On growth: Long, possibly expensive road lies ahead

During the past year and a half, the city of Keizer embarked on several studies aimed at providing comprehensive information to inform a decision on how and where Keizer should grow. 

With many of the reports in final stages and others wrapping up, city staff briefed the Keizer City Council on where things stand at a work session Monday, May 13. 

The biggest takeaway was that whatever Keizer decides, change will take time and –depending on the solution – may be costly. 

“The city should be prepared to make investments and change the way we do business. It may require public investment in lifestyle changes,” said Nate Brown, Keizer community development director. 

Keizer is expected to grow by about 10,000 new residents in the next 20 years, but it’s also out of room to expand outward. That leaves two potential paths: rework the development code to encourage more multifamily and infill housing types and job-creating spaces, or try to expand the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) the city shares with Salem. 

In either case, the city doesn’t stand to collect any significant new revenue as a result. 

“If all the redevelopment or new development were to happen at once, there would be about $1 million in new revenue,” said Tim Wood, Keizer finance director. Most of that new money would have to go directly toward providing increased police or municipal services, both of which already operate in bottlenecks. 

The council will have to balance that part of the equation with whatever it costs to reach the goal of accommodating new residents’ needs. If the council opts to move forward with a UGB expansion, there is the potential for up to an additional $1 million in hard costs for staff time and legal bills while trying to wrangle approvals from other governing agencies. 

Brown noted that the cost of all the studies to date have been covered by grants made available at the state level, there will be no such money to assist with expanding the UGB. 

While the path to UGB expansion appears fraught, Brown also gave the council some relatively better news. By changing the development code and encouraging redevelopment at higher densities, Keizer could accommodate up to 5,700 new residential units and foster the creation of 6,000 new jobs. 

Details on how that could be accomplished are still forthcoming, but Shane Witham, Keizer’s senior planner, presented it as preliminary findings from a draft of a report heading for the Housing Needs Assessment and Buildable Lands Inventory later this month. 

That forecast sounds rosy, but there is no market pressure to redevelop spaces in Keizer.

“In the near term, there is not a lot of likelihood of redevelopment, the current return along River Road is fairly stable and fairly healthy,” Brown said. “The best way to invest is to focus on the long term. The market will put on more and more pressure. Retail tends to reinvent itself on a regular basis, but it is something you will have to consider.”

The type of development also matters, added City Manager Chris Eppley, “Single family residences consume more resources than they pay for, multifamily gets closer [to breaking even]. If the shift were to more employment land, it would have higher value and personal property taxes that go to the state and pays for a lot of everything else.”

The council isn’t forecasting the route it will choose and isn’t expected to make a decision anytime soon, but soon it will have much of the information it can hope to have before determining the city’s next moves.