By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Businesses developing or redeveloping in Keizer will be required to make more of an investment in the livability of the city after a 5-2 vote of the city council Tuesday, Sept. 5.

The council approved amendments to the city’s development code that will require new commercial developments and interior remodeling projects – valued at more than $100,000 –  to help fund the creation of new public amenities. The changes will also require businesses that remodel interiors to bring landscaping up to code. Interior remodels were exempt from landscaping requirements prior to the approval Tuesday.

“I think this proposal is consistent with our Pride, Spirit and Volunteerism motto. We expect all citizens to contribute to the quality of life in our city and it’s fair to expect businesses to do the same,” said Councilor Laura Reid.

Reid, and councilors Marlene Parsons, Kim Freeman and Roland Herrera all supported the amendment, as did Mayor Cathy Clark. Councilors Bruce Anderson and Amy Ryan voted against it.

The council had previously tabled the matter over concerns about the inclusion of public art in the definition of public amenities and how such projects would be overseen at the city level, especially as it pertained to making decisions regarding content.

The new verbiage offers businesses a choice: either dedicate 1 percent of their overall development or remodel costs to the creation of public amenities on their site, or pay the amount into a public art fund that could be used elsewhere within the city.

The goal of the change is to give city staff leverage when it comes to making beautification requests. Two River Road businesses – Winco and Taco Bell – recently balked at improving their landscaping despite making major interior remodels.

During the last discussion on the topic, Anderson objected to multifamily developments being included as commercial property. Those properties will be excluded from the approved amendment, but Anderson felt the changes were still a bridge too far.

“I’m concerned with the overall mandate on business. It will be required on River Road and throughout the city,” Anderson said. “I’m concerned about ongoing maintenance (for the amenities) and a bit concerned about liability depending on the type installed.”

Ryan urged fellow councilors to look ahead to possible negative outcomes.

“I think we’ll look back on it and question ourselves. One percent doesn’t sound like a lot for a small business, but when you have a major business that wants to come to Keizer it’s a bigger cost. Who could we potentially lose in Keizer?” Ryan said. “I want Keizer to be an optimal choice.”

Mayor Cathy Clark countered that approving the changes further embedded a cohesive vision into the development code, and added that choosing Keizer would make better business sense than picking the city to the south.

“If they think Salem is a better investment with higher property taxes and system development charges, then I say go ahead. Keizer has lower taxes year-over-year and this is a one-time investment in the beautification of the city,” Clark said. “Having a dollar amount helps (business) owners understand that they are making an investment here.”