Mayor Lore Christopher has cited the expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) as one of her goals for her self-imposed final term if she is re-elected this fall.
Others also talk about expanding the boundary for the sake of future growth of Keizer, both residentially and commercially.
Before dicussion of the expansion of UGB gets too far, Keizer will need to take a step back and decide what is most important for the future of the city.
One can assume that if the UGB is expanded then the next obvious step is to expand the city limits, opening hundreds of acres for development. Adding new subdivisons with hundreds or thousands of homes will cost millions of dollars in required infrastructure—sewer lines, power lines, streets, curbs, etc.
More expensive than the cost of all that expansion is the danger of Keizer losing its biggest current selling point: small town quaintness. It is what draws people to Keizer, it’s what current citizens say is why they love Keizer so much.
Even though McNary High School is overcrowded, having one school draws the community together—we are all Celtics. The addition of thousands of homes would mean more schools and probably a second high school. Results from the Keizer Compass report on Keizer’s future showed that most people didn’t want another high school because it would divide loyalties within our city. Two high schools and divided loyalities do not foster a community or small town feel. Cross town rivalries never do.
Who would benefit most from an expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary? Landowners and developers would top the list. The fact that they would make money is not a reason to consider or not consider an expansion.
Current homeowners of Keizer would benefit if the boundary was not expanded which would mean no large scale housing development. Supply and demand would dictate home prices rise as Keizer continued to be one of the most desirable addresses in the Willamette Valley.
Any expansion of the UGB will have to be decided on a regional basis, involving Keizer, Salem and Marion County. Keizer can make a very good case for expansion to the other governments. But it will have to make the case to those who like Keizer the way it is. As city councilors know very well, current residents are very protective of the status quo (of course, Trader Joe’s is welcome).
Keizer will eventually face the issue that many towns and cities face: how to assure that we don’t become a victim of our own success. As it stands today, people clamor to find a home in Keizer. They enjoy our cleanliness, our volunteer spirit and our family friendly community. All the things that define Keizer could be vulnerable with a doubling in size.
With a static tax rate Keizer would be hard pressed to find the money to maintain miles of new streets and sewers. The police department would find itself stretched. The city can not afford new subsdivisions today; future growth and infrastructure must be paid for, either with a tax base increase or a new Urban Renewal District to pay for them.
Proponents of a UGB expansion will have to convince citizens who like Keizer as it is, why it is good for the future. And then, they’ll have to convince the other regional players. It’s a tall order but one that a leader shouldn’t shy away from.