Lake Oswego to begin work on Parks bond renewals, golf course projects
Lake Oswego's City Council voted Tuesday to start the design process for a new Parks & Recreation headquarters at the municipal golf course and to begin work on a potential ballot measure to renew a trio of parks bonds that are set to expire in the next few years.
Both actions were described as preliminary, with opportunities for the council to change course at a later date. The group also voted to conduct a residential survey in the coming months to get a better sense of public opinion on both issues before making any final decisions.
In addition, the council voted to hold off on a proposed sale of a portion of the golf course for development until after the survey results come in.
The land sale, the bond renewal and the Parks & Rec headquarters are all separate issues, but they have the potential to impact each other, so City staff asked the council to provide direction on all three in one study session on Tuesday.
"A few of them have such long lead times that we didn't want a decision by default to happen," said City Manager Scott Lazenby.
The golf course has been consistently operating at a loss for years due to declining play rates; the proceeds from a proposed sale of a roughly 2-acre portion of the course would be put toward expanding the driving range and redesigning the rest of the course into a more compact 9- or 12-hole version with improved drainage.
The Parks & Recreation Department also needs a permanent home, and earlier this year the council began considering a plan to build a permanent Parks & Rec headquarters at the golf course, possibly using some of the space freed up by the reconfiguration of the course.
But the bonds are the most urgent issue, according to Lazenby. The renewal would need to be put to voters no later than May 2019 in order to give all three bonds a chance at renewal, which means preparation work needs to begin now in order to be ready in time — even though a final decision likely wouldn't be made until February 2019, he said.
City staff have proposed renewing the bonds without changing the rates, so that taxpayers wouldn't see any changes to their costs. If all three are renewed, they would bring in an estimated $22 million in new Parks funding. The Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Advisory Board has spent much of the past year developing an official prioritization list of parks projects and mapped out how funds might be distributed if the bond measures pass.
Parks & Rec Director Ivan Anderholm recommended that the council also begin the preliminary procedures now for the proposed land sale and design of a new headquarters in order to get clear cost estimates for the projects. The design process for the headquarters is expected to cost $1.3 million-$1.5 million.
"With each of those three issues, there's an amount of work that needs to be done so that we can arm you with the best information to make a good decision," he said.
Most of the councilors appeared to support the start of preliminary work on the bonds, although there were some reservations about putting the measures on the ballot.
"I'd like to see us actually get some relief to people after the (current) bonds are paid off," Mayor Kent Studebaker said.
Anderholm said the bond preparation process would include a survey of Lake Oswego residents to gauge public support for renewal. Most of the council expressed support for the idea, although Councilors Theresa Kohlhoff and John LaMotte argued that the Parks board had already conducted extensive public outreach when developing its priority list.
The council unanimously approved the survey along with preliminary work on the bond renewals, but followed that up with a unanimous vote to not do anything with the land sale issue until the survey results come in. In a final 6-1 vote, the council directed staff to start design work for the headquarters.
Also on Tuesday's agenda:
The council backed off from a tentative plan to hold an election about a proposed group-annexation of properties that are inside Lake Oswego's urban services boundary but outside the city limits.
At the request of City staff earlier this year, the council began considering accelerated annexation strategies in order to save time and resolve what staff have cited as an unfair disparity in the current system, in which outside residents pay lower county taxes but still benefit from some city services.
The council initially considered pursuing an "island annexation" option, which would allow the City to annex most of the Lake Forest and Forest Hills properties in one shot, but a majority of the council said they preferred putting the issue to a neighborhood-level vote in order to give residents a voice in the decision.
Lazenby said City staff looked into the election option, however, and found that it would be extremely time-consuming and expensive because it would require staff to generate legal descriptions of each of the hundreds of properties.
"It did appear that it was more complicated and more expensive than we first thought," he told the council on Tuesday.
Lazenby recommended that the council preserve the election option for more limited cases in which groups of neighbors appear to collectively want to annex, and focus instead on updating the City's policies to try to minimize the inefficiencies.
The council unanimously voted to end piecemeal "cherry stem" annexations, and voted to proceed with an election and possible island annexation approach solely for the small Southwood area as a test case.
LaMotte strongly urged the council to pursue a broader outreach plan for the rest of the outlying neighborhoods, and made two different motions to try to establish a timeline for the process, but both failed by votes of 4-3.