Work session focuses on growth

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The current members of the Keizer City Council sitting alongside two incoming councilors got a briefing on recent developments in efforts to expand the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) at a work session Monday, Dec. 10.

The main focus of the night was growth planning. The city is in the process of or recently completed a number of studies aimed at giving councilors the best information when making a decisions regarding growth.

“It is hard to read the tea leaves, but we are trying to give you good advice regarding what you can expect,” said Nate Brown, community development director.

The completed Education Outreach Grant funded a cost-of-growth study that examined the ways Keizer can make inroads in meeting expected housing needs in addition to looking at how other municipalities have expanded their UGBs.

Keizer shares its UGB with Salem – the only two cities in the state in that situation – and expanding Keizer’s UGB will likely mean divorcing the two.

“When Keizer was incorporated, we kept the shared UGB. It was not divided or re-described in any way. Until now, we’ve had developable land, but we are running out,” Brown said.

The report presents a grim picture of UGB expansion with a high price tag in terms of cash and staff time with unforeseeable outcomes. Of the three cities used for comparisons, one succeeded with relative ease, but development came at enormous infrastructure costs; a second abandoned its effort and a third had to settle for less than it desired.

While Keizer’s room to expand within the UGB is shrinking rapidly, Salem still has room to meet all of the required housing needs for both cities. Brown urged the council to take advantage of that situation and figure out exactly how the city wants to grow.

Keizer Public Works Director Bill Lawyer urged the council to maintain a good relationship with Salem even amidst a potential UGB divorce.

“We want a good relationship with Salem for sewer and traffic light systems. What we have works well. We don’t want to alienate Salem in a way that threatens those systems,” Lawyer said.

The Department of Land Conservation and Development recently issued a statement on whether it would be possible for the two cities to separate the shared UGB. It is possible, the memo said, but it will require the approval of the City of Salem, Marion County and Polk County.

What precisely Keizer needs to provide in terms of housing is also under review. In November, the council commissioned a new task force that will assess the city’s buildable land and housing needs. It is expected to begin its work in the near future.

In addition to all of that, the city still has a Keizer Revitalization Project study in the works. That study is looking specifically at the River Road North and Cherry Avenue Northeast corridors. Specifically, it is offering new visions of development and how Keizer can incorporate housing goals into commercial and mixed use development.

Once that study is complete, a Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study will look at how possible growth scenarios will affect the area transportation network.

“At some point we will have to revisit Lockhaven and River Road intersection completely” Brown said. “That kicks off as soon as the corridor studies are complete.”

On the topic of growth, City Councilor-elect Dan Kohler asked what role Keizer has in development north of Keizer that could potentially impact an attempt to grow on Keizer’s part.

Brown suggested that might be putting the cart before the horse.

“Even if we wanted a massive expansion, we are still so far away from that … we’re not even up to bat yet,” Brown said.