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New Wizer Block residents would help businesses thrive

I encourage the folks in our community to embrace and support the Wizer Block development.

For many years, urban renewal funds have been spent to make the downtown area developable. Sidewalks and streets have been improved and new businesses attracted with the promise of the creation of a vibrant downtown commercial core. Now that more private dollars are here in response to this community’s investment, it is not consistent with the direction our town has promulgated for the downtown to prevent or slow the development of private property for a project in compliance with the development standards and codes of our city.

It should come as no surprise to this community, having witnessed over decades the implementation of the East End Redevelopment Plan, that more growth is here in response to folks’ desires to make Lake Oswego their home. There reaches a point where community input extends beyond the reasonable and becomes an onerous barrier to the reasonable right a property owner has to develop his or her property in compliance with our town’s code and standards.

This community thrives on the people who live in it, and we’ve created a community with the amenities and businesses that others want to experience. The downtown business community especially is dependent on population density to survive. The commercial community downtown is struggling as evidenced by store closures and commercial vacancies, with more to come if we do not increase the customer base available to existing businesses. More folks living in close proximity to the existing and future retail is critical to the survival of the town center. Our last Lake Oswego marketing campaign was “shop LOcal,” because it is this very community that businesses depend on for their customer base.

Owners or renters, it does not matter. To our local businesses, these are the folks needed to support the retail community. The desire to preclude an increase in our population, to stop more neighbors from moving into new housing, and to hinder the number of dogs sharing our spaces are all notions that go against the hospitality of the community I grew up in.

The Evergreen Group has responded well to all feedback from the community, and it is abundantly apparent they desire a long-term healthy relationship with Lake Oswego. They have gone above and beyond in responding to suggestions from the public at large and from the Development Review Commission. It is nothing short of a miracle that these folks are still here, and it demonstrates their commitment to a high-quality project, built to the unique style of our town. As evidenced by the city staff report to the Development Review Commission, the Evergreen plan complies with the current code, with minimal exceptions and no variances.

Let us please stop what only serves to deter future investment in our town and stand behind a project that clearly adheres to the integrity of our town’s development and design standards and that will only further enhance and support the existing residential and commercial community.

Thank you to Pat Kessi and his team for their decision to bring an investment of this size to Lake Oswego. Thank you to all of the citizens and citizen municipal volunteers for providing the feedback needed to shape the project into its current form. Now let’s start building something.

Joe Buck, a Lake Oswego resident and business owner, is a member of the board of directors of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Grove Business Association. The opinions are his own.

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