Will Lake Oswego move Parks & Rec to the municipal golf course?
The Lake Oswego City Council appeared to be leaning this week toward moving the City's Parks & Recreation Department into a new home at the Municipal Golf Course on Stafford Road.
Any such move would almost certainly require shrinking the 39-acre, 18-hole course in order to make room, but the council seemed less enthusiastic about a separate idea of selling off an additional corner of the course as a funding mechanism for the change.
The Tuesday-afternoon study session was actually a convergence of two different topics.
The golf course has gone from a profitable enterprise to a net money-loser in recent years due to a declining number of players, and the condition of the course has also declined rapidly. Last year, the City Council began exploring options for revamping the facility and hopefully returning it to profitability.
Separately, the Parks & Recreation Department is facing an impending deadline to move out of its current home in the Palisades Elementary School building on Greentree Road. The Lake Oswego School District closed the building during the recession, and the City began renting it in 2015 when Parks & Rec was displaced from its previous home in the former West End Building.
But the school district is currently making plans for a series of renovation projects financed by last year's $187 million bond measure, and LOSD officials need more space for classrooms that will be displaced by the construction, so the district recently notified the City that it would be taking the building back at the end of the current lease, which expires in June.
The idea of building a new home for Parks & Rec at the golf course is seen as a two-birds, one-stone answer: The course would be redesigned into either a 9-hole "executive" or a 12-hole "hybrid" configuration that would hopefully draw more players, and the leftover space would be occupied by a new Parks & Rec building.
The potential move was one of the options under discussion for the course last year, when the council directed City staff to conduct a feasibility study. The City hired the Robertson-Sherwood firm to perform the study, and Parks & Rec Director Ivan Anderholm presented the results to the council at Tuesday's meeting.
The study concluded it would be possible to fit both the department and a 9- or 12-hole course on the current municipal golf campus, along with an expanded driving range. Robertson-Sherwood staff outlined four possible scenarios, all of which shared some common elements.
In most scenarios, the current clubhouse building would be left intact and would continue to serve its current function. The driving range would also remain in the same place, but expanded to be longer and wider. The existing parking lot would be extended further south to create more spaces.
The new Parks & Rec building would be a rectangular structure along the western side of the parking lot, roughly in the area currently occupied by the golf course's first hole. It would be a two-story structure in most scenarios, with the ground floor primarily devoted to activity space and the second floor used for administrative space and the Teen Lounge.
In one scenario, the Parks & Rec building would be only a single story and the clubhouse building would be reconfigured to house the administrative offices.
"The staffing doesn't take up too much room," City Manager Scott Lazenby told the council. "It's mostly programming."
The scenarios all included an optional "Phase 2," which would add a gym onto the south end of the Parks & Rec building and further expand the parking lot. The estimated cost of the project ranges from roughly $7.1 million to $9.9 million for Phase 1 and $4.3 million to $5.3 million for Phase 2, depending on the scenario.
A significant portion of the citizen comment period and subsequent council discussion Tuesday focused on a separate issue: the potential sale of roughly four acres at the northwest corner of the course. The idea had initially been discussed as a possible funding mechanism for the reconfiguration project, with the sold-off land likely being used for a housing development.
A large number of residents testified about the project, a majority of them Palisades neighborhood residents who voiced opposition to any new housing on former golf course land — particularly if the new housing could consist of townhomes or duplexes.
"That is our biggest concern," said resident Meg Wilkinson. "Some of us are ambivalent about the sale, but we're unified about high-density housing."
Many residents also testified in opposition to shrinking the course in the first place, and they questioned the need to put Parks & Rec on the site. Resident Roger Martin said the 9- or 12-hole approach would backfire and draw in even fewer players than before, putting the course into a "death spiral."
"I'm a municipal golf freak, and I don't want it reduced from 18 holes," he said. "For 50 years it's been a gem."
Several councilors also appeared to be averse to the idea of selling off the land for housing. Councilor Joe Buck asked if leaving the land in place would allow for a more complex 12-hole design, and Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff asked whether leaving the four acres would change the scenarios outlined by the study.
Staff from Robertson-Sherwood replied that keeping the four acres might allow for a more varied course design, particularly for the 12-hole option, which would otherwise largely reuse the centrally located holes from the current course.
The group also discussed possible alternative funding mechanisms instead of selling off land, such as extending the current parks bond past its expiration in 2020.
Kohlhoff and Councilor John LaMotte asked about another idea that came up during initial discussions about the golf course: adding a community pool to the project and turning the site into a single recreation hub for the city.
"We don't have many options, site-wise, to do this," LaMotte said.
The group discussed the possibility of fitting the pool into additional space south of the proposed Parks & Rec building, but Anderholm cautioned that the project could run into parking concerns. The current parking lot has only one access point, he said, and there isn't an ideal location to add a second one.
"I will caution that adding aquatics will probably be problematic when you look at (nearby) traffic impacts," he added.
To help determine a direction for City staff, Mayor Kent Studebaker asked the councilors to vote on two unofficial "straw poll" questions: Should the City continue to explore the idea of co-locating Parks & Rec at the golf course, and should the council consider using the parks bond for funding?
Both questions received a strong yes vote, although there was still considerable disagreement about how to proceed. Kohlhoff and Buck both said they didn't like the idea of selling off the four acres for housing, and LaMotte and Buck both urged the group to consider the pool as a possible scenario.
Councilor Jackie Manz asked for staff to return with different cost scenarios for the project and a better list of the City's own needs. Studebaker said he was concerned about "taking for granted" the idea of extending the parks bond, and Gudman said the overall project had no clear funding mechanism, especially without the housing land sale.
"Even in a scenario without a pool, I still don't know where the money comes from," he said.
Also on the agenda:
• The council received a status update on the Boones Ferry Road project. According to project lead Crystal Shum, the City is approximately halfway through the property acquisition phase and must complete that process before the Oregon Department of Transportation can approve the project.
With project designs now at 95 percent, the projected cost has risen from an original budget of $27.5 million to an estimated $32 million for Phase 1. That's still within the project's overall budget, but it will create a shortfall when the City moves on to the planned Phase 2.