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Is city 'going rogue' on Wizer Block?

The Evergreen neighborhood strongly rejected the Wizer-Kessi development plan. The Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition stood alongside them in rejecting the plan. The Hallinan neighborhood opposes the development. The Lake Oswego Review came out with its own view against this development, as well as publishing copious Citizen’s View articles and readers’ letters explaining exactly why this development is a bad idea. And, on July 30, the city’s Development Review Commission voted the project down.

Despite this widespread public rejection, the developers and a number of the city’s decision-makers appear determined to force this project through, no matter how many valid points there are for why it shouldn’t be built. No matter how many times it has been stated that the Wizer Block is part of Lake Oswego’s four-block retail core, the development team tries to ignore this fact, along with the codes underlying it, and turn it into an 87-percent residential block anyway. (And will the city try to change our codes to help push this thing through?)

No matter how many cosmetic uplifts the developers suggest to make their massive apartment buildings appear to look smaller, no matter how much extra landscaping they give it, they refuse to address the key issues of high mass and residential density situated on the wrong block. Instead, they are turning a deaf ear to our concerns and trying to minimize our voice by calling the widespread opposition a “small, vocal minority.”

Come again? Ask anyone on the street which they would prefer visiting: a block with many shops, restaurants, offices and some residential units, or a block containing a large apartment complex with over 300 residents and less than 15-percent retail? It’s obvious what the choice would be. Apartment complexes don’t attract commercial visitors. In fact, residential congestion in a bottlenecked area, such as the Wiser Block, would detract from outside commercial visitors.

Keep your eyes open, Lake Oswego residents. This attempt to insist that this development be built, no matter what, is dangerous to our town’s future. And the scare tactics we’ve heard — such as suggesting that if we don’t build this apartment complex, we’ll be stuck with something much worse — seem to be a form of bullying the public into acquiescence.

Yes, of course we should redevelop the Wizer property, but it needs to be accomplished proportionately. We must take into account its location in the defined four-block retail core and the city’s code calling for “village character,” which is defined as small-scale structures. In addition, we need to perform neutral traffic and congestion studies. If a city and its developers fail to take into account these codes, studies and public concerns, they’ve gone rogue and we must work with them to ensure they remain aligned with the city’s long-term vision, as well as the concerns of its citizens. If we don’t keep our eyes on what’s happening, we will lose the city we know and love.

Gale Frank is a resident of Lake Oswego.



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