Opportunity knocks for Clackamas County's McLoughlin Boulevard
After years of engaging neighbors and businesses in the McLoughlin Area of Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge, one common theme emerges: The community wants improvements on the boulevard and the surrounding area.
Whether it is different shopping opportunities, business types, restaurants or housing, there is no shortage of ideas and common interests. Most everyone agrees that we need revitalization on McLoughlin Boulevard. A little background on the history of these efforts may prove helpful for those desiring to engage in this process.
Nine years ago, Clackamas County and the community embarked on a visioning process. We created a plan that contained a vision, values, and principles to guide the process into the next phase. The citizen committee was called MAP, McLoughlin Area Plan. The next phase was MAP2, then followed by MAP-IT, and now we are engaged in what I call the fourth phase, the Park Avenue Study.
The Park Avenue Study focuses on the boulevard but includes businesses and neighborhoods within a half-mile radius of the light-rail station. The study will be guided by the past work of the MAP committees. This study will address the specific zoning and building types and uses the community can find consensus on, including housing types and future impacts to neighborhoods.
There is agreement on three fronts already. We know we need revitalization of McLoughlin Boulevard, we know we need more parks to serve our families, and we know we need to expand library services and access, including more community space, programs and services.
On these three fronts there is great news. We now have a site for a new park at the former Concord Elementary School property. We have an agreement and commitment for a new library in the Oak Lodge area, and we have the Park Avenue study, which is just getting started. We have good reason to be excited, but most importantly, we have good reason to be engaged in the processes as we embark on shaping our future.
While many decry the excessive car lots on the boulevard, we also know these businesses provide living-wage jobs and are often placeholder businesses while landlords seek long-term permanent tenants in an area going through a transition.
In addition, there are more than 200 businesses participating in MABA, the McLoughlin Area Business Alliance. These business owners put their hearts and souls into their businesses to support their families, provide jobs and bring goods and services to our community. Many have participated in area plans from the beginning, and we need to be mindful and respectful of their contributions.
And while improvements to the area may be long overdue, Oregon is well known for its public-involvement process. Property, whether personal, business or public, is subject to state land-use law. Regardless of how difficult, it must be followed. The county must abide by state law, just like a private landowner. We can make changes, but we need continued citizen involvement and legal processes to achieve them.
In 1999 the McLoughlin 99E study kicked off the process, and I would like to thank all the citizens who participated back then, many of whom are still involved today. Our recommendations to the Oregon Department of Transportation and Clackamas County for more sidewalks and street lighting resulted in new sidewalks on most of McLoughlin Boulevard. Phase I of street lighting has been completed on one side of McLoughlin and phase II installation began last week. This was made possible by a majority of the businesses agreeing to join the lighting district at their own expense.
Thanks to those who volunteered their time, participated on committees and engaged in the public process, we are seeing improvements taking shape on McLoughlin Boulevard and the surrounding areas.
Your ideas and opinions are more important than ever, whether your interest is shaping a future park at the Concord School site, a new library, or the future of Mcloughlin Boulevard. Together, we can see our vision of a diverse and vibrant McLoughlin area come to fruition.
Paul Savas is a Clackamas County commissioner and Oak Grove resident.