The City of Lake Oswego's Development Review Commission will decide at an April 1 meeting whether to grant the school district a conditional use permit to build a new bus barn at 6333 Lakeview Boulevard.
The school board voted in April 2018 to acquire the property in the Rosewood neighborhood to house the district's 60 buses, despite the concerns of neighborhood residents who felt the site was inadequate and that communication had been dismal.
Nearly a year later, the sentiment among neighbors has not changed, as the district plans move ahead with the construction of the bus barn if it is granted the conditional use permit.
The district began looking for property for a new bus barn in the 2014-15 school year. According to Assistant Superintendent Stuart Ketzler, officials considered properties in Lake Oswego, Tualatin, West Linn and Tigard. The current facility at 4200 Douglas Way, which sits in a mostly residential area adjacent to Waluga Park, was the worst-rated facility in studies prepared for the district in advance of last year's bond measure. It is considered too costly to repair or replace.
"(The Lakeview) property met all of our basic conditions," Ketzler said last April. "We certainly recognize that there are challenges. There are challenges placing a bus facility anywhere in a community. But we believe that we will be able to mitigate the effects on the immediate neighbors."
The district's conditional use permit application states that current transportation maintenance facility is inadequate for the district's needs. "The building is approximately 4,500 square feet and is too small to meet the maintenance needs of the district's bus fleet, there is not enough parking on site to accommodate the personal vehicles of all the regular staff, and road access to the site is very poor as it is served by narrow residential side streets," the application says.
Residents of the Rosewood neighborhood are concerned that the existing problems with the current facility, including traffic congestion, noise and pedestrian safety concerns, will just be moved from one neighborhood to another.
Lakeview Boulevard is simply not an adequate street for bus traffic, they say, because it is narrow, contains dangerous curves and intersections, includes several traffic choke points and has inconsistent sidewalks and streetlights.
"Clearly, the current location has a lot of problems," said Gayle Thompson at a March 18 school board meeting. "The Lakeview site is 50 percent residential and will create similar problems for our neighborhood, and limit my children's ability to safety get to and from school."
In a letter submitted to the DRC by the community of River Grove Elementary, they said that not only would the bus barn put undue stress on the neighborhood, but that it would be contrary to the purpose of conditional use permits — to "provide a safe, efficient and effective transportation network for cars, freight trucks, bicycles, pedestrians and transit," as well as "... make activities mutually compatible and also compatible with existing uses bordering the zone."
Rosewood resident Lee Campbell argued this point in front of the school board. "If this were the DRC, I would want to review the reasons that this property does not meet code requirements: The lack of infrastructure to handle this type of commercial traffic, the safety concerns for the neighborhood that share the streets, the impact of traffic patterns throughout the neighborhood and the congestion for local businesses," Campbell said.
Campbell said she would prefer to appeal to the school board's sense of responsibility to district families. "You are here to represent all of the families in your district," she said. "I have a desire to have all of the kids and families in our district feel that they are equally supported by that district. I have a need to have all of the kids and families feel safe to play and walk in our neighborhoods."
Summing up the feelings of many in the Rosewood neighborhood, Campbell clarified, "No one debates that the Waluga location is not the correct location for the bus barn, that a new and better location needs to be found. I do not have a solution for where the bus barn should be located.
"I am however positive that it should not be in a neighborhood," she added.
As part of the district's application for the conditional use permit, it conducted a noise study, neighborhood meetings, a transportation impact study, a parking study and more. District officials concluded that the benefits of the new bus barn location would outweigh the costs.
"Given the relatively small amount of vehicle traffic on Lakeview Boulevard, as demonstrated in the Transportation Impact Study, ingress to the site is not expected to create hazardous turning movements," the district concluded.
Additionally, "Any adverse impacts on adjoining residential uses such as noise, lights or loss of privacy will be mitigated by landscaping, screening or increased setbacks," says the application.
One example is the 10-foot-tall opaque walls planned to help contain noise. "The residences that are located across the street from the proposed development are considered noise sensitive properties ... The noise study concludes that a ten-foot-tall opaque concrete masonry unit wall with solid sliding gates would mitigate the noise generated by activities on the site at or below the maximum noise levels," states the application.
The community of River Grove's written testimony said that the district needs to do more to protect residents of the neighborhood from the safety issues the bus barn will cause. "We feel the district has not addressed this issue in its impact report or mitigation plan," the testimony read. "In fact, the data represented in the reports and plan suggest LOSD sees no public safety risk from diverted traffic. If the district is allowed to minimize safety risks now, we are concerned there will be no way to hold them accountable later."
River Grove parent and Rosewood resident Nicole Snook agreed. "I think we could do a better job of working together as a community. The permit that you applied for does nothing to protect the children as pedestrians and cyclists in the area," she told the board. "My ask is that you commit to a plan that ensures safe routes to school, with measures that go beyond the property line. We can work together. I'm asking for your help to make that happen."
Rosewood neighborhood residents and businesses have submitted dozens of pages of written testimony opposing construction of the bus barn on Lakeview Boulevard. To view all of the public testimony submitted to the DRC, visit http://tinyurl.com/y5xzhj2k/.
The City's Development Review Commission will make a decision on whether to grant the conditional use permit at their meeting April 1 at 7 p.m.
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