Nate Brown (second from right) talks about growth issues during a meeting Feb. 10 as (from left) Shannon Johnson, Sam Litke and Shane Witham listen. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Nate Brown (second from right) talks about growth issues during a meeting Feb. 10 as (from left) Shannon Johnson, Sam Litke and Shane Witham listen. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

It was a long time coming and it’ll be going on for a long time.

Last week, Keizer City Councilors and Keizer Planning Commission members held a joint work session to look at future growth planning.

Nate Brown, Keizer’s director of Community Development who led the city through the Economic Opportunities Analysis (EOA) and Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) a few years ago, reacquainted all with the data finalized in 2013.

“The intent of tonight is to lay out issues we’re going to have to deal with in Urban Growth Boundaries or Keizer future growth,” Brown said. “Over the last several years, we have been doing a lot of work through the process of analyzing. We’ve done a land inventory. We have gone through a lot of work. You would have to be under a rock somewhere to not know Keizer has been working on this.”

For those who don’t have a photographic memory of the work approved by councilors in the spring of 2013, the updating of the city’s comprehensive plan identified a land deficit within Keizer to meet projected future employment and housing needs.

“There is a deficit,” Brown said. “We don’t meet the needs of land in the next 20 years.”

Keizer’s population is projected to increase 32 percent from the 2010 figure of 36,478, meaning a 2032 population of 48,089. Under a high growth scenario, the city will need 21.6 acres more of commercial land and 41.8 acres more of institutional land. The city has a surplus of industrial land.

The growth forecast calls for a total of 3,774 new jobs over the next 20 years, a growth of 55 percent over current levels. The five target industries are medical facilities, information technology, educational services, professional services and sporting events.

By 2033, Keizer will need 321.1 new acres of land, with 267.6 of those acres needed for residential, 43.5 acres for parks and recreation with the remaining 10 acres for schools. With the 28 additional acres of land acquired for Keizer Rapids Park, that lowers the overall number to 293.1 acres still needed. There is a need for 4,513 new housing units for future Keizer residents, with half of that to be single-family detached homes and 46 percent to be some form of attached housing.

“The city is now faced with the task of setting a course and prioritizing the tasks needed to create an approach to responsibly plan and accommodate projected growth,” Brown said. “Ways to address this deficit need to be identified through measures ranging from encouraging more development within the existing city, expanding the Urban Growth Boundary, or likely a combination of various measures.”

Brown noted the Keizer Compass project indicated many Keizer residents want to maintain a small-town feel while accommodating growth.

“A primary task of any approach would include an in-depth cost/benefit analysis with each impact examined,” Brown said. “We all have emotional attachment, but we need good objective criteria. We should have extensive and vigorous public outreach throughout the entire process. No matter how we approach this, we need to have public engagement.”

Brown suggested four possible general approaches: amending Keizer’s portion of the UGB to meet all of the projected deficit; do nothing and determine all of Keizer’s projected residential need will be met elsewhere within the shared UGB with Salem; meet the projected need entirely within the current city limits without amending the UGB and developing a hybrid scenario which seeks to meet some portion of the projected need within city limits while modestly amending the UGB.

Chuck Fisher noted the shortfall in commercial and institutional land, along with the 27.8 acre surplus for industrial land.

“Are there areas we could rezone to commercial?” Fisher asked.

Brown nodded his head.

“It is possible that would be an option,” he said. “It’s certainly something to consider.”

Hersch Sangster noted the school land shortfall.

“If we just use the scenario we’re going north, aren’t we going outside of Salem Keizer School District boundaries?” he asked.

Brown said that could indeed mean dealing with Gervais School District.

Amy Ryan noted she’s done research on the boundary lines.

“I’m told they are flexible and are easily moved,” Ryan said. “Gervais would be happy to look at it when the time comes.”

Mayor Cathy Clark and Brown both noted infill lands were looked at in the past.

“On infill, we spent a tremendous amount of time on it,” Clark said. “That was taken into consideration.”

Brown said not much has been eliminated as far as ways to meet future needs.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “Everything is on the table at this point.”

City Manager Chris Eppley compared cities to fish tanks.

“Fish tanks require a lot of moving parts,” Eppley said. “If one piece doesn’t work with the other pieces, the fish die. Cities are very similar. Pieces have to work together. All decisions have a ton of moving parts and variables we have to study.”

Sangster said Keizer is in a bit of a bind in terms of future growth.

“Keizer is stuck,” Sangster said. “We can’t go east, west, south or too far north. To take the line and suddenly move it to the river or to I-5, I don’t see all the groups we work with to be agreeable to a smaller portion. I can see a point where Keizer just might have to stop.”