Planning commissioners seemed unable in the Area C hearings to see the big box for the trees.

We hope the Keizer City Council doesn’t have the same problem.

In our opinion the commission started from the wrong perspective: The body essentially took the proposed 116,000 square foot big box as a given, and proposed modest steps to make it not quite-so-unacceptable to neighbors.

But while the commission discussed how tall a tree should be or whether it should lose its leaves every year, essential questions remain unaddressed:

•  Even if it is zoned for commercial development, is a giant discount grocer compatible with single-family homes just a few hundred feet away?

• Should analysis of traffic impact be limited to a developer-funded study? We don’t have a basis to challenge the numbers within the study, but we believe traffic impacts to the already-overburdened Chemawa-Verda intersection and a newly-created shortcut from McLeod to Ridge Drive to Keizer Road should be part of the discussion.

• Were exhaustive efforts made to develop Keizer Station Area C in the manner originally envisioned, with smaller stores?

In the past, our city council has proven more apt to grill the director of a volunteer library about where a few hundred bucks would be spent than to challenge our most well-heeled developer. We believe the council has failed thus far to address what a big box in Area C – agree or disagree – represents: A transformation from a busy, yet residential neighborhood to a commercial district that could one day stretch all the way down Chemawa to River Road.

And that’s OK – if that’s what residents want. Our city council has taken a laissez faire attitude towards development, and significant opposition – in the form of electoral opponents – has not materialized.

On one level, this would signal approval of this attitude.

But we’re reminded of what we heard, over and over again, at the visioning sessions: Keizerites young and old like the small-town feeling (even though we’re the 14th largest city in the state) and want to preserve it.

They also want “a variety of work opportunities,” ranked further development as “less important” and consider supporting local business “important.”

Read into that what you will. But the planning commission seemed either unable or unwilling to evaluate whether a big box discount grocer at Lockhaven and Chemawa fit within this vision.

In fact, the vision – that one we paid a consultant to compile – never came up.

And if our leaders are going to pay an outside consultant to come listen to what we have to say, then let their report gather dust on a shelf, what was the point?

—KT