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Korach: Both sides right in stadium saga

The proposal to change conditional use permit requirements on a Lakeridge High School field presents an emotional issue to the Lake Oswego School District school board, which is charged with making decisions concerning the CUP that will undoubtedly affect many people.

But there is no distinction between which side is right or wrong in the ongoing debate between Pacer supporters who want a stadium and Lakeridge neighbors who oppose it, Superintendent Bill Korach told the board Monday.

According to Korach, the school's immediate neighbors are correct in saying that football games at Lakeridge would increase traffic, noise and lighting currently restricted by the CUP.

On the other side, he said, the Lakeridge staff, students and parents are correct in asserting that Lakeridge is unfairly limited in its ability to use its athletic facilities in relation to restrictions on other community events.

'We need to respect the two truths at play here,' Korach said.

Korach presented an administrative proposal to provide the board with frames of reference and perspectives before the board decides how to proceed.

The board plans to determine whether it will seek CUP modifications and, if so, which ones it will seek, at a meeting Nov. 5. The city of Lake Oswego must ultimately approve changes. That process could take up to a year.

Areas that would require changes include: Allowing the total number of spectators to exceed the number of on-site parking spaces; play-by-play announcements; field use past 9:30 p.m.; and bleachers for spectator seating.

'It is also important to note that no matter what decision the board makes, the district will have to work through many issues, concerns and obstacles with all of the parties affected by that decision,' he said.

About 20 community members attended Korach's presentation. The board was scheduled to hear opinions and perspectives concerning the proposed permit changes at a public hearing Wednesday night.

The original request from Lakeridge Principal Mike Lehman was for board support to pursue playing a homecoming football game at the school next year. The board unanimously supported his request.

Many neighbors voiced opposition to the idea, arguing it would diminish their quality of life, lower their home value and bring many problems to the Palisades neighborhood.

Pacer supporters retaliated by forming a committee and gathering signatures on a petition. They said Pacers deserve to play 'home' games on their own turf.

Soon, the conditional use requirements on Lakeridge's current field were brought into focus. There are no requirements prohibiting a home football game right now, but restrictions on the artificial turf field (parking, seating, audio systems, lighting, etc.) make it near impossible to hold such an event there.

Korach offered a historical perspective on the matter. When Lakeridge was built in the late '60s, competitive sports were not as extensive or revered as they are today. At the time, school officials believed one district stadium was adequate to meet the needs of the district's athletes.

At the same time, a district auditorium was included into Lakeridge's design and a district swimming pool was constructed near LOHS.

Much has changed in the 40 years since, Korach said. Competitive girls' sports, lacrosse and soccer have made their way onto the scene. Popularity of athletics skyrocketed, program offerings increased and so has the demand for quality facilities.

Today, the district is strongly committed to ensuring that both high schools offer similar programs, facilities and opportunities, Korach said. The district also wants to use those facilities to the fullest extent possible in the best interests of the schools and of the community.

Despite this balancing act, Lake Oswego High School and the district stadium are not subject to the same conditions as Lakeridge by its permit. Unlike LOHS, however, Lakeridge has immediate neighbors who would be affected by parking, noise, lighting that would continue after 9:30 p.m. on game nights.

Korach said dialogue concerning Lakeridge's restrictions has called into question other community events with noise and traffic, such as Festival of the Arts, concerts, Farmer's Market and church services.

'Thus, the discussion has evolved such that the question is no longer focused on a Lakeridge home football game, but rather on the nature of the (CUP) requirements placed on Lakeridge's (field),' he said.

Korach proposed that there might be a 'well-reasoned rationale that explains what is a seemingly dissimilar treatment of conditional use requirements' between the two schools.

For example, LOHS can use a public address system during lacrosse and soccer games, but Lakeridge cannot.

Korach suggested looking into the reasons for restriction at Lakeridge and considering the impact of the school board's decisions on all parties involved, including future generations of Lakeridge students and their families.

Board chair Linda Brown said the board would deliberate carefully before making a decision.

'There's no right or wrong,' she said. These are issues that affect everyone.'