Told about the suit, Hoffman declined to comment until he'd reviewed it. Officials from the corporation couldn't be reached for comment. Councilor Bill Tierney, the most outspoken elected supporter of keeping the public out of the lake, also declined to comment until he'd read the suit.
The lawsuit seeks to block any sale of public land to the corporation and calls the new resolution both illegal and unconstitutional. The suit says the city has a responsibility to âprotect and preserve the publicâs right of access to and use of the Lake.â
Michael Blumm, a law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, who consulted with the group that brought the suit but is not a party, is confident the lake will be opened.
âWe wouldnât have filed it if we didnât expect to win,â he says. âIt may take awhile, but we think this is pretty clear.â
The suitâs plaintiffs are Mark Kramer âa long time enthusiast of paddling on Oregonâs lakes, rivers, and streams, including the Lakeâ who is not a resident of Lake Oswego and Todd Prager, a member of the cityâs planning commission who has âcontinuously and consistently advocated for allowing public access to the Lake for recreational purposes.â
The plaintiffâs attorneys are working on the case pro bono, though there is a fund to cover legal expenses. (Donations are accepted through PayPal here
The access issue is a hot button in the city. After Pragerâs planning commission brought it up last year the Corporation, which employs several people full-time on a $2 million budget, packed council meetings with angry members. It was surprising for Blumm, who was booed at the meeting.
âI think if youâd attended some of those public meetings youâd be shocked at how quickly the Lake Corporation could assemble a room full of 200 people who donât represent the rest of the city at all, let alone the state,â he says. âThey have a political machine going on there and theyâve managed to scare people into thinking this is about property values in the same way, I think, that people used to think that if you sold to a minority youâd ruin it for the rest of the neighborhood.â
Although Blumm expects the city and corporation to team up to fight the lawsuit, they donât always get along. Last year, the city sought to stop the corporation from erecting a âwave abatement structureâ that was actually a wall to keep the public out. The Oregon Department of State Lands, which has jurisdiction over the lake and polices it with taxpayer-funded authorities, eventually blocked the wall.
If the suit is successful, donât look for Blumm floating across the water.
âI would stipulate that I would never go on that lake, but I donât think its right to have one lake in Oregon thatâs private like this,â he says.