In my short time in Lake Oswego, I have noticed a palpable tension in the community. I see it in the NextDoor posts. I see it in the political signs. I saw it on the county fairgrounds when I encountered a cluster of vendors under a sign saying "Second Amendment Row."
It's not so much a red/blue political tension, although that's one way to characterize it. It's more of a rural/suburban tension. It's something our leaders going to have to be aware of, whoever that may be.
We also face pressures from beyond our city limits. I've lived up and down the West Coast, and it's clear that Portland is the last affordable metropolitan area on the West Coast. We're not going to be able to keep that a secret from corporations looking for an educated populace with (comparatively) reasonable home prices.
This adds up to potential conflict between those who may have grown up here, who look at this as a rural area, and those who've come from other places who wanted to live in a beautiful suburb. It's a matter of expectations. One side expects a certain overlay of rules and regulations, and the other prefers a more laissez faire existence.
For instance, one of our neighbors has announced a plan to turn his rental property in Lake Oswego into a day care facility. Another neighbor is protesting the traffic and noise that will bring. I've gone over the city zoning code and I can't find a provision that forbids this. In fact, if you walk down our First Addition street alone, you can see signs for a number of home-based businesses.
Other citizens are roiling against the possibility of single-family homes being replaced by multi-family dwellings. Of course, that's already happening, with developers building a number of duplexes and triplexes that so far — thankfully — don't look like multi-family dwellings.
Somewhere in First Addition is a rooster that's begun waking people up. I can see how suburbanites would find farm animals annoying, but I can also see that someone who thinks we're rural would have no problem with a rooster. I grew up next to a railroad track, so I find the sound of the horn oddly comforting. I'm sure someone closer to the tracks wonders what kind of antediluvian idiocy allows an at-grade crossing in the 21st century.
Where will this tension lead? Are people going to campaign for sidewalks every time a street is paved, instead of maintaining the rural feel of streets where there's so little traffic it's okay to walk in the middle of the street? Will the city allow ever taller office buildings to be constructed downtown?
I'm hoping our new city council and mayor can discern a rational middle ground that moves us into the future but still accommodates the pleasures that a small town provides.
Howard Baldwin is a retired journalist who lives in First Addition and is fine with any development as long as The Creamery stays intact.
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