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'Village character?' It's all in the code

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

— Lewis Carroll (“Through the Looking Glass,” Chapter Six)

Much of the opposition to the proposed Wizer redevelopment has focused on “village character.” What do people mean when they say the project threatens their “village?” The code itself actually defines the term.

To quote Section 40.05.004 of the code: ...”village character” means a community of small-scale structures that appears and operates like a traditional small town. A village is typically composed of an assembly of smaller mixed-used structures. ... Adherence to village character is not intended to require an historical reproduction of a turn-of-the-century small town, but rather to encourage the development of a sophisticated small city...”

(Note the term “mixed-use structures.” Some of the opposition seems to think only retail is allowed. No. A mix of residential and commercial is described in the code.)

The next section of the Code says: “Building siting and massing shall create a village character by compliance with the following requirements ...”

So, the code says we create “village character” by complying with eight major requirements, which include design, materials, the number of stories (at least two but possibly four), the height (under 60 feet), the location of entrances and the design of street corners. These specific requirements are what the code defines as “village character.” They are met, with just two exceptions, by the Wizer proposal. Lake View Village, on the other hand, had 11 exceptions.

Why the DRC turned the proposal down is a complete puzzle. They are supposed to evaluate a proposal by reading the code. “Village character” is not what I think it is, or what the folks who put up the Save our Village signs think it is. We don’t get to choose what it means. We are not in Alice’s Wonderland. We’re in Lake Oswego.

“Village character” is spelled out in the code. The project meets the code definition, so it is in keeping with “village character.”

I’m confident the council will carefully read the code. When they do, they’ll approve the Wizer project. The people who will live there and the businesses it will create will bring new life and success to our downtown.

Ellie McPeak is a Lake Oswego resident and a former member of the Lake Oswego City Council.


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