Hearing on urban renewal plan set for next week

The Lake Oswego City Council Tuesday tentatively approved code changes that set the stage for transforming the largely industrial Foothills district into a mixed retail and residential area.

The code amendments don’t actually rezone properties in the district but instead alter designations within the comprehensive plan. That means they will “form the basis for development in the district,” said Debra Andreades, senior planner.

Today’s zoning will remain in place until property owners request a change. At that point, they’ll have to meet criteria requiring them to approve an agreement with the city ensuring their development is in line with Lake Oswego’s vision for the district. Officials hope to turn Foothills into a vibrant neighborhood and improve downtown’s connection to the Willamette River.

They’re still ironing out a few details.

Unlike previous versions of the anticipated code changes, Lake Oswego no longer plans to seek an exemption from Metro’s balanced cut and fill requirements, which require mitigation for filling in a floodplain. The full mitigation program will come back to the council with a future round of code amendments, consultants said.

In addition, officials are continuing to work with the city of Portland on a long-range improvement plan for the wastewater treatment plant at Tryon Creek, which will remain in the area.

City staff members also plan to ease state transportation department concerns about traffic on Highway 43 with an update of the city’s transportation master plan now under way.

Councilor Mary Olson said while “there are some very good parts of this plan,” she wouldn’t support it because of concerns over density, building heights and designation as a mixed-use multimodal area “exempting downtown” from considering impacts on Highway 43.

Councilor Donna Jordan told Olson that the exception for multimodal areas wasn’t intended to dodge rules protecting state highways from the impacts of development, but rather to “allow cities with town centers to get more creative with how they deal with increased traffic.”

“It was to allow you to do things you might not be able to do under the highway planning rules,” she said. “Safety is a critical component of any of these things.”

In a letter ODOT sent to the city Oct. 2, the state requested that the city coordinate with the agency on the design of “portals” into the district, on rail crossing and pedestrian stairway crossing plans, on streetscape improvements to State Street and safety matters. In addition, ODOT urged the city to “be up-front with affected stakeholders and nearby jurisdictions (West Linn, Oregon City and Clackamas County) about the trade-offs associated with the (multimodal mixed-use area) designation including the potential for increased vehicle congestion and the resultant safety implications.”

Three people testified at the public hearing Tuesday.

Lake Oswego resident Gary Buford urged the council to not include his building in the Foothills district. He said there is no plan to redevelop the property, at 415 N. State St., which sits on the other side of railroad tracks from most of the Foothills area.

“It simply is inappropriate to be in the Foothills district,” Buford said.

Councilor Jeff Gudman proposed supporting Buford’s request, especially if keeping the building in the same district it now sits wouldn’t make much difference in the long run.

“Why seek out an irritation when we don’t have to, when we do well enough otherwise?” he asked.

His amendment passed 4-3 with Gudman, Jordan, Mike Kehoe and Olson in support and Mayor Jack Hoffman and councilors Sally Moncrieff and Bill Tierney opposed.

Resident Paden Prichard, who represented the Evergreen neighborhood of a Foothills citizen advisory committee, urged the council to approve the code changes.

He said the improved district will enhance connections to the river and to Foothills Park, providing more housing choices and boost property tax revenues.

“I believe this is a positive step in the right direction for the city at this time.”

Charles “Skip” Ormsby protested the plan, calling for more discussion and detail about plans for mitigating floodplain impacts using property at Tryon Cove.

The code and comprehensive plan changes passed 5-2 with Gudman, Hoffman, Jordan, Moncrieff and Tierney in favor and Kehoe and Olson opposed.

“It sets the stage for property owners,” Hoffman said. “It basically is a message to the property owners that if they invest in their property they will be able to invest and maximize the use of their property with this zoning. It’s looking at creating an opportunity for the highest and best use for the property owners in the Foothills district.”

Efforts to advance the Foothills plans will continue next week. The code changes aim to implement the vision of the Foothills framework plan, adopted by the city council in July. Funding for projects identified in the framework will come from the Foothills urban rnewal plan, which is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday.

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