By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Mark Grenz wasn’t surprised by the opposition on June 12.
Grenz, owner of Multi-Tech Engineering, has proposed putting up approximately 120 apartments on the 7.5 acres along Verda Lane at Chemawa Road, the area currently known around Keizer as the “cow park.” The cows would no longer be at the property and work – including a new road and other minor infrastructure additions – would be done to make the property ready for buildings.
“I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years in the Salem area,” said Grenz, a Keizer resident, following the public hearing for his proposal at Keizer Civic Center. The meeting attracted a standing room-only crowd in the council chambers. “People want things to stay as they are. This is what we face everywhere we go.”
Grenz said his proposal got started with a request from the Herber family, the current property owners.
“The family came to me and asked what is the best use for the land,” Grenz said. “There’s a small home and a farm house there now. We determined residential is not the best use of the land. This land is ideally suited for high-density housing.”
Sam Litke, senior planner for Keizer, noted during the start of the hearing June 12 Hearings Officer Cynthia Domas will be considering a comprehensive plan map change, a zone map change and a lot line adjustment. The proposal for apartments, however, is what drew the crowd of approximately 100 people.
“It’s a piece of property with 14 lots, a plan created in the 1950s,” Litke said. “At the time a subdivision was platted but never developed. This seeks to consolidate it into one large property, then change the zoning. The site plan, to develop with 120 units, is consistent with the (Medium Duty Residential) zoning.”
Grenz said numbers and configurations aren’t final yet.
“It will probably be in the 120+ range, probably three stories,” he said. “We’ve been working with staff for more than a year. We wanted the city to get its Housing Needs Analysis done.”
After hearing most speakers at the hearing against his plans, Grenz offered some rebuttals.
“There’s been assertions of an impact on property values,” he said. “There’s been no factual data provided, nor have we been able to find it. Some national studies show that with apartments created under today’s standards, the trend is for property values to increase.
“It’s the same thing with crime,” Grenz added. “There was a lot of assertion this type of housing brings more crime, but there are no facts to support that. The criminal element occurs in all places. We are required to provide retention for the water. Runoff from the property to Claggett Creek will be dealt with in the design process.”
Grenz noted he understands the emotions involved.
“It’s not unreasonable for people to be concerned or to express emotions,” he said. “But clearly this property won’t remain a farm. When the Herbers started on the property, a lot of Keizer was covered with orchards and farmland. That has changed.”