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The city will hire a facilitator, seek input from the community about what rules for city-owned facilities should be 

PMG FILE PHOTO - The city of Lake Oswego will begin a process for reevaluating rules that prevent access to the lake from city-owned facilities.

In the throes of a court case that could pave the way for Oswego Lake to become publicly accessible, the Lake Oswego City Council will begin a process for reevaluating the rules that currently bar access to the lake from city-owned facilities.

The council voted unanimously Thursday, June 16, to initiate the process, which will include hiring a facilitator that the city projects will cost between $50,000 and $75,000. The current park rules will continue to be enforced during the process.

"It's always part of our prudent practices to examine our policies over time, and of course … to do so in a way that's informed through public input and in the context of relevant laws, which, of course ,change over time," Mayor Joe Buck said at the meeting.

Later, he added: "There's nothing more important than the value of continuing to bring neighbors to the table, making sure everyone has their voice heard, and I think that's what this resolution allows."

In 2012, the city decided to prohibit anyone from entering the lake from city-owned properties including Millennium Plaza Park, Sundeleaf Park or the Headlee Walkway. This decision led to litigation put forward by Mark Kramer and Todd Prager that has lasted 10 years. The lake is currently owned by the Lake Corp. and its stakeholders can recreate there, while the public cannot.

Most recently, a Clackamas County Circuit Court judge determined that the lake was navigable at the time of statehood and therefore subject to public trust doctrine. The second phase of the trial, which is slated for July, will clarify whether the city's rules preventing access to the lake are reasonable.

In a staff report, the city cited the impact of the recent court decision and the need to understand what that means, as well as allowing the process more time and transparency, as the reasons for initiating this process during the trial rather than after it concludes.

"With this information, the rules we put in place in 2012 might want to be changed," City Attorney Jason Loos said about the impact of the phase one court decision. "Frankly we don't really know what the ruling means, which is why we want to initiate a public process that includes all the stakeholders — including people who live on the lake, residents of Lake Oswego outside of the lake, the Lake Corp., anyone else that's interested."

Loos added that the process does not mean the city is giving up on defending its position in the case, which is that city-owned facilities do not provide safe access to the lake.

"The city will continue to take the positions we've taken all along, and that's that our park rules are reasonable," he said.

From 2012 to early June of this year, the city spent over $428,000 on hiring Portland-based Tonkin Torp for legal help related to the Oswego Lake case, according to information provided through a public records request. The city declined to respond to questions on this expenditure, saying that it does not make comments that could affect pending litigation.


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