By KEVIN HOHNBAUM

A little over two years ago, Keizer City Council changed the development code in Keizer to allow large format stores anywhere in Keizer that is zoned for mixed use.  This change was made in spite of many hundreds of Keizer citizens testifying, writing letters, signing petitions and speaking out opposed to the change.

A local citizens group, Keep Keizer Livable, disagrees with the concept that big box retailers can co-exist side by side with neighborhoods and has proposed the an initiative that would limit retail buildings to no more than 65,000 square feet unless it is in Area A of Keizer Station.

The intention of the proposed change is not to eliminate the ability of retailers to locate in Keizer but to limit their ability to negatively impact our neighborhoods and roads.  Area A of Keizer Station is the appropriate place for big box stores.  There is no impact on neighborhoods and traffic stays focused within a contained area in which road patterns have already been created to accommodate the increase in cars.

We need to protect and enhance our local businesses.  The change in development code made two years ago allows a big box store to be built not only in areas zoned mixed use but also on land that is currently vacant or as part of a redevelopment project on River Road.

According to Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the non-profit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, “When we spend $100 at a local business, $45 stays within the community.  When we spend $100 with a national chain only about $14 recirculates locally.”

Why is it important to protect and strengthen our neighborhood businesses?

• They continually support our schools, Little League, soccer, Keizer Youth Basketball Association, choirs, bands and other youth programs through volunteerism and donations.

• They are generally locally owned and operated and their employees are our neighbors.

• They represent Keizer’s motto of pride, spirit, and volunteerism.

According to statistics from Walmart, big box stores generate between 4,200 and 7,200 cars per day.  Adding this volume of traffic to our city streets outside of Area A, will overwhelm Keizer’s already challenged roads and neighborhood streets. The city council’s decision to allow the siting of a big box store at Lockhaven and Chemawa Road would force all of the store’s traffic directly onto Chemawa Road, an established family neighborhood.  This is the immediate threat, but the potential exists for similar impacts throughout Keizer in the future.

Keizer Development Code says mixed use is supposed to “support transit use, provide a buffer between busy streets and residential neighborhoods, and provide new housing opportunities in the City.  Development is intended to be pedestrian-oriented with buildings close to and oriented to the sidewalk.”  The change made two years ago allows buildings of 135,000 square feet in any mixed use area of Keizer.  Keep Keizer Livable feels that big box stores do not belong adjacent to neighborhoods and are not pedestrian or transit friendly.

Keep Keizer Livable believes the future of Keizer is of the highest concern to all of its citizens, and we want to give people the opportunity to talk about the issues and ultimately make their voices heard. The initiative process is the vehicle the State of Oregon provides to allow this type of issue to be resolved by the people.   Petitions are being circulated throughout Keizer to put this issue on the March ballot.  When enough signatures are collected, State of Oregon law requires the City Council to consider adopting the initiative, saving any potential costs involved with holding a special election.

Kevin Hohnbaum lives in Keizer and is a co-founder of Keep Keizer Livable.