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North Anchor, city codes and Sensitive Lands top Council's agenda for 2015

Community input and a weekend retreat lead to a list of goals for the new year

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: CITY OF LAKE OSWEGO - The city's North Anchor project includes properties on the north side of B Avenue at First Street.Lake Oswego’s city councilors kicked off 2015 with open ears — and plenty of Post-It notes — as they worked to meld citizen comments and their own priorities last week into a working agenda for the new year.

That agenda will include some familiar items, such as development of the North Anchor properties in downtown Lake Oswego, a streamlining of the city’s development code and an overhaul of its contentious Sensitive Lands program. It will not include plans for a new aquatic center or an expansion of the current library, however, despite pleas from residents that the city consider both projects.

The goal-setting process included an open house for community members at the Adult Community Center on Jan. 8 and a five-hour retreat for the Council and city staff Saturday at Marylhurst University. Residents also were able to submit their ideas in advance via email.

Much of the feedback could have been gleaned from public cLAZENBYomment at Council sessions throughout the previous year. Several participants at the open house carried a list of goals authored by resident Gerry Good, which included reducing city operating costs; selling the West End Building “at just about any price” and using the funds to reduce outstanding debt; taking no tax increase in 2015; and maintaining the village feel of Lake Oswego by allowing no more large developments without a public vote.

“Make it clear to all staff,” Good wrote, “that their primary customer is the citizens of Lake Oswego, not developers or contractors.”

In her online comments to the Council, Lake Grove resident Karen Crichton said that the Lake Oswego Police Department’s transparency with the public went too far. She argued that “the police blotter feed to the newspaper” prevented the public from reporting crimes out of fear they themselves would end up in it, and that it provided “an inaccurate representation of actual crime in LO.”

Still, much of the public feedback at the open house overlapped with what became the first draft of the Council goals, which was crafted after Saturday’s retreat:

-- Plans for city-owned properties at the North Anchor, which sits on the north side of B Avenue at First Street. Many residents asked that the Council include citizen input before making any final decisions;

-- Sale of the West End Building, with one resident, Lori Black, asking if last year’s unsuccessful purchase-and-sale agreement with local businessman Nick Bunick was a ploy on the part of the city in order to buy some time to weigh options; and

-- An overhaul of the contentious Sensitive Lands program, which is slated for this spring, and the city’s tree code.

At the open house, resident John Davis addressed the issue of inequity in how Sensitive Lands regulations are applied to city-owned versus private property. He also asked Councilor Skip O’Neill about the possibility of regular, proactive inspections of city-owned property to make sure trees and streams are in compliance and overgrowth is thinned out.

Meanwhile, resident Cliff Perigo told Councilor Joe Buck that “it was never Metro’s intention to tell people what they can do with their backyards. We need some relief.”

After a year marked by a divisive debate over the future of the Wizer Block, many residents emphasized the importance of clear and objective development standards — an issue the Council acknowledged as a top priority in the coming year.

Resident Pat Haar summed up the feeling of many at the event when he asked Councilor Karen Bowerman, “Are you going to listen to the citizenry going forward?”

Bowerman and others said the Council intended to do exactly that, pointing to an upcoming Leadership Forum designed to encourage a civil public debate on the future of the North Anchor. (See story, right.)

On Saturday, City Manager Scott Lazenby acknowledged the scar on the city’s psyche by including this on his list of drafted goals: “Streamline the development code to make it more business-friendly, while still maintaining community standards.”

To help the Council hone in on priorities, Lazenby gave Mayor Kent Studebaker and the six councilors a pad of Post-It notes and asked them to write down no more than five top priorities.

“As Council members, what are you really passionate about?” Lazenby asked.

When those notes were posted on the wall, a clear consensus began to emerge. Streamlining the development code made the cut. So did moving forward with the North Anchor project, the sale of the WEB and the overhaul of Sensitive Lands. In addition, the Council vowed to:

-- Convene a community dialog on the tree code to see if there is a better way to meet the intent of the code while still responding to residents’ desire for less-stringent regulation;

-- Invest in a street maintenance program to attain and maintain a Pavement Code Index rating of 70 within the next five years, in so far as finances are available;

-- Develop a financially feasible plan for a community facility in Lake Grove, in conjunction with the Boones Ferry Road project, that would include library services, police services and meeting rooms;

-- Develop expanded police and emergency facilities by 2016;

-- Upgrade the current maintenenace/operations center by 2019;

-- Improve walking and cycling paths in neighborhoods; and

-- Build the tax base by supporting business investment in Lake Oswego.

The Council also hopes to host two community roundtable forums each year, similar to last week’s open house, in an effort to better connect with Lake Oswego residents.

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

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