UT zone hearing continued again

The city’s urban transition zone allows for a diversity of uses that make possible scenes like the one above, a horse corral across the street from a subdivision in north Keizer. 

The possibility of unintended outcomes kept the Keizer Planning Commission from issuing a recommendation on the future of Keizer’s Urban Transition (UT) zones. 

Commissioners are weighing the options for future development with UT zones with an eye toward easing the number of permits owners need to apply for while maintaining some control over how the properties get developed. 

The Commission held over a public hearing on the matter to May while requesting clearer lists of pros and cons for each option from city staff. 

“Properties within the UGB are not multiplying and there is going to be more market pressure to develop properties within the boundary at an urban density,” said Nate Brown, Keizer community development director. 

Currently, owners of UT-zoned properties – roughly 110 in the city – must apply for a conditional-use permit to make changes or additions to the property. The city would like to nix those additional fees for owners, but ensure that any changes don’t preclude future development. 

The question before the commission is whether to rewrite sections of the development code to promote the type of development the city wants to see, or go with a legislative change that might not be as finely-tuned. 

“The property owner would be the one to decide what changes they make and this is a question of how intrusive our regulation should be,” Brown said. 

A handful of residents turned out at the meeting to offer testimony, the bulk of which centered around the more rural uses of some of the parcels. 

“I have a little hobby farm and I have a suspicious mind, I don’t want to lose any existing rights to converting the UT zones to residential,” said Robert Orn. 

Resident Barbara McCullough-Jones voiced similar concerns. 

City Attorney Shannon Johnson said that such activity would become “legal non-conforming uses,” which means owners would not be forced to retire such activity in the immediate future, but if such uses lapse for a year or more then they would be in violation of the development code. 

McCollough-Jones also inquired about how such changes fit into the broader discussion of how Keizer will grow. 

“When do we say that we want to leave larger plots and green spaces. I don’t think we’ve had that conversation. When did we come to the point of making so six houses on an acre where you can reach out and flush your neighbor’s toilet?” she said. 

Commissioner Garry Whalen said those questions are in the process of being answered and encouraged her to come to meetings of the committee looking at those issues. 

While some commissioners leaned toward certain options, almost all expressed some reservation about closing a public hearing on the matter and, instead, continued it until the May 8 meeting. 

Commissioners asked for city staff to prepare a list of the four options with potential outcomes for each.