Only a potential legal challenge stands in the way of what is all but certain to be Keizer’s first Walmart location, barring a last-minute change of course by at least four city councilors.
The Keizer City Council unanimously approved a master plan that puts a 116,000 square foot discount grocer at the southeast corner of Chemawa Road NE and Lockhaven Drive NE. An order formalizing the decision still must be drafted and passed by the city council, but at this point it’s likely more of a formality.
The plan for the Keizer Station portion known as Area C also includes a multi-story medical building and a mixed use structure developers said would offer retail and office space.
Councilors added some significant conditions, including language that requires the developers to obtain building permits and construct both the large store and the multi-story buildings simultaneously, called a concurrency requirement. In order for the big store to get its certificate of occupancy – allowing it to open – at least a conditional certificate of occupancy must be obtained for the two towers planned as part of the development.
Developers have yet to say out loud who the tenant will be for certain but signs point to the mystery big box in question as being Walmart. Co-developers Alan Roodhouse and Chuck Sides have mentioned Walmart as a likely tenant in the past.
When asked who the tenant would be Monday night, Roodhouse told the Keizertimes simply “You know who it is.”
Be it Walmart or some other firm, Roodhouse said to expect the firm themselves to make the announcement. But the aforementioned concurrency requirement means the big store likely wouldn’t start construction until 2012, he said.
“And that will only be if we are successful in finding financing … and are able to finish by next year,” Roodhouse said. “And that’s going to be hard to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do on leasing the buildings.”
That said, Roodhouse is confident he and Sides will be able to meet the requirements.
“It’s only a matter of timing,” Roodhouse said. “We can complete the project.”
Representatives of Keep Keizer Livable didn’t discuss possible appeal options, but it is a possibility the group could petition the Land Use Board of Appeals to review the council’s decision.
This was the second city council meeting where the matter was heard. Between 60 and 70 people came to testify at Monday night’s meeting after the public hearing kept the council in session past midnight last month. The council amended the concurrency requirement to make it tougher on the developer, deleting a four-year grace period for the planned three- and five-story towers’ construction.
Other conditions attached address tree replacement and traffic monitoring on Modoc Drive. While they didn’t make a formal condition councilors asked the developer if parking lots would be available for Keizer Little League Park patrons to use. Under the current design Ridge Drive connects to a newly-extended McLeod Lane, which will have the only entrances into the large format store’s lot.
Ridge Drive also is adjacent to Keizer Little League Park and regularly gets congested during busy game days. City councilors discussed stricter enforcement of no parking rules on Ridge Drive, but Adams said Tuesday he doesn’t “see parking issues rising to the top of the list unless we receive complaints.
“The new development should allow for folks to not have to park on the road side,” Adams said.
Councilors Mark Caillier and Joe Egli asked for more time to review newly-submitted information, but their motion to continue the matter until the next council meeting was defeated 5-2.
Councilors explained their positions shortly before the final vote was taken:
• David McKane – “I’m confident the master plan we have in front of us took care of all of the issues … Reasonable people disagree.”
• Mark Caillier – “I believe what we did to the (concurrency requirement) was appropriate.”
• Joe Egli – “I’d love to have our own traffic study where we have a guy go out and do the work… it would make me feel a little bit better.”
• Cathy Clark – “This whole Area C is bound on only one portion on one side by residential, and part of that will be next to multi-family residential.”
• Jim Taylor – “Will this be the best thing for Keizer? I don’t know … I really can’t tell you if this is the greatest thing we can do. But things happen. Things change.”
• Brandon Smith – “I’ve heard a lot of times we should try to keep the small-town feel Keizer has. … I would suggest the city has changed significantly in the past 50 years.”
• Mayor Lore Christopher – “I think that whether a large format store went into Area A or Area C – zero difference. We’re still going to use Chemawa, which is a small arterial, or Lockhaven.”
Opponent group Keep Keizer Livable took umbrage with the mayor’s comments.
“The developers have said this is going to be a regional draw,” said co-founder Jane Mulholland. “This is people coming off the freeway. If it was in Area A they would not come off the freeway, go up to Chemawa and into Area C. That’s just ridiculous.”
Mulholland contended councilors “had their minds made up” and “misrepresented things we had been saying.”
The big box battle inspired a ballot measure Keizerites will finish voting on Tuesday. The measure, which would restrict retail buildings bigger than 65,000 square feet to the currently-built portion of Keizer Station, likely won’t affect the proposed big box grocer unless the land use application is overturned by either a judge or the Land Use Board of Appeals.
The measure has gotten most of its support from labor unions, and Jeff Anderson – secretary/treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 – felt councilors should have waited to see what voters said on Tuesday.
“Why (did) they slap the voters in the face before they have even spoken?” Anderson said. “I think their time has come. I think this process has awakened the citizens and I think we’re going to see some changes in two years.”
Three council seats along with the mayor’s chair are up for election in 2012.
Anderson predicted at least one, if not two, River Road groceries would close if the store is built.