Adaptation, compromise rule council Revitalization talk

At the start of Keizer City Council discussions regarding the Keizer Revitalization Study, Mayor Cathy Clark said the group intended to take it “slow and methodically.” The meeting then ran another four hours. 

The Keizer Revitalization Plan is a roadmap for how the city will pursue future development and redevelopment along River Road North and Cherry Avenue Northeast. The goal is to create more flexibility for property owners to help recreate Keizer’s main drag. The council discussed the plan and suggested changes at its Sept. 16 meeting.

“Basically all the available uses in place are still there, but [the plan] does affect standards in the district,” said Nate Brown, Keizer community development director. 

After taking questions from the council and residents who turned out in relatively large numbers, the council opted for some changes and to continue the discussion at its Oct. 7 meeting. 

The plan includes recommendations and development code changes that include rezoning all properties within a to-be-formed overlay district to mixed use and tweaking the standards for development within the district. The report also includes suggestions for transportation improvements and public investment. 

First and foremost, the city wants to encourage redevelopment along the commercial corridors. To do so, it proposes relaxing some standards, like off-street parking requirements, and tightening others, such as higher quality landscaping. 

The largest point of contention in the report was when the new standards would kick in for redeveloped properties. The study suggested implementing new development standards whenever a remodel/redevelopment amounted to 25 percent or more of the assessed value of the property in question. 

“You don’t want to go too high or no change will happen, but we might be able to tweak and redefine the threshold,” said Matt Hastie of Angelo Planning Group, a consultant on the project.

Speaking as a business owner and president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, Jonathan Thompson said a higher threshold would be preferable because some businesses might replace equipment inside a building that blows through the 25 percent threshold. 

In the end, councilors requested that the 25 percent figure include both buildings and the land underneath them. Exemptions are also planned for replacing equipment, major maintenance (roofing, HVAC systems, repaving, etc.), and interior remodels without a change in the use of the building. 

Thompson applauded the creation of three “centers” within the overlay district that he said Keizer Chamber members felt they would contribute to creating a downtown. Design and development standards ratchet up slightly in the centers around the Lockhaven Drive intersection, the Chemawa Road intersection and the Cherry Avenue/River Road triangle. 

Jonathan Eggert, owner of Creekside Veterinary Clinic with his wife, expressed concern over the reduction in off-street parking. 

“We are fairly constrained on parking now and any reduction has the potential to affect us,” Eggert said. 

In response to Eggert and others’ requests, the council asked that the current parking maximums be kept in place, but that any new or redevelopment applicants would be given the opportunity to pursue reduced standards. 

Other major components to receive heightened attention related to transportation, specifically what to do about accommodating travel other than cars. 

The study recommends narrowing the lanes on River Road to install a multiuse path for cyclists and pedestrians on one side, but one resident felt that isn’t enough.

“That leaves a substandard sidewalk on the other side of the road and it’s only solving half of the problem,” said Kathy Lincoln. “I encourage you to look at something that solves it on both sides.”

Lincoln is also a member of the Keizer Traffic Safety, Bikeways and Pedestrian (TBP) Committee.

Several councilors seemed reticent to reduce lane widths, but didn’t offer other solutions. Instead, they wanted to leave the recommendation more vague. That didn’t sit well with Brown. 

“We need to emphasize that it is a pressing issue to address the mobility issues in our corridors. We’re putting it off, but we can’t put it off all together,” Brown said. 

The council also requested that the final report include language directing the city to study the need and appropriateness of additional pedestrian crossings along River Road and Cherry Avenue Northeast, a nod to concerns voiced by the Keizer Planning Commission and TBP Committee (See related story Committee suggests below). 

The council kept the public record open at the end of the meeting. That means written testimony on the report’s recommendations can still be submitted to the city until 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30.