The importance of agriculture in our area is apparent the moment one drives a few miles north or east of Keizer—especially in the summer months.

Thousands of acres of prime farm land is bursting with the crops of the season, berries, nuts, wheat and many other products. Marion County offers consumers the world over a bounty of quality food that families have grown for generations.

Some see all that acreage and dream of residential and commercial development. But for the grace of the late Governor Tom McCall the fear of a continuous metropolitan sprawl from Portland to Salem could be a reality today.

Just as McCall and state legislators 40 years ago understood the importance of sustainable use of our land, we must continue to be the heirs of that legacy. While we can’t stop progress—and we wouldn’t want to—we can certainly be the masters of our destiny. That is no ordained notion that development needs to encroach on Oregon’s birthright of some of the finest agricultural land in the nation. The Willamette Valley may not produce as many pounds of farm products as California’s San Joaquin Valley, but our goods are as prized for their quality.

Keizer’s Housing Needs Analysis calls for the city’s population to grow by over 10,000 people within 20 years. The city has three choices: grow up, grow out or grow not at all. No growth is not an option, so we’ll have to go up, out, or a combination of both.

Some in public office talk about an expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary to build houses as if that is a done deal. Those of us who live in Keizer today have a duty to assure that our city retains its quality of life for those who follow us.

Any expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary north of Keizer will be a long political process involving the city’s regional partners. Though experts say Keizer will need more housing in the coming decades what we really need are businesses that will create jobs. If the Urban Growth Boundary is expanded the city and its leaders should push for more commercial and light industrial development, especially along Interstate 5.

Keizer can push developers to grow Keizer up and increase density in existing residential areas. Every housing challenge the city faces has been solved somewhere in the world. Creative solutions can be adopted from other urban areas around the country and the world.

The desire for large yards has decreased, the need for large single family homes will continue to fall as our population ages. Quality townhouses can be built above small retail spaces along River Road; two- and three-story townhouses can be built in the Keizer Station area. Let us build the type of homes that people will want in the coming years. We have the ability to mandate what types of housing we build in Keizer. Housing of this type needs to be planned in conjunction with the developers who will build and profit from it.

Expansion of Keizer to the north will take input from everyone who will be affected—the city (which will provide services), current and future residents, farmers, businesses and developers. By taking a page from 1970s-era state officials we can be leaders in the next generation of land use. We will have the opportunity to grow Keizer responsibly and sustainably while doing our part to assure that the rich agricultural land that surrounds us is preserved.