By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Organizers of a proposed ballot measure limiting where big box stores could be built in Keizer are “confident” they’ll have enough signatures to put the issue before voters.

Keep Keizer Livable, founded in 2007 in response to a proposed big-box store at the southeast intersection of Lockhaven Drive and Chemawa Road, have raised about $6,673 in total contributions, according to ORESTAR.

If it makes the ballot, Keizer voters would make their voices heard in a special election in March 2011.

Members have been canvassing neighborhoods for the past several weeks. And Kevin Hohnbaum, a co-founder of Keep Keizer Livable, said last week his group has attained the minimum number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

But the group is shooting for about 800 more. They need 2,739 qualifying signatures to make the ballot, and estimate they currently have about 3,300.

“I’ll be happy if we get up over 3,500,” Hohnbaum said.

If you’re a registered voter in Keizer there’s a decent chance a group representative has knocked on your door in recent weeks. Hohnbaum said the most resistance to signing the petition to put the measure to voters came from more affluent neighborhoods.

The reason voters give? “They don’t want to limit any business,” Hohnbaum related.

“We tell them we’re not limiting business,” Hohnbaum said. “All we’re doing is keeping our neighborhoods livable. Even though it’s been painted as a big-box ban, it’s not a big box ban.

The word “ban” has been a sticky widget for the group, Hohnbaum said. The exact text reads as this:

“No retail building larger than 65,000 square feet, including indoor space and outdoor and temporary display space, shall be permitted in the City of Keizer outside of the area identified in the City of Keizer, Keizer Station Plan as Area A of Keizer Station, which is bordered by Labish Ditch to the north, Chemawa Rd. NE to the south, Interstate 5 to the east and Portland & Western Railroad tracks to the west.”

“All it does is limit where the big-box stores can be built,” Hohnbaum said.

He said he’s heard “frustration” from visiting residents door-to-door. Keizer Mayor Lore Christopher, along with several city councilors, have publicly called for residents not to sign the ballot measure, saying it would hurt the area’s business climate.

“We’re hearing lots of frustration with city hall, with city council, with the mayor, with city staff … lots of feelings that people aren’t heard,” Hohnbaum said.

They’ve also been taking in money – and spending it, with ad buys in the Keizertimes and the Statesman Journal. Unions are the source of much of the group’s funds, with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 putting in $3,000 in separate contributions, and the Marion-Polk-Yamhill Labor Council putting in $1,000.

Local grocery chain Roth’s Fresh Markets has also chipped in $2,000.

“It was certainly a risk on (Roth’s President Michael Roth’s) part to step out, and we appreciate that,” Hohnbaum said.