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Developers must abide by same rules

The Evergreen Neighborhood Association would like to publicly thank the Development Review Commission for its careful consideration regarding the proposed Wizer Block development. After many hours of testimony and deliberation, it finally came down to whether or not the proposed development meets city code. The answer was no, it does not.

Though the commissioners agreed with city staff that several code exceptions, such as the location of a driveway and the amount of storefront glazing, were acceptable, the majority did not agree with staff on two very important criteria.

The commissioners discussed at length the exception related to the amount of residential use on the ground floor. City code prohibits ground-floor residential on most of Block 137. Yet, in the designated commercial area, the developer proposed several residential units, a private fitness center and a large courtyard restricted to residents only. This exception is related to an overarching issue.

As pointed out by several commissioners and by many citizens who spoke at the hearings, Block 137 is designated as a cornerstone of Lake Oswego’s “compact shopping district,” one of four blocks that were planned as the city’s retail core. Yet this development proposes to cut existing retail on the block by about 50 percent and build instead a four-story apartment complex. To remove retail and replace it with high-density residential is not the intended use of this key property.

Even more important, the majority of the commissioners agreed that filling the block with three four-story buildings does not meet Lake Oswego’s code-defined village character. In the first DRC hearing, the developer was advised to break up the buildings and thus reduce their mass. In the revised proposal, however, except for some reduction in height at the southwest corner, the three buildings remain the same length and height as originally designed. Though facades and rooflines were re-worked, the bulk of the buildings was not reduced nor was the mass brought into human scale.

With buildings each twice the length of any other buildings downtown and totaling three times the square footage of the six Lake View Village buildings, this out-of-scale development simply does not meet the requirement of village character that was envisioned and codified for downtown.

Approval of this project would set a precedent for development that would forever change the look and feel of our town, and years of planning by past city staff and the community would have been for naught. The developer of Blocks 138 and 136 was required to meet code by greatly reducing the scale of his original plans; thus we have the two- and three-story buildings of Lake View Village and the 39 Village Townhomes. The DRC concluded that the current developer must abide by those same rules.

This article was written by Lake Oswego resident Carol Radich on behalf of the Evergreen Neighborhood Association.

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