Ringing in the new year with a new Lake Oswego City Council
The year 2021 welcomed a new Lake Oswego mayor and three new Lake Oswego City Council members.
The city's new mayor, Joe Buck, took the dais virtually as the highest city official for the first time during the City Council's swearing-in at the beginning of the Tuesday, Jan. 5, council meeting. Fellow incoming council members Rachel Verdick, Massene Mboup and Aaron Rapf were also sworn in by Lake Oswego Municipal Judge Bruce Shepley before sharing remarks to the public.
The City Council also discussed further efforts to help struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts include increasing the timeframe for temporary outdoor structures such as tents, as well as signage.
"While we, as your elected officials, will provide leadership, it is all of us together that provide action," Buck said after his swearing-in. "The future ahead will be defined by open doors, connections to one another, building greater empathy and new voices, which all lead to a city more accessible to the diversity of folks living here."
Buck added that the city's past has shown there's nothing that can't be accomplished if Lake Oswegans work together.
"The city we plan for today is the future of our youth," he said.
As the first Black man elected to Lake Oswego's City Council, Mboup said he is both honored and humbled.
"I owe it to all the many thousands who were here fighting for civil rights, those who were here and continue to fight … people like Willie Poinsette and all those folks in Lake Oswego for LOve and Respond to Racism," said Mboup, adding that he also appreciates the support of others who helped his campaign.
Both Verdick and Rapf thanked their supporters and the past leaders on the City Council.
"We have big shoes to fill," Verdick said. "I'm going to do my best to work with integrity, transparency and curiosity to serve this city to the absolute best of my ability."
Rapf said that while council members won't always agree, they will bring out the best in each other "because when we are at our best, the Lake Oswego community will be served at the highest level."
During the Tuesday evening meeting, the council also unanimously voted to elect Daniel Nguyen as council president.
Helping local businesses
The City Council unanimously approved two measures to help struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first was tentative approval of an ordinance — directing staff to return Jan. 19 with a final ordinance — that would extend the timeframe for temporary outdoor structures such as tents to be used through May 2021. Previously, tents could only be used for 14 consecutive days.
"Typically, they're not the types of structures we want to see up on a permanent basis," Planning and Building Services Director Scot Siegel said.
The proposed code amendments do not apply to permanent structures such as canopies and awnings, though there is now a more streamlined process to approve those structures.
Siegel said staff have been working diligently in partnership with the business community to identify and help remove obstacles people are encountering in a responsible way, while still looking after the health and safety of the community.
"This is part of our ongoing efforts to assist local businesses through the pandemic," he said.
Council President Nguyen asked if there was a provision in the code that would allow it to be extended longer than the month of May if pandemic restrictions are still ongoing.
"We know that the sun doesn't automatically come out on June 1," Nguyen said.
Siegel said the temporary structures would have to come down, but could be reinstalled and kept up for 14 days at a time during summer. He said there is a provision that would allow for tents to be erected again from October to May 2022 if restrictions are still in place.
Councilor John Wendland questioned the timeframe and process for permanent structures.
Siegel said if the permanent structure is an awning on private property, it would only be subject to a building permit review, which usually can be completed in a couple weeks. If a business is trying to purchase a seasonal enclosure, it involves a higher level of design and would require a land use review process, though it's narrower in scope than the conventional design review process. This, he said, would likely take two to three months.
If a business requests something different than those two options, it would involve a more extensive design review process, which could take more than four months depending on the complexity of the project.
The City Council also passed an ordinance to allow for temporary signs on an extended basis while COVID-19 restrictions exist. It would also allow portable A-frame signs for businesses during the same timeframe.
This signage is "subject to traffic safety, ADA accessibility, size limitation, and other applicable standards," the staff report read. "A-frame signs are portable and allow businesses to adapt to changes under Oregon Health Authority (AOHA) regulations as required by the Governor's COVID-19 executive orders, for example, by supporting curbside pick-up and drop-off, customer queuing, and general awareness that businesses are open."
The portable A-frame signs have been used by businesses along the Boones Ferry Road construction site.
"Visibility and access into businesses was a bit of a challenge and it turns out that flexibility, I think, has served the businesses well," Siegel said.
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