By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
A new wrinkle – and potentially large hurdle – was thrown into the plans for The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park project last week.
As detailed in the Keizertimes last week, mayor Lore Christopher expressed concern at the Jan. 21 Keizer City Council meeting about the three potential sites proposed for the play structure, which is scheduled to be built by volunteers in Keizer Sept. 17 to 21.
When Christopher mentioned wanting to use part of the 28 acres of Buchholz property along Chemawa Road that is in city limits but is not part of Keizer’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), a big concern was raised: could the land be useable in time without delaying the project?
Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, was tasked with reporting back at next week’s council meeting what work would need to be done to make it happen.
“That property needs to be master planned,” Brown said. “(The play structure) can’t just be plopped down. It’s just about two acres of the 28 acres that would be used.”
Brown said the property is zoned for Exclusive Farm Use-Special Agriculture currently. Officials from the state, Marion County and Salem would all have to sign off on the property becoming a part of Keizer’s UGB.
“If all the stars align, we’re looking at six months to get it done,” Brown said. “We need to get it in our UGB one way or another. The big question is if we can do it. The land is part of our inventory. It’s already accounted for acreage.”
Sam Litke, senior planner for Keizer, said both Polk and Marion Counties have to be involved.
“Amending the UGB line requires Marion County commissioners to amend their map,” Litke said.
Brown noted councilors don’t need to know whether the process can be done or not.
“It’s not a question of if,” he said. “It’s a question of if it can be done in that time.”
Consultant Leathers and Associates has sent project leaders a final design for the play structure. Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, said it’s to be determined if the design needs to be changed with a possible move.
“I can’t give you solid answers as a different location that hasn’t been identified yet may or may not require a change to the design,” Lawyer said. “The primary issue I see that could change the design is the access points into the playground.”
Richard Walsh, Clint Holland and play structure designer Jane Lewis Holman from Leathers all had pointed to an area south of the KRP amphitheater as the site. Walsh, Holland and councilor Jim Taylor looked again at the Buchholz property last Saturday.
“Actually that was my first choice, but I was told the 28 acres was off limits,” Walsh said. “If we can have access to that site, I would be thrilled beyond belief. But I was told that was impossible. Then again, nothing is impossible with Lore Christopher.
“My biggest concern is if it meant delaying (the project) for another year, I would be very worried,” Walsh added. “I would be concerned about losing momentum and critical volunteers.”
For her part, Christopher shares that worry.
“Absolutely I’m concerned,” she said. “We have people signed up. I don’t want to lose that. We’re moving forward with the intention we will be in there in September, building the really big play structure.”
Christopher noted the site she wants considered has limited possible uses.
“It is uniquely park land,” she said. “There can’t be a big development put there.”