No hearing needed: Lake Oswego City Council votes to keep riverfront property
Lake Oswego's riverfront Walker property near Tryon Cove Park will remain in the City's park inventory.
City councilors avoided a potentially protracted debate about selling off the parcel and its floating dock and access path Tuesday night by voting to oppose the sale and scrap a planned public hearing.
The sale had been proposed because of the property's relatively low usage and high real estate value, but the idea was met with universal opposition from a group of residents who said the property provides unique dockside access to the Willamette River in an area that is sheltered from the main river channel.
A small group of those residents stood outside City Hall before the start of Tuesday's meeting, holding signs with messages such as "Save Tryon Cove." They joined a large audience at the council meeting, many of whom appeared to have signed up to testify about the sale.
But before the meeting's citizen comment period began, Mayor Kent Studebaker announced that the council had not received any written testimony from residents in favor of selling the property, and that he had heard from city councilors who had begun to oppose the sale after learning that the proceeds could not legally be spent on anything other than new park land acquisition.
Studebaker then made a motion for the council to not declare the property to be surplus land, which would mean it couldn't be sold. The motion passed unanimously, bypassing the need for a public hearing.
"I hate to take this (public testimony) away from all of you, but I hope you're satisfied with the result," Studebaker said, eliciting applause from much of the audience.
The council also focused Tuesday on plans for next year's City-hosted downtown fireworks show. Lake Oswego took a first shot at hosting its own Fourth of July display this summer after years of partially subsidizing the Lake Oswego Corporation's annual show over Oswego Lake.
The public viewing area for the Lake Corp show is limited to the constricted Lake Grove Swim Park, so the idea behind the City's show was to ease congestion at the west end of the lake by launching the fireworks from a barge on the Willamette River, where they could be viewed from multiple downtown sites.
That was the plan, anyway.
The show worked as intended as far as easing congestion, but the majority of the rockets didn't fly high enough to be visible above the treeline at upper George Rogers Park or Millennium Plaza, resulting in a disappointing show for a large portion of the crowd.
According to Parks & Recreation Director Ivan Anderholm, the size of the rockets — and the height they reached — was restricted by the necessary "fallout zone" around the launch point.
At Tuesday's meeting, Anderholm outlined a series of alternative options that the council could consider for next year's show. The first would be to keep the show on the river next to George Rogers Park, but eliminate all of the smaller projectiles in favor of only the highest-flying rockets. The downside, he said, would be that some obstruction by the treeline would likely still be unavoidable.
"It still will be a compromised show," he said.
Another option would be to relocate the launch point to Lakewood Bay, which would reduce the allowable rocket height but give viewers a much clearer and close-up view of the show from Millennium Plaza and Sundeleaf Park.
The third option would be to move the show to the Luscher Farm area, utilizing Hazelia Field and the entire Stafford Basin pathway.
The site would offer ample parking and viewing areas with great views, Anderholm said, but the downside would be a dramatic increase in traffic along the Stafford Road-McVey Avenue corridor, and the City would need to draw up a whole new logistics plan from scratch.
Anderholm also suggested the possibility of abandoning the City show in favor of returning to the Lake Corp show arrangement, or hosting some sort of alternative evening event downtown, such as a concert.
One final option: Replace the fireworks show with a drone light show, in which a fleet of drones would put on a choreographed performance. According to Anderholm, the drones could be launched from almost anywhere and they could fly much higher than the fireworks, with a much smaller safety zone underneath.
Councilor Jeff Gudman suggested removing both the Luscher Farm and Lakewood Bay options from further consideration. No official vote was taken, but several other councilors also expressed skepticism about the two locations because of concerns about fire risks and potential traffic problems.
"Lakewood Bay is awfully constricted, and I can't imagine the residents there would really be in favor of a fireworks show," Studebaker said.
Councilors Joe Buck, Jackie Manz, Theresa Kohlhoff and Gudman all expressed interest in exploring the drone show idea, although they had some reservations. Buck asked if the drones would generate a lot of rotor noise, and Anderholm replied that they would — although the shows are usually set to music. Gudman also asked whether similar drone shows have been successful in other cities.
"I like the idea of being on the edge, but not the bleeding edge," he said.
Kohlhoff asked if the cost would be comparable to a fireworks show, and Anderholm replied that it would be similar, although the show itself might be 12-15 minutes long rather than 20. The fireworks show contract cost $24,000, according to Anderholm, plus $17,000 in indirect costs.
City Manager Scott Lazenby also suggested that the City could look into the possibility of staging a brief demo drone show, possibly on New Year's Eve.
Also on the agenda
The council received the results of a midterm review of the City's waste hauling contract with Republic Services. According to City Sustainability and Management Analyst Jenny Slepian, the review committee received overwhelmingly positive feedback from residents about the existing garbage service.
The committee recommended extending Republic Services' franchise agreement an additional five years to 2027, subject to a recommended list of conditions that include decreasing customer-service call wait times, pushing back the earliest allowable pickup times for commercial properties and providing customers with clear instructions and labeling for recycling.
The council voted to approve the extension of the franchise agreement with most of the recommended conditions. According to City Attorney David Powell, City staff will now bring the proposed conditions to Republic Services and work to negotiate a new contract.