By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
There’s an old adage that states: if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
It’s been applied to everything from business to spiritual enlightenment. However, a new study commissioned by the city through a grant from Oregon Department of Transportation, will set out to determine what growing pains residents are willing to endure.
“We’re looking at the impacts of growing by a little and a lot,” said Nate Brown, director of community development for Keizer. “My biggest fear is that city leaders are going to make the decision to expand the urban growth boundary (UGB) based on an ideology. If that happens, River Road could turn into Mission Street. If that’s what people want, we can do that, but I want everyone to be thoughtful about how we decide.”
The UGBs throughout the state dictate the amount of sprawl cities are permitted to have. Keizer shares its boundary with Salem, and Keizer is running out of developable property while Salem contains enough for both cities for the next 20 years. While leaders in both cities have talked for years about expanding the boundary, nothing has come of the talks. Brown is hoping that the study can provide more insight into whether the conversation is worth continuing or if Keizer residents are happy with things as they are.
Expansion of the UGB at some point is almost taken as a given, but the role Keizer retains in charting its destiny will be up to city leaders and have far-reaching impacts. Expansion of any size will require additional infrastructure costs and will generate more traffic. Keizer also sits in the middle of some of the most fertile agricultural land in the world and losing any portion of that might be weighed heavily against the expansion of the UGB. In Keizer, the UGB question is one that looms large over any discussion of the development code within the city.
“The UGB influences how we look at parking and how much we require. Every time we open the code book, the UGB is a factor,” Brown said.
This week, consultants from OTAC were in town interviewing groups of stakeholders about their vision for the future of Keizer. The interviews were held Wednesday, Dec. 6, and included representatives from neighborhood associations, the Hispanic community, members of the Keizer City Council, members of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, the Keizer Planning Commission and citizens-at-large.
“What we will end up with is a report that compares and contrasts Keizer with other cities and how they dealt with their growth, and look at how it impacted livability and other issues,” Brown said.
The report is expected in early 2018 and will presented to the Keizer City Council.
Brown expected the largest contribution from the consultants to emerge from viewing Keizer with a broader perspective.
“They’ve done similar studies internationally and across the nation,” Brown said.
In the meantime, Keizer continues to grow. According to the latest population numbers provided by Portland State University, Keizer now has 38,345 residents. That’s a growth of about 2 percent (or 840 people) over the 2016 figures and nearly double the population the city had when it incorporated in 1983.
The results of the growth study, will be paired with the results of the Keizer Revitalization Plan. The Revitalization Plan, which Brown hopes to commence in 2018, will examine commercial areas in Keizer, primarily River Road north of the city limits to Wheatland Road and Cherry Avenue Northeast.
“When we have this body of information, we will be able to approach the council and ask what they want to do regarding UGB expansion,” said Brown.