About 650 families have purchased upscale Oswego Lake waterfront property and built homes over the past century and in the process have claimed private access to the lake through their membership in the Lake Corporation.
Michael Blumm, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, now claims that everyone in Oregon is entitled to have access to the lake based on laws written 103 years ago as he referred to in last week's citizen's view. If the courts were to rule supporting Blumm's thesis that the people of Oregon can use the lake, consider the following:
Lake Oswego is the mecca for many business and civic leaders whose influence drives the state's economy. The lake is the scenic centerpiece for the community, which makes it such an attractive place to live. Visitors from afar are impressed with this 'jewel of the Northwest' and will continue to attract people who have the skills and education to build for the future. It is unlikely that the lakefront property owners will want the public to begin to invade their private property in order to have access to the lake, which could lead to the courts declaring their lots as a public easement allowing all the folks access. If so, there will eventually be an exodus of our quality citizens, which will spread up into the adjoining middle class neighborhoods, setting the domino affect in place.
Property tax revenue drops, services erode, schools contract, crime increases. The Community Action Plan that is currently being discussed to prepare Lake Oswego for the future of our children will have to be rewritten if the courts were to rule in favor of the general public. Ninety percent of these high school kids in Lake Oswego today will go to college. If Blumm has his way, they won't be coming back.
It can be argued that Blumm's contention that the 'balancing of environmental, economic and recreational' priorities needs to be a result of public deliberation, not corporate assessment. The news is that the local government and the citizens of the community surrounding the lake endorse the role of the Lake Corporation and the contribution its affluent and influential residents make to Lake Oswego and Oregon, for that matter. Until last week, public access to private property was not an issue.
It would be difficult to turn back the clock to satisfy Blumm's position. Since Lake Corporation is imbedded in the community, attempting to change the legal status of the lake would have far-reaching economic and social ramifications.
Michael Blumm has managed to overturn some legal rocks that could empower more people to gain more unearned privileges at the expense of the folks who have toiled and built this beautiful community. Blumm along with the mayor and three city councilors who support the Sensitive Lands Overlay program assume that government has the right to control private property. The framers of the Constitution would disagree.
Dave Sengenberger is a resident of Lake Oswego.