By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
For most of the year, plenty of big-picture work has been done regarding a revised master plan for Keizer Rapids Park.
Leave it to the Keizer City Council to get bogged down on the issue of buffer zones right at the end of the process.
For the second consecutive meeting, discussion about details for the buffer between KRP and houses along Tate Avenue – part of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association – dominated the conversation.
Councilors ended up unanimously approving a resolution adopting a KRP master plan amendment, which amends a 2006 resolution. Councilors also approved an ordinance adopting an amendment to the January 2008 KRP master plan.
Similar to what happened at the Nov. 17 council meeting, a person spoke during public comment at the beginning of the night to discuss the buffer. This time the situation was handled far differently.
When Rhonda Rich, president of WKNA, wanted to speak at that meeting, councilors had an extended discussion about whether or not Rich could speak on the topic, since the public hearing had been closed at the Nov. 3 meeting. Rich was eventually allowed to speak and asked for a 25-foot buffer to be expanded to 75 feet.
On Monday night, councilor-elect Brandon Smith, currently chair of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, wished to speak during public comment about the buffer issue as a citizen, not a Parks Board member. He was granted the opportunity without opposition.
Smith started by explaining the definition of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), a phrase used to express opposition to projects such as jails or garbage dumps.
“A few years ago during the (Keizer Station) Area C hearings, the adjacent neighbors rallied against a big box store and urged the prime commercial land instead be converted to a park,” Smith said. “The opposition to the proposed amenities at Keizer Rapids Park, which is a civic project, sounds a lot like NIMBY. However, it is worth noting we are talking about a park consisting of playground equipment and sports fields, not a garbage dump or jail. It’s a place for kids to play, families to picnic and exercisers to make me feel guilty for not exercising.”
Smith questioned the need for a 75-foot buffer zone, particularly if trees fill that space.
Smith shared pictures of the buffers between several other Keizer parks and their respective neighborhoods.
“Many parks in Keizer do have a buffer and they consist entirely of a fence and single row of trees,” he said.
With a 75-foot buffer from the Willamette River to Chemawa Road at KRP, Smith said that would be a total of 3.71 acres, with the Buchholz property costing $50,000 per acre, for a total of $185,500.
“I submit to you that setting aside land worth $185,500 to provide privacy for a few neighbors is not the best use of taxpayer dollars,” Smith said. “There is a reasonable option for a separation between the Keizer Rapids Park and the neighborhood, and that is a wood or cyclone fence at the property line, accented with trees or shrubs. I respectfully ask you to amend the proposed KRP Master Plan to remove reference to a dedicated buffer zone.”
When it came to actual discussion of the matter, city attorney Shannon Johnson noted staff made a dozen changes to the resolution based on feedback from councilors at the Nov. 3 meeting, which included a 25-foot buffer the entire way from the river to Chemawa Road. A revised drawing also showed expanded softball fields at the northeast corner of the park.
“It turned out to be more work than we thought,” Johnson said. “In the 2006 there was a Keizer Rapids Park master plan. It was comprehensive and very detailed. In 2008 the master plan was done for all parks. That 2008 master plan for all parks did not repeal or remand the 2006 KRP master plan. We decided we didn’t want to repeal the 2006 plan, since it has a lot of good information and background information. We want to amend the 2006 resolution and amend the 2008 ordinance.”
Johnson also referenced the 25-foot buffer.
“At 25 feet, that would be a pure buffer,” he said. “If you want something other than vegetation or berms there, this is the time to speak up.”
Minor changes included a humorous error found on one page by mayor-elect Cathy Clark.
“Can we take out the reference to disco golf and make it disc golf? I’m sorry, but disco is dead,” Clark said to chuckles.
Mayor Lore Christopher noted she talked to Smith before the meeting and mentioned the acreage count had been brought up by Richard Walsh at the Nov. 3 meeting.
“As Richard had said, every inch we take away from the people of Keizer we will never get back,” Christopher said. “It won’t be there for the entire city. We don’t have such a boundary for other parks in Keizer. I’m not even sure we have to say a specific amount. I would ask to leave a buffer for the neighborhood, but not limiting ourselves to a certain width.”
Outgoing councilor Jim Taylor, in his final full meeting as a councilor, basically agreed.
“To me, buffer zone means no softball fields or restrooms,” Taylor said. “It still belongs to the public.”
Johnson noted it wasn’t clear in November what councilors wanted in the buffer, but it could be altered.
“I’d like to see a path meander through it,” Taylor said.
Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, noted at other parks a standard fence gets put up, with half the cost being shared with neighbors.