A little more than two years ago, the Lake Oswego City Council voted to authorize the sale of an undeveloped City-owned property on Kruse Way to Boones & Kruse Limited Partnership, a company headed by developer Mary Jo Avery.
The agreement was reached at the same time as a deal to sell a larger parcel at the corner of Kruse Way and Boones Ferry Road to the Partnership. The idea was for Avery's group to sell the larger piece of land to the developers of a proposed assisted living facility called The Springs, and for the smaller property to be developed into office space with possible residential and small retail uses.
The sale of the smaller parcel still hasn't officially closed, but the development plans have been moving forward, and last month the Partnership held a meeting about the project with nearby residents — some of whom were upset to learn about the plans.
"We asked a lot of questions — they didn't have a lot of answers," says Mary Ponto, who lives nearby and attended the meeting. "Some of them (the residents) were a little irate."
Avery declined to comment for this story, apart from confirming that the meeting took place.
The smaller, 1.3-acre property is located directly west of the former West End Building, which the City sold to Yakima Products in 2015. The only developed portion of it is a pathway on the north side of Kruse Way that briefly detours into woods on the site before curving back toward the road. A small set of steps connects the pathway to The Forest condominiums to the north, where Ponto lives.
Ponto says she and other residents raised two primary concerns: the possible traffic impacts of developing the site, and the loss of what they see as a potential park that could serve nearby and future residents in the area.
"We tried to make the point that we need that natural area, that park," Ponto told The Review, "especially if the City goes ahead and approves the construction of The Springs and approves the retail space at Mercantile Village with apartments."
Because the City discourages new driveway connections onto Kruse Way, traffic would have to access the site via the adjacent property on the corner of Kruse Way and Carman Drive, which is also owned by Avery, or through an easement from one of the properties to the north. Ponto says neighbors are concerned that a northern exit would result in more traffic cutting through the neighborhood.
"Either down Parkview through Westlake, or they would go up the hill on Carman and then turn down Daniel Way, which is a 10-mph driveway," she says. "That's very dangerous because it's steep and it winds and the visibility is not good. Those are the only two ways to get back out to Kruse."
City Manager Scott Lazenby says the City would insist on preserving the existing pathway connection, but City officials are skeptical that further park development would be a good fit for the property, which was listed as surplus land after a 2013 study that found it would be impractical for use as a park.
"The habitat value of it is low, and there's absolutely no access other than foot access on the existing pathway," says Parks & Recreation Director Ivan Anderholm. "From a parks standpoint, if you look at the frontage along Kruse Way, it's commercial industrial use."
Anderholm said the sale of the property could potentially benefit the City's other parks by providing new funding. The property was originally acquired for $20,000 in 1998, but the 2015 sale agreement was for $450,000, due to its development potential.
"The property was bought with Parks and Open Space bond dollars, so those dollars will be reinvested in the same purpose that that bond was passed for," Anderholm says. "It made sense to own it when we owned the West End Building because it was adjacent to the property, but at the point we sold that property, it really doesn't play into being a park site for us."
Any actual development of the property is a long way off — a zoning change still has to be approved, and Lazenby points out that an office building or other structure would also need to go through the City's development review process.
But the odds of actually changing the direction of the development seem slim. The City Council already approved the initial sale, and the group voted to prioritize the sale of the City's surplus land this year, further fueling the push to close the deal.
Cheryl Uchida, who chairs the Waluga Neighborhood Association and attended last month's Partnership meeting, says there are concerns about the development, but "people are thinking it's just kind of going to be inevitable."
"If they already have a (council) goal, then it's a done deal," she says. "That's (the Waluga board's) attitude. I can't understand how (the developers) are going to build anything up there, but you know, they do it."