By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
SALEM ― A possible urban growth boundary expansion drew little interest from Salem’s mayor and several city councilors at a Monday night work session.
Several Salem city councilors urged a regional approach, saying the proximity of the two cities to one another makes political boundaries less important, while at the same time they reminded Keizerites that choosing to incorporate in 1982 carried consequences with it. Environmental and legal concerns were also raised. Five of the nine-member city council were in attendance.
And both Mayor Anna Peterson and Councilor Chuck Bennett questioned whether Keizer officials want the boundary amendment simply to bolster the tax base.
“Do we get to ask whether Keizer wants more people or more tax revenue?” Peterson said. “I think it’s one thing to say an area wants more room so that more people can come and live there. And it’s another thing to want more room because they want increased revenue.”
“When Keizer was set up it aspired to be a bedroom community with low tax, low service,” Bennett added. “… Is this about tax base or is this about meeting needs?”
Salem Community Development Director Vickie Hardin Woods said there’s risk involved for Salem in how it approaches this debate: It’s possible any land expansion in Keizer could come at the expense of Salem’s potential future growth lands, but said “you could come back (to Keizer) with the same kind of argument” should Salem officials want to expand in the future.
And Salem City Attorney Randall Tosh said communities’ visions change over time, citing lumber towns with shuttered mills as an example.
The two councils are set to meet again in either July or August; a date has not yet been finalized. Both cities, along with Marion and Polk counties, must agree on any urban growth boundary changes. Keizer officials could seek to split the two boundaries – a possibility Keizer Community Development Director Nate Brown raised Monday night.
“We do not want to compete with Salem,” Brown said. “… The only reason they bring up the divorce is so you know it’s something out there that should be discussed. … It’s not like Salem has the ultimate veto power over Keizer’s aspirations.”
Bennett said that assertion was “disturbing” so early in the game.
“It was laid on the table, I thought, early in the discussion when we met with the Keizer folks, ‘Well, if you don’t do this we’ll split.’ I thought that was unfortunate,” Bennett said.
Consultant ECONorthwest concluded earlier this year Keizer would need 200 acres of high-value commercial land and 439 acres of low, medium and high-density residential land to meet 20-year population projections that so far have been approved by Marion County, but not the Salem or Keizer city councils.
Also, an economic opportunities analysis conducted by the same firm concluded Keizer had one job for every seven residents – an assertion Bennett called “absolutely contrived.”
“To somehow include it as an argument based on the cost of gas, or transportation – for me it just becomes somewhat disingenuous,” Bennett said. He added the analysis didn’t say whether Keizerites headed out of town to work were going “south two blocks or north 40 miles.”
This came as Brown argued that it’s “becoming more and more apparent that we have our own needs… the world is changing and we’re all going to need jobs a lot closer to home in the near future.”
Brown also noted a portion of Keizer’s undeveloped industrial land is restricted due to its proximity to the Willow Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Bennett contended the idea of “amoeba-like growth that can occur from one section of an urban growth boundary simply because of its political subdivision status … just kind of throws me,” questioning how such a move would fit “within the historical purpose of land use (law) in Oregon.”
Hardin Woods said that reasoning “makes sense” for a goal of preserving farm and forest land.
“But from a practical perspective that has run into a lot of bumps over time,” Hardin Woods said.
Councilor Richard Clausen repeatedly questioned whether state law should even consider Keizer’s lack of room to expand, given enough land for both jurisdictions exists inside the urban growth boundary containing both communities.
“Keizer did their thing, and they get to take the ramifications of what they did,” Clausen said.
“That’s what they chose when they incorporated,” added Councilor Diana Dickey.Print