Future of West End Building remains unclear
Planning commission rejects zone change
The future of the citys West End Building could remain uncertain awhile longer.
The Lake Oswego Planning Commission last week rejected a proposed zone change considered crucial to selling the building, also known as the WEB.
Following years of public upheaval over what to do with the 90,000-square-foot building, the city council had applied for the zone change in hopes of selling the property, purchased for $20 million in 2006 for a new community center that never came to fruition.
In October, the council approved a deal to unload the 14-acre campus for $16.5 million to a private developer with a catch: The agreement was contingent on a zone change that would allow for more retail and residential uses.
But planning commissioners said they shared some of the concerns heard during public testimony Nov. 25 about possible transportation impacts, an unknown development plan for the site and land use.
Making the zone general commercial could allow for automobile sales and repair, restaurants with drive-thrus, car washes, light manufacturing, hotels, laundry facilities and grocery stores larger than 25,000 square feet.
The real issue here is the expansion of uses, Commissioner Puja Bhutani said. Even with some size limitations on development outlined in the application, she said, Its not a question of just limiting the size of the building. Its what uses youre allowing in there.
In addition, Bhutani said she didnt see a clear public benefit to adding denser housing or more retail businesses at the location. At 4101 Kruse Way, the property sits near but outside of the Lake Grove business district, and only part of it is within the Lake Grove urban renewal district.
So far, Kensington Investment Group, the potential buyer, hasnt publicized a long-term plan for the land, although officials have suggested the company might build multifamily housing on part of the site and a gym or specialty food store near the main road.
Of numerous citizens who testified at the planning commission hearing last week, no one supported the proposal.
Cheryl Uchida, of the Waluga neighborhood, said rezoning the property could create an island parcel situation in an area with many office campuses. She said the campus feel has provided a pleasant ambiance on the property.
Wed hate to lose that, to have more density, Uchida said.
Linda McNulty said the commission should be careful about moving too quickly to sell the site, the only large city-owned property of its kind in that area.
It is our last chance to leave a legacy and have some portion of that property be for community use, she said.
City planning staff members had recommended approving the zone change.
Representing the applicant, Brant Williams, the citys redevelopment director, said the proposal set special limitations on the amount of development to respond to community concerns about density, noise and retail activity.
Williams also said the city council is interested in the zone change regardless of what happens with Kensington Investment Group.
The council has been trying to sell the property in hopes of cutting the citys losses and returning it to tax rolls. The city has been spending about $1.5 million each year on loan payments, maintenance and operating costs even though its parks and recreation activities and office spaces arent fully utilizing the available space at the WEB.
Still, some residents have called for keeping the building in hopes of one day putting it to full use and keeping a public presence on the west side of town.
The commissions decision to reject the zone change is tentative until it becomes final at a meeting on Monday.
Even then, the recommendation wont seal the WEBs fate. Instead, the city council is scheduled to consider the zone change next month.
The council could accept the planning commissions recommendation and deny the citys own application or overrule the commission by approving the zone change. It could also approve the zone change with special conditions.
The meeting is set for Jan. 7 at city hall, 380 A Ave.
Kara Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 503-636-1281, ext. 107. Follow her on Twitter, @LOreporter.
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