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Education and other plan topics would be addressed elsewhere

The city council is poised to change which topics are addressed in the updated version of the city’s comprehensive plan, which has been undergoing a required periodic review over the past few years.

During a study session Tuesday, Council President Mike Kehoe made a motion to remove goals and policies on topics not directly related to land use and to instead draft a report that addresses those subjects — such as arts and culture and schools — in a different way.

The city is at least two years into the roughly three-year process to update the comp plan, a blueprint that guides where and how the city grows and develops in the next two decades. The city recently landed a national planning award for its public outreach efforts in working on the plan, including more than 75 outreach events and involving more than 2,500 community members.

City Manager Tom Coffee said some neighborhood association leaders have expressed concern about the “content of the updated plan,” and the council is scheduled this year to review final drafts of plan sections advanced by a citizen advisory committee, the planning commission and previous city council.

Ron Bunch, acting planning and building services director, said some community members and groups remain particularly concerned with policies related to density and mixed uses that could have an impact on the character of existing residential neighborhoods.

He said the council is likely interested in whether the plan represents “a good tool by which council can provide direction, make policy, weigh and balance decisions against policies that are in the plan.”

“Is it a tool you can use to effectively govern?” he asked.

Kehoe said his proposal was not “a rejection of three years of work” but would help the council wrap up the project and address some community members’ lingering concerns.

“I think objectives have been raised over the last couple of years ... in particular regarding density,” he said. “I think that’s because people like the community the way it is and don’t want to see it pick up more density in their neighborhoods.”

Councilor Jon Gustafson disagreed.

“That motion scares the heck out of me; it ought to scare the citizens of this city,” he said. “You may not think it’s throwing out three years of process, but every one of these topics has gone through a 10-step public review process. To come along at this point in the game with such sweeping revisions and not give a similar review process to them ... does absolutely no justice to the idea that we want to involve citizens in the whole comprehensive plan process.”

Bill Gaar, a longtime resident who is chairman of the city’s planning commission and participated on a citizen advisory committee working on the comp plan, said he has shared concerns about density and brought those to the table during the update process.

“The idea there hasn’t been outreach, that this has not been an inclusive process and that individual residential neighborhoods in Lake Oswego are not at the foremost of the (citizen advisory committee) and planning commission and the people I talk to every day is contrary to what I’m hearing; it’s contrary to what I see,” he said.

Jim Johnson, a planning commissioner who works as a land-use planner for the state, said many of the topics now proposed for elimination from the comprehensive plan are “cross-cutting issues.”

While not defined as land use, he said, “They’re going to direct how you think on certain land-use policies” and have an influence on long-term quality of life issues.

Councilor Jeff Gudman, who as the council’s liaison to the process is heading up the comp plan citizen advisory committee, said he supported waiting until the council’s April 16 meeting to revisit the discussion. That would give time to citizens to testify along with notification that the council plans to vote on the issue.

“This is a big change,” Gudman said.

The vote to delay making a decision passed 4-3, with Gudman, Gustafson and councilors Donna Jordan and Skip O’Neill in favor and Kehoe, Councilor Karen Bowerman and Mayor Kent Studebaker opposed.

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