Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How to change city codes?

City codes:  If you don't like them,
 change them.
Thoughts Regarding the Wizer Block
By Mayor Kent Studebaker

Excerpts from the Mayor's monthly column in the city's newsletter, the November, 2014 Hello LO, .

Certainly, as individuals we may have had personal opinions about the pros and cons of the development but as members of your Council, we are tasked with making an objective decision based on our City Codes.

From a strictly legal standpoint, once LORA had approved the project, the decision by Council had a framework – the City Code.  If I had decided that was not enough, it would put me in a position to be subjectively judging the appropriateness of any development project. A number of people felt subjectivity would be desirable for this project. But here I have to caution – be careful what you wish for. You may not want me or other Council members to be the taste arbiters for another project. Subjectively declining a project after a developer meets Code would set a dangerous precedent that could haunt us for years to come in terms of business development in the City of Lake Oswego. If citizens want to make changes in our Code with which a majority agree, then that is an acceptable way to change things.
How does a citizen change a city code?  
What is the acceptable process?  

The city is undergoing some code changes right now - changes that may drastically change the way things are done and how the city 
might look in the future.  If a group of citizens wanted to make sure city codes restricted absolute height and number of stories (incl. height of stories), how would they do this?  With the North Anchor development looming on the horizon, if this isn't addressed, there will be more battles ahead.

Goal #1 of the state land use laws require citizen involvement in every phase of land use planning.  Citizen involvement starts at the begining when the Comp Plan is created, then when codes are developed, and when they are implemented.  

There are opportunities for citizens to listen to study sessions and comment at public hearings with the Planning Commission and City Council, but one has to be totally committed to reading and comprehending the codes, being able to articulate what is they want to see, learn to write testimony that will be acceptable to the hearing body, and then go to every meeting possible.  Even when working with a group, it's a hard slog through the minitue of bureaurocracy.  At every turn, there is an interface with planning staff who may, or more frequently, may not agree with you.  What sane person would want to do this?

At one Planning Commossion meeting this year, Commissioner Ed Brockman brought a list of ideas/suggestions for new development codes.  Deputy City Attorney Evan Boone told him that codes come from the planning staff.  Brockman put the list into his pocket and said no more.  If a member of the Planning Commission can't get their ideas across to the staff, it is clearly beyond the average citizen's cability to do so.  Even the most committed of the bunch winds up frustrated and rebuffed.  

Respectfully Mr. Studebaker, can you please elaborate on how an 

average citizen could initiate or change codes in an "acceptable" or even unacceptable way?  I understand your motivations are pure, but looking at things from this side of the fence, I wonder if we are even talking the same language.  

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