(An earlier version of this story did not provide reasoning for a no vote from a councilor, though that comment is now available)
The entire Keizer City Council was in attendance for a meeting on Monday, Feb. 5, to discuss a variety of topics that created both hearty agreement and disagreement amongst the members.
CEO of the Marion Polk Food Share, Rick Gaupo, described the outstanding efforts by the Keizer community, specifically the Gubser neighborhood by helping facilitate donations for the Miracle of Lights event during the holidays.
Gaupo noted that the donation drive gathered more than 20,000 pounds of canned and non-perishable food items as well as over $40,000, resulting in at least 148,000 meals being provided to the community, a significantly higher amount as compared to pre-COVID donation numbers.
Gaupo presented the council with a large check to commemorate the efforts of the community.
The council held a public hearing to determine if the request for a major variance and partition of the residence at 527 Dearborn Rd. N would be passed.
The applicants, Micheal and Susie Le, appeared via phone while the appellant, Wendell Weckert, was in person.
Background provided by both City Attorney Joseph Lindsay and Planning Director Shane Witham revealed that planning staff originally saw the application and approved it back in Sept. 18, 2023, with an appeal to the application coming in 10 days later on Sept. 28.
Per city regulations, the appeal required a public hearing which the planning commission held on Nov. 8, and unanimously approved the application.
The appellant then filed another appeal on Nov. 22, which again required a public hearing which was held Feb. 5.
When Lindsay asked the council if there were any conflicts of interest, Mayor Clark noted that she knew the applicant’s renters socially though this was not an issue for the appellant.
Le began the hearing noting he would not repeat his statements at the last hearing, which amounted to him describing how he had met all the city stipulations to carry out the partition and major variance.
Instead, Le commented on his love for redwood trees, especially wild ones but that Weckert’s redwoods may not be in the best shape due to them being planted in an urban area.
The state of the trees caused him fear as he is worried one will fall and possibly injure a renter or destroy property, according to Le.
Clark paused to clarify that the point of the hearing was about the partition and variance rather than the state of the appellant’s trees.
Weckert also acknowledged that Le’s argument was not relevant and described the issues he had with the partition and variance such as issues with the gravel driveway or noise from construction.
“[One neighbor] is being assaulted on her own property by the noise and house addition from her neighbor,” Weckert described.
Going down the list of issues, the council noted that none Weckert presented would necessarily prevent Le from building.
Councilor Dan Kohler asked Witham if anything was done incorrectly by the applicant who responded that everything within the application was above board.
The council approved the request unanimously.
The council held a discussion, led by councilors Kohler, Juran and Cross, about placing the responsibility of determining whether the city should put new service fees to the ballot so they can be accepted.
Kohler described the process of instituting the police and parks fees for the city and the considerable amount of work that went into understanding the issue.
Kohler noted that this proposal would not affect any service fees already in place nor any compliance or mandated fees the city may have to institute in the future.
The plan encompassed 12 points of how the new service fees could be proposed and created. The full list can be found at Keizer.org under the Feb. 5 city council meeting materials.
The three councilors noted the intent that any new fees for service not mandated would be put to a ballot for citizens to decide rather than the council.
Clark responded that the council should have this discussion at a future work session so as to gather more points of view from both the public and the council.
Cross noted that the council instituting new fees could have a negative effect on those who are struggling financially and that a work session might not be needed as the issue appeared “cut and dry,” according to Cross.
The council made a motion to move the discussion to a work session on a 4-3 vote with councilors Cross, Juran and Husseman voting against.
Provided reasons for voting no revolved around the issues that would come with putting each idea to a ballot including the cost and time it would take.
Instituting a fee via ballot would create more administrative burden on the city as each new fee would have to be passed between the council, the city’s various committees as well as public outreach.
In addition to the work burden, the financial cost would be elevated as well because “slower means more expensive for residents,” according to Husseman.
A proclamation was made by Clark for Black History Month which was then given to CDEC member, Thais Rodick.
Public comments were made from Ken Gierloff who discussed working with various neighborhood associations in order to provide more helmets for kids riding bikes.
Gierloff also noted the plan for service fees and that he would have feedback for the council once more members had a chance to review it.
Matt Lawyer made a committee report covering how to incorporate the goals for Keizer parks as mentioned in the strategic plan.
Lawyer mentioned that the Claggett Creek Watershed Council will conduct its annual civic center cleanup on March, 19. This would make it the 14th year in a row this clean up has happened and wants the community to know that all who want to sign up are welcome.
The second public hearing involved the application by Quetzal’s Nest bar on 4415 River Rd for a liquor license.
The owner, Carlos Chan-Vasquez described the bar as a place that can “bring a little something different to the city,” and will have a wide craft beer selection in addition to food trucks in the area.
The council approved the OLCC license unanimously and welcomed Chan-Vasquez to the community.
The council dealt with a round of resolutions with the first dealing with the council adopting new measures for the personnel policy manual.
The updates focused on changes to travel, Equal Employment Opportunities for staff, volunteers, benefit compensation, holidays and vacations as well as sick leave accrual.
The council approved the resolution unanimously.
The council discussed raising the salary of non-represented city employees based on an internal pay equity review the city conducted previously.
The review was placed on hold due to issues stemming from the pandemic, according to Human Resources director Machell DePina.
The financial impact of including these pay increases will be around $145,000 with $100,000 already set aside though to gain the extra money certain general fund contingencies would be utilized, according to Assistant City Manager Tim Wood.
Kohler noted that “something feels wrong” with the executive team making the choice to raise wages backdated to 2022.
Clark responded that ensuring non-represented employees are treated fairly is a priority and that this raise will make things fair.
Council approved the motion, 6-1 with Cross dissenting, to create a resolution for the next city council meeting.
Reasoning for voting no revolved around wanting to be wary of potential budgetary issues for this year and next, according to Cross.
Cross noted wanting to find a balance to meet non-represented employees halfway on the matter of backlogged raises but also maintain an eye on the budgetary spending, noting how this year and next may be difficult for the city.
The following two resolutions dealt with the council approving a set of public records rules that will allow more transparency when putting out information.
The next resolution revolves around placing the Thomas Keizur maquette, a statue meant to act as a model for a larger model, in the Keizer Heritage Museum for the public to see.
Both resolutions were approved unanimously.
The final resolution dealt with the city buying land along Claggett Creek from Verda Crossing apartments.
The land acquisition will allow for the placement of a boardwalk along the creek as well as in Claggett Park.
The reason for the acquisition is that it will aid in the city’s wetland enhancement project meant to help recreate and protect the natural wetlands that Keizer is built upon, according to Public Works director Bill Lawyer.
Lawyer noted the pricing will be around $4 per square foot and the city will acquire around 2.1 acres.
Lawyer also noted that the city will be paying significantly less than others have in the past to acquire the land parcel.
Making the purchase soon will allow construction of the boardwalk to begin sometime in 2025.
The council approved the resolution unanimously.
The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20.
Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-105
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