Keizer voters were practically split on whether they wanted to restrict where large retail buildings could be built though it was rejected with a spare 34 votes. The city council voted on Monday to approve the master plan for Area C of Keizer Station, with caveats, and sent the plan back to city staff to finalize it.
Where does Keizer go from here? First, the city council needs to own its decision. Approval of the multi-million dollar mixed used development in Area C was never really in doubt. The council was resolute in its demand that the entire area be developed at the same time—the proposed large retail store along with the smaller mixed used and medical buildings.
One of the overarching issues will be what the traffic in that area will evolve into once Area C is built out completely. There were three traffic studies submitted, two which stated that the plan could handle the expected traffic and a third which said the first two surveys were flawed. It is a moot point now. But if weekday afternoon and weekend traffic ends up being snarled as drivers try to figure out how to get to the big retail building, there will be a lot of angry residents. But, we won’t borrow trouble just yet; we’ll concede to the experts and hope for the best.
Now that that master plan for Area C is approved and voters have rejected restrictions on where large retail buildings can be located, the city council should turn its attention back to River Road.
One of these first actions should be to restore Urban Renewal District monies borrowed from River Road Renaissance to fund the over-budget civic center project and to purchase land at Keizer Station (which will be sold to a third party).
Replacing that money should restart the beautification project that is incomplete. There are still too many stretches sidewalks along River Road that have not been renovated. The meandering sidewalks and native plants are a big hit with Keizerites. Let’s finish the project.
The city has repeatedly said that requests for Urban Renewal grants has slowed to a trickle. It is time to be proactive, identify the blocks that are badly in need of work and approach the landowners with an offer of low-interest loans to cover 100 percent of the cost of each project. Generally the landowner can pay up to half the expense. The current economic climate does now allow some business owners to pony up tens of thousands of dollars. We should make it easy; the city will pay, and the landowners would receive favorable loan terms.
The viability of River Road businesses was cited often as one of the reasons for the just-defeated Measure 24-314. The city council has repeatedly voiced its support for merchants along Keizer’s main arterial. Now that the Area C plan is all but put to bed, let’s turn our attention back to Keizer’s original shopping district.