minimum 20 percent open space be required.

But Bolland said he expects most developments would be smaller and the lifting of the requirement would be welcomed by developers.

'The council has been concerned that the open space requirement on small PUDs has often resulted in a small amount of open space that really didn't have much use, and the consequence is having smaller lots for the houses,' said Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad.

The Infill Task Force's recommendations next go to the city's Planning Commission. If they are approved, the council would have the final say.

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