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$15,000 tax ordinance on home demolitions for single-family dwellings and duplexes will begin January 2020

PMG FILE PHOTO - Lake Oswego City Council approves $15,000 demolition tax.The Lake Oswego City Council met Tuesday, Dec. 3, to discuss pathways, parks and — drum roll — taxes.

During a meeting that lasted more than four hours, the city council decided to move forward with a $15,000 demolition tax on single-family dwellings and duplexes, approve the preliminary design for a five-foot walking path on a section of Knaus Road and place a hold on the proposed project that would give Woodmont Park a $1.42 million facelift.

Council approves demolition tax

After several community members, including representatives from the Home Builders Association of Metro Portland and other housing contractors expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed $15,000 demolition tax, city council approved the ordinance 5-2 and enacted the tax that will come into effect after the new year.

The tax includes a $5,000 discount for homes that are deconstructed.

If a home is deconstructed that means the building materials are reused and salvaged. This is an alternative to demolition, which would include recycling and landfill disposal.

The tax revenue will be allocated to the Parks and Recreation Department with the goal of raising $400,000 annually for parks maintenance. The ordinance also includes a three-year sunset clause, meaning the city can examine the ordinance and decide whether or not to renew it in three years.

The main argument against the tax was that it was anti-affordable housing and unfair to elderly or low-income families who are trying to salvage their aging homes.

Councilor Jackie Manz said that she's advocated for saving the older housing stock for the last five years.

"If someone is going to tear houses down such as mine in Lake Oswego, they are not going to put up missing middle housing given the cost of land, given the cost of construction in Lake Oswego," said Manz, adding that she can't imagine a $15,000 tax would change that equation.

Other councilors like John LaMotte reiterated that enacting this tax was not in response to House Bill 2001, which requires cities with more than 25,000 residents — or within Metro — to allow "middle housing" like duplexes, triplexes and other multi-unit, clustered housing options to be built on land zoned for single-family homes.

To read more about the demolition tax click here.

Council postpones Woodmont Park project

The City Council voted to reject the bid that would have awarded a $1.42 million construction contract to Benchmark Contracting for construction of Woodmont Natural Park, and placed the project on hold.

The proposed project would remove existing invasive trees, shrubs, vegetation and excess soil piles, essentially renovating the entire wooded area. The project would also include the removal of non-native trees, installing new trees and other greenery, re-grading the site and adding a restroom facility — which was not popular with community members.

Many argued that the park was a natural site and not a "destination park." Some said the restroom would attract unsafe conditions, transients and trouble.

Joan Goforth was one of the neighbors who opposed the project proposal.

"I urge you to recognize that we residents of this area love this park just as it is! Resources allocated to assist with the removal of invasive species would be appreciated! However, there is simply no justification for any type of restroom facility," Goforth wrote in testimony to the council. "Neither the traffic volume nor the duration of visits warrant one. There is a large amount of money budgeted for this park, money that could be much better spent addressing more pressing needs of the City of Lake Oswego."

Councilors agreed that the park's landscape needs renovation like the removal of invasive species, but after hearing the opposition from Woodmont Park neighbors, councilors John Wendland and Manz said the project doesn't need to include $1.42 million worth of work.

Council moves forward with Knaus Road design

The council decided to move forward with the design phase of the first segment of Knaus Road from Boones Ferry Road to Goodall Road. The project will eventually extend to Country Club Road.

Challenges with the project include limited right of way, conflict with utilities, steep topography and lack of existing stormwater infrastructure.

The project, which includes a five-foot path along the south side of the corridor and stormwater infrastructure that would run about 1,300 linear feet — or about a quarter mile — would cost about $551,000 for design, construction and staff time.

The estimated schedule to complete the design is December 2020.

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