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If they build it ... would the streetcar follow?

Last week’s Review was evidence regarding the differences of opinions in Lake Oswego on the development of the Wizer property. Each side provided salient viewpoints, which can be summarized as village versus vibrancy.

Now the overwhelming sentiment over the last few years has been to maintain the village atmosphere in Lake Oswego. While we all cherish the results of the development of Lake View Village and Millennium Plaza Park, we differ as to whether or not the current plans for the Wizer property will add to our current downtown ambience or detract from it.

On the one hand, I’ve always been a supporter of individual property rights (note my previous comments in this paper regarding sensitive lands). I don’t like seeing a person’s plans for his own property subverted by others with selfish alternative interests.

That occurred with my father-in-law a number of years ago when he wished to sell his greenhouse property to individuals who wished to place a shopping center on it. Although it was zoned agricultural, he had been paying property taxes as a business for 30 years. It didn’t matter to the local politicians. They denied his application for the zoning change and the sale fell through, momentarily at least. As his commercial greenhouse operations had been losing money for some time, the failed sale resulted in his business filing for bankruptcy shortly thereafter. 

Those proceedings ended in the forced sale of his property to another individual who indicated he would continue the greenhouse business. This individual just happened to be a friend of the local politicians. Lo and behold, six months after the transfer of ownership, there was another sale of the property. Yes, to the same interests who were involved earlier.

No, there was no problem in obtaining a zoning change. Yes, within a year a shopping center stood on the property.

Perhaps my father-in-law should have “befriended” the politicians himself? We might be living on the lake. But that was in New York where such events were commonplace.

On the other hand, the community itself has a legitimate interest to protect its own habitat. Once you allow drastic changes, they are irreversible. That’s what many see in the density aspect of the Wizer plans.

They fear adding that size a project in downtown will create chaos for those living nearby or normal visitors to the area. The added number of people and cars could create havoc in traversing the neighborhood, not to mention the potential domination of surroundings by a five-story structure. Could we still be a village?

My concern really is regarding many of those who wrote supporting the development, especially those who stressed the “vibrancy” the project will provide us. Was it only coincidence that word was repeated in so many letters? The people who used them are the same people who were pushing for the high-density development of the Foothills and for the streetcar.

If the current development plan goes through, is it a first step toward a return to those previous two issues? Would the creation of a continuing traffic jam be an argument for reintroducing the push for a Portland to LO streetcar? And would the streetcar then allow the high-density development of Foothills? Those are just questions. I’ll leave it up to readers to answer them for themselves.

Gary Gipson, Lake Oswego, is a board member of COLA-LO.



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