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Council ratifies Wizer Block decision; opponents say they still plan to appeal

Save Our Village has 21 days to take its case to the state land use board

The Lake Oswego City Council ratified its 5-2 decision to approve a 290,000-square-foot, mixed-use development on downtown Lake Oswego’s Wizer Block this week, setting the stage for opponents to take their case to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

Shortly before Tuesday evening’s vote, Councilor Karen Bowerman made her objection to the project clear, adding a new statement into the official record.

“I feel that the findings here are not the findings of the City Council, but of the case of the attorney for the applicant developer,” Bowerman said. “I won’t expand on this at this time, but I would add that now to the reasons for voting against the fightings.”

After nearly nine hours of public testimony in late September, the Council overturned the Development Review Commission’s rejection of developer Patrick Kessi’s plan to build three four-story buildings at the corner of A Avenue and First Street. The development would include 207 residential units and about 36,000 square feet of retail space.

The Council ratified that decision Tuesday. But opponents contend that the Council did not have the authority to overrule the DRC, and Lita Grigg, the founder of the group Save Our Village, said her organization intends to move ahead with its appeal.

“(The proposed design) does not meet (code requirements for) small-scale structures, it does not meet what is village character, and it did not comply with the Compact Shopping District,” Grigg said this week.

Save Our Village’s grievance would likely fall within the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeal’s purview, because it concerns a final ruling on an urban design review decision and involves a comprehensive plan provision.

To formally begin an appeal with LUBA, Save Our Village must file a notice of intent to appeal within 21 days after the ruling is adopted. As petitioner, the organization must also pay a $200 filing fee and $200 deposit. If Save Our Village misses that deadline, the appeal would be dismissed.

LUBA says that attorneys are not required for proceedings, but Grigg has said Save Our Village would likely continue to retain the services of attorney Greg Hathaway, who testified during the City Council hearings.

If LUBA ends up ruling against Save Our Village, it may choose to require the organization to pay Kessi’s attorney’s fees — an option LUBA exercises in cases it finds weak or not “well founded in law or on factually supported information.”

In general, the average appeal process takes between four and eight months, according to LUBA. During that time, the development in question can proceed uninterrupted, unless the petitioner files a motion for stay — a proposition that would require Save Our Village to post a $5,000 bond.

Despite the expense, LUBA can prove to be an attractive option. Although no new evidence is allowed in the case, the governor-appointed, three-member board tends to be more technical in its review. Grigg said she believes Save Our Village has a strong case — one that will stand up to a more rigorous assessment.

“We positioned ourselves with the DRC’s result,” Grigg said. “We feel strongly that the decision they did come up with is exactly how we feel.”

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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