City parks master plan at center of Council work session

The mayor and four councilors were joined by two councilors-elect to discuss short- and long-terms goals for the Keizer City Council at a work session Monday, Dec. 12.

Mayor Cathy Clark welcomed councilors-to-be Soraida Cross and Robert Husseman to the proceedings.

Cross, Husseman, the mayor and incumbent councilors, joined by some city department heads, started dicussions with the city’s parks master plan.

“The master plan ended up not  as past parks master plans,” said Public Works director Bill Lawyer. “There really wasn’t a defined capital improvement plan that came out of that update. It just reaffirmed the system’s needs both in the near future and the long term. It looked at potential growth, future growth, existing population versus what was projected.”

He did say that the Keizer Little League Park was added as a facility that could be eligible for System Development Charges (SDC) expenditures that could include adding lights. 

Lawyer also said configuration changes at Keizer Rapids Park could be in the offing, including a ROTC-developed  adventure course.

In response to a question about ADA-compliant improvements, Lawyer said topography makes compliance difficult.

“Primarily because of the main entrance and the hill that goes down from the main area parking lot down at the lower level. It’s very, very, very difficult to make that entrance accessible and meet the ADA requirements,” he said.

Regarding master plans, Councilor Laura Reid asked if they  were not about specific planning (but) more of an overarching concept for parks. “And so our goal today, or even in the master plan, is not to be specific about plans for our parks, but rather have a general idea of what we want our parks to be,” she said. Lawyer agreed.

Regarding Keizer parks, Lawyer said the city has few undeveloped parks. “Parts of Keizer Rapids are still to be developed, but all of our other parks, except for the lower portion of Wallace House down by the river and Northridge Park, all the rest of our parks are developed. So through the master plan process, we reaffirmed that we don’t have any underserved areas or re we confirmed that the underserved areas that we knew already existed still exist,” he said.

City manager Adam Brown said a long-term goal could be to develop linear parks—essentially a long, skinny tract, such as a trail. A greenway trail paralleling the Wheatland Road redesign would be a linear park.

Another long-term goal discussed was sidewalks. Brown suggested utilizing ARPA funds to develop a trial money match for residents to get financial help when required to upgrade a sidewalk in front of their property. 

When the sidewalks were upgraded on Hornet Court N., a cul-de-sac, in southwest Keizer, an LID (local improvement district) was established and the cost spread evenly among the property owners on the cul-de-sac.

Regarding streets, Lawyer related he had applied for Safe Routes to School grants, specifically for Cummings and Kennedy Elementary schools. The grants make access to schools safer and more convenient for students. 

“They scored horribly in that process,” Lawyer said, because they are local streets with low speed limits and low volume of traffic. There is stiff competition for the grants throughout Oregon.

A master plan should be updated about every 10 years. There is no proposed revisions to Keizer’s water plan. Explained City Planner Shane Witham, “I’m not proposing we update it because there’s really nothing that’s changed. The population hasn’t grown. In fact, the population is less than the plan projected for by this time.” He said Keizer has facilities to produce and store adequate water for the city now and into the future. 

The conversation moved to the Transportation System Plan (TSP). Witham said TSP updates are a big planning process, based on growth and population projections and take a number of years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The River Road-Cherry Overlay District came under questioning from Councilor Reid.  

“We’ve had several studies done lately; what have we really done with the results of those studies? Are they contributing to our understanding of these scenarios? These are pretty expensive consultants we’re using. What have we really done with those studies?” Reid asked.

Witham answered that some of the studies that the city has done have been centered around a wider Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) discussion. 

“The council adopted the cost-of-growth on the transportation impacts of cost of growth on transportation system study. It looked at the possibilities if the city were to look at expanding the UGB to the north.”

Witham added that another thing the city did was update the Housing Needs Analysis (HNA).

“How do we accommodate the needs we have for jobs?” he asked. “What do you do to make those things work? Is there more density? Is there expansion, et cetera. So they all kind of inform the other. I would say that the studies are not just done and we do nothing with them. Unfortunately, some of these studies have given us answers that there aren’t real solutions to, unless we have a money tree or several of them.”

Mayor Clark cited information from the recent Oregon Business Leadership Summit where it was announced that the state is up to 120,000 units behind in capacity for housing

“And that number’s only growing and the ability to produce that housing continues to not be there,” said Clark. “We heard words about producing housing and I just sat there and I thought, ‘Well, words are cheap, construction is not.’” 

Affordable housing continues to be an issue. “On the affordability side, that also ties into our housing homelessness, lack of transitional housing, all the different types that are necessary for a robust and healthy community,” said Clark. “Renting does not create generational, financial stability and certainly not generational wealth. And that’s something that the state has talked about a great deal.”

The city made revisions to its development code earlier this year, reflecting state rules allowing for duplexes, triplexes, quads and cottage clusters.

“We haven’t seen any of those projects come online yet in Keizer, (but) we’ve had a lot of interest. I have a few projects that I know are going to be happening in this next year where they’re gonna take advantage of some of those new state rules,” said Witham.

Councilor-elect Husseman asked the mayor to define transitional housing. 

The mayor explained that transitional housing is in the continuum of housing, especially for those leaving homelessness, or going into sheltered spaces. Then into residential care programs or supportive types of programs, such as the Union Gospel Mission or Simonka House, a women’s shelter. 

Mayor Clark said, “There was a lot of things that were not on the list (of goals) that we started as they hadn’t happened yet. Nobody saw a lot of things coming that happened in the last two years. We landed on our feet. We can definitely check the box on several of these—Parks Master plan update, we can check that one done. The Community Diversity Engagement Committee is now underway.”

The two incoming councilors shared their thoughts at the end of the work session. Soraida Cross thanked everyone. “I’m just super excited to be here. Keizer is home. There’s this amazing foundation. I am so ready to bring my enthusiasm to what I know will be challenging, but I feel like to be on an amazing team like this is just going to be a blessing and that we will figure it out together.”

Robert Husseman thanked the city staff. “I really appreciate hearing your comments today, and I look forward to working with each of you going forward. Thank you to the current city council. You’ve all been wonderful, grateful to have you help guide me through this. Great. It’s been a pleasure to meet you and grateful to have you. Thank you to those in attendance, those who voted in the most recent local elections and especially those who did not vote in the most recent elections. It takes a brave soul to opt not to participate in elections.”