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Council moves to change draft comp plan

Some parts of Lake Oswego’s draft comprehensive plan will likely be up for debate when the document comes to the council for approval later this year.

The city council on Tuesday directed staff to highlight parts of the plan that could increase housing density or allow mixed-use development in neighborhood areas, as well as any subject matter not directly related to land use — such as the library, arts and schools.

The proposal was tempered in comparison to a previous motion from Councilor Mike Kehoe, who earlier wanted to strike those elements from the draft plan.

On Tuesday, Kehoe said the council’s vote was just one step in a lengthy and ongoing process. In a call for “civility,” he added that the council had received some “reprehensible” emails in the past two weeks and needed to move on other issues in the city — “instead of arguing about how we’re handling this stage of the comprehensive plan that has many stages ahead of it.”

About 100 people packed council chambers for the meeting, and about 30 citizens testified; dozens more sent testimony by email to the council. A majority of the written and verbal testimony opposed making changes to the draft comprehensive plan or the process underway for its revision.

Critics said the changes ignore a far-reaching public process.

The city is more than two years into the roughly three-year effort to update the plan, a roadmap that guides where and how the city grows and develops in the next two decades. It recently landed a national planning award for its public outreach, which has included as many as 100 meetings and events and involved more than 2,500 community members in the planning process.

“The council should respect the work that has been done and, when it gets to us in due process, that’s the time at which we address these concerns,” Councilor Jon Gustafson said. “To me this looks like giving too much of this process up and turning it over to staff and letting them replace the work that’s been done by the CAC,” a citizens advisory committee made up of other city advisory board, commission and neighborhood representatives.

Councilor Donna Jordan said she also harbored concerns. Public involvement is a top state goal requiring citizen involvement in cities’ comprehensive plan updates.

“By directing staff to identify these items that the citizen advisory committee has put together in the last two and a half years is to violate the spirit and intention of Oregon’s land-use process,” Jordan said.

Bob Needham, a member of a citizen advisory committee, said the group has always understood the draft to be “a working document” and knows the city council makes policy decisions.

“All we’re asking is, let us complete the project and let it proceed ed out with,” he said.

Supporters of the changes suggested concerns about potential implications were overblown.

Councilor Jeff Gudman said he didn’t think the council’s decision would remove plan elements, stressing the importance of parks and recreation or culture, as some residents worried about.

“The end result will be a product that not only reflects the work of the CAC but will reflect the work of all of the citizens who have offered comments,” he said.

Former Councilor Mary Olson said the comprehensive plan process was “designed to create the illusion of overwhelming citizen input” and to produce a predetermined outcome. She said opposing viewpoints were buried or ignored by the citizen advisory committee and planning commission.

“Wrap it up,” Olson said. “Don’t spend any more time, energy and money on this convoluted process.”

Janine Dunphy questioned the plan’s inclusion of ideas such as the “20-minute neighborhood,” a concept aiming to allow residents to meet basic needs by walking or biking between residential and commercial areas. She said the comp plan process reflected outside interests and people trying to bring a “regional Metro vision to our very special, unique little town.”

But Nancy Gronowski, a member of the CAC, said she took personal offense with the idea that the advisory group has worked toward a specific council or government agency’s vision.

“It needs to be integrated and holistic and look at the vision citizens want,” she said of the plan. “We need to be more than a little isolated bedroom community to the city of Portland.”

Cheryl Uchida, who lives in the Waluga neighborhood, said she hoped the council would remove language about increasing residential densities and allowing mixed uses in neighborhoods.

“Waluga has experienced this increase for years,” she said, noting the neighborhood of single-family homes is increasingly hedged in by busier retail, commercial and higher-density development.

Norma Heyser urged the council to instead consider broadening the definitions of density and mixed use in the draft plan.

In the past, she said, an “unfounded fear of increasing density and mixed uses in neighborhoods” blocked a proposal she made for small, single-story housing suited for retired, aging residents who want to stay in the city but don’t want big houses, big lots or longer travel times to access shops and services.

“Consider in the comprehensive plan revision new community housing options for aging citizens, who are increasing in number daily,” Heyser said.

Mayor Kent Studebaker told citizens that working on the comprehensive plan has already cost the city a million dollars in consulting and staff time over the past three years, and he worries those costs will continue to mount in the future. Meanwhile, he said, “A number of us would like to see that we turn this comprehensive plan into a land-use document.”

After about two hours of testimony and discussion, the council voted 5-2 to move ahead with a proposal to “identify for council consideration” any subject matter in the draft comprehensive plan without direct ties to land use, any policies that could increase housing densities or allow mixed uses in neighborhoods and policies with potential budgetary impacts, and to identify how topics such as arts and culture might be addressed separately.

Studebaker and councilors Gudman, Kehoe, Karen Bowerman and Skip O’Neill supported the motion. Councilors Gustafson and Jordan were opposed.

It remains unclear what identifying these components will lead to in the end.

The council has already tentatively approved parts of the updated plan; those sections are expected to come back as part of a final, completed draft up for adoption later in the year.

The citizen advisory group, meanwhile, is in the midst of discussing some plan sections, such as those related to natural resources and environmental protection, including zoning on Oswego Lake.

There was no staff report Tuesday about the background or impact of the changes.

After the meeting, City Manager Tom Coffee said staff members would apply the new level of scrutiny to both tentatively approved sections of the plan and sections not yet finished by the advisory committee.

Meanwhile, the citizen advisory committee would continue wrapping up work on the final sections, which would have the extra layer of review before going to the planning commission and city council for tentative approval, he said.

The entire package would then be ready for adoption.



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