Three groups take Wizer Block plan to LUBA

Save Our Village, Evergreen Neighborhood Association and Lake View Village join forces for appeal

Three groups opposed to the construction of a 290,000-square-foot, mixed-use development on downtown Lake Oswego’s Wizer Block took their fight to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals this week.

Save Our Village, the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and LO 138 LLC — which represents the nearby Lake View Village development — filed their intent to appeal on Monday, naming the city of Lake Oswego as respondent and seeking to overturn a decision by the City Council to approve the plans.

“We feel very confident about our case,” Save Our Village founder Lita Grigg said. “I’ve said from day one that whatever it takes, we plan to stay the course.”

After nearly nine hours of public testimony, the Council voted 5-2 in September to overturn the Development Review Commission’s rejection of developer Patrick Kessi’s plan to build three four-story buildings at the corner of First Street and A Avenue. The development would include 207 residential units and about 36,000 square feet of retail space.

In their appeal to LUBA, the petitioners contend that the Council did not have the authority to overrule the DRC’s 3-2 vote to reject the Wizer Block plans. The DRC said the proposal did not reflect downtown Lake Oswego’s “village character” and its requirement for “small-scale structures”; that the residential/commercial split Kessi proposed was not appropriate for the so-called “compact shopping district” as defined by the Urban Design Plan; and that it violated code restrictions on ground-floor residential use in the city’s core.

“The petitioners have to take it one step at a time, to get LUBA to frankly agree with the DRC,” said Greg Hathaway, attorney for the petitioners.

Lake Oswego City Manager Scott Lazenby said there will be a significant burden on the groups to prove that the Council’s decision violated city code. LUBA reviews cases that concern final rulings on urban design review decisions, as well as issues involving comprehensive plan provisions.

If LUBA rules against the petitioners, it can require that they pay the city’s associated legal fees — an option LUBA exercises in cases it finds weak or not “well founded in law or on factually supported information.”

Despite the expense, LUBA can prove to be an attractive option. Although no new evidence is allowed in the case, the governor-appointed, three-member board tends to be more technical in its reviews. On average, it takes between four and eight months for an appeal to wind its way through the LUBA process.

Kessi has said it could take up to nine months before his group is ready to break ground on the Wizer Block, but that “we’re pursuing our plans and getting ready for construction.”

“This has been a long process, and a long public process,” Kessi said Wednesday. “We’re up to 14 public hearings now on the project, and the project’s been dissected by the DRC, City Council, neighborhood associations, staff — and because of the long, very public part of the process, we’ve made changes. We think the changes have made the project better. So the project meets code, and it’s the rule of the law. We’ve taken input and taken the best suggestions, incorporated them into development. Now it’s time to move forward, and we’re looking forward to starting construction.”

The petitioners could have filed a motion for a stay to prevent the project from moving forward, but that, if approved, would require the posting of a $5,000 bond.

“It’s very rare that a stay is filed,” Hathaway said. “There’s a lot of risk on the part of a developer to build something that they might never get approved.”

Hathaway said he is confident the petitioners have a case.

“I don’t think Lake Oswego is used to a situation where there’s a proposed development that has raised the kind of significant concerns by the community that we have here,” he said, “where the City Council has to choose — as opposed to all the parties trying to figure out all the ways to redevelop the Wizer property.”

Hathaway said he expects oral arguments in the case to begin sometime in January.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/238912-104826-three-groups-take-wizer-block-plan-to-luba

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