By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The Keizer City Council’s attempt to assess fees on a lighting district in Keizer Station Area C (where the new Bonaventure apartments are located) met with unexpected resistance Monday, Oct. 3.
The creation of lighting districts is standard practice for the city when new developments are approved. The end users then pay an annual rate attached to their tax bills for the installation and maintenance of street lights. In most cases, the assessments are made long before someone buys the first home in a subdivision, but the lighting district in Area C roped in a handful of private residences and the fees will now be assessed to the owners.
That proposition angered Alicia Singh, an owner of two of the affected residential properties.
“There was lighting there before and we were fine with that. I didn’t ask for the new lighting to be on my street,” Singh said.
Singh spoke out during a public hearing on the assessment which will cost her and additional $314.40 for both properties in the first year and $191.68 each year after the initial installation.
Singh’s properties are zoned for mixed use and could, hypothetically, be sold and redeveloped at a greater value with the addition of nearby streetlights.
“You’re having to pay a portion and your property is receiving a benefit. You could develop it as mixed use or commercial,” said City Manager Chris Eppley.
But Singh would not be placated, she retorted, “This expenditure falls to me and it would only benefit Bonaventure and Mountain West (the developers behind the new apartments).”
When determining how to assess the property, city staff did seek an outside-the-box solution. Given that the new apartment residents will reap the lion’s share of the benefit from the new lighting, the lighting district assessment was calculated based on the amount of square footage each property owner possesses. In a traditional calculation, the lighting costs would be dispersed evenly among the affected owners.
Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark tried to appeal to a greater sense of community.
“Without the light, we’d have a gap and a dark area. The continuity is a safety issue and it makes it more livable for people in the area,” Clark said.
That also did not pass muster with Singh who said new residents are already causing increased litter and pedestrian traffic on her property. On a brief walk through her property on Tuesday, Oct. 4, Singh demonstrated how some pedestrians veer off the bike path and take a shortcut along the eastern edge of her property line and then cut across a neighbor’s yard to exit on McLeod Lane Northeast.
Since apartment construction began, a barn in the rear of her property – which trespassers must walk by to make their way to McLeod – has been vandalized and broken into. Cracks also began appearing in concrete patios and walkways on her property once compactors started operating across the street.
The largest inconvenience has to do with her garage, which faces Chemawa. A 14-foot easement dedicated to the city by the prior owner, which has since become an additional lane on Chemawa, has essentially rendered the garage unusable in its current state.
Earlier this year, Singh was talking with the project director, Bonaventure’s Ben Settecase, about the need to move the garage door from the south side of the home to the west side. Singh said crews from the Bonaventure development made a trip to her home to assess what was needed to reorient the garage, she assumed at their expense, but nothing ever came to fruition. She said the last time a meeting was set, Bonaventure representatives no-showed.
Singh understands that she is likely to benefit from the improvements in the area when she does sell the property, but that isn’t in the cards right now.
“I bought the home to live here,” she said.
Despite Singh’s objections, the lighting district’s costs were assessed to her properties along with all the others in Area C, which roughly stretches from Chemawa Road North to Keizer Little League Park.