A sensible way to expand

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An issue that will most likely arise during this year’s mayoral and city council election campaigns is Keizer’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). It’s also likely that most of the candidates, if asked, would say they support the expansion of the UGB.

Any discussion of expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary will bring up a number of issues: economic development, jobs and subdivisions in Keizer.

When city officials (both elected and professional) talk about the UGB they will be talking about the future of the city. It is their job—and their duty-—to deal not only with present-day issues but to plan for the future 10 to 20 years out. There have been council members over the years who say that councilors should not constrain the hands of future mayors and councils, but planning for the future means they have to.

Any planning for Keizer’s future must at least consider the results of the Keizer Compass Task Force Report which was released more than three years ago. The report was compiled by a Citizen Advisory Committee comprised of residents, businesspeople and city officials.

The report called for, in part, maintaining Keizer’s ‘small town feel’ through management of growth and development. Also called for was the desire to maintain a sense of community (the compact Keizer Compass report can be viewed at keizer.org).

Many think if an expansion of the UGB comes to pass it will be developed for residential subdivisons. An expanded UGB should not include hundreds or thousands of new homes; it should mostly be reserved for things that bring jobs (and tax revenues) to Keizer—light industrial, office parks, and health care providers and support businesses. An expanded Urban Growth Boundary should be a 1,000 foot wide swath of land along side Interstate 5 from the city’s current northern border up to Perkins Street or Quinaby Road or even Brooklake Road.

Such an expansion plan would result in a win-win for Keizer, and the entire metropolitan area. By limiting the UGB along I-5 important and fertile agricultural land would be preserved (Oregon has seen too many farm acreage fall to development over the years.) We all know that agriculture is the major economic engine in the state and every jurisdiction should work to sustain as much acreage for that use as possible.

Once expanded the city can promote the zone to the non-polluting businesses that will create desperately needed living wage jobs. Keizer needs the jobs and the taxes those new businesses would pump into the city’s coffers. We don’t need the employees of those businesses to live in Keizer; they can certainly live in Salem, or Woodburn, or Silverton. That’s a win for those cities.

By not adding a residential component Keizer will retain its small town feel. Keizer is one of the most desired addresses in the mid-Willamette Valley; we need to keep it that way as long as possible. Those who own homes in Keizer will see the value (and selling price) of their houses will rise.  Everyone wants to live in Keizer, a limited supply of houses will drive the prices up. That’s a win for people who own houses in the city.

Limiting an expanded UGB to industrial, office, and medical uses is a win for the city of Keizer as well. With development of the UGB the city will have to build infrastructure (utility lines, sewer and water lines, streets, etc.). It would be very expensive to develop those things for large residential subdivisions as opposed to industrial and office parks.

Development in an expanded UGB would be paid for by bonds which would be paid back over years by the owners of that land. Despite the problems of the Keizer Station local improvement district (LID), it’s the only way to build the infrastructure needed. Recruiting large companies with deep pockets should avoid the challenge the city faced with one of the land owners in Keizer Station.

Every other city in our area is going to rightly look after their own interests first. Salem, Woodburn, Stayon, Silverton, Dallas, St. Paul are all looking for economic development by recruiting call centers, warehouses, office parks and the like. Expanding the Urban Growth Boundary is not a quick process; Keizer will have to make its case and persuade other jurisdictions of the benefits of a Keizer plan that limits the expanded UGB to non-residential uses.

Those sitting on the council and those seeking a seat need to formulate their positions on the Urban Growth Boundary.  Expanding the UGB as described here would constrain the hands of future councils and mayors. However it would retain Keizer’s small town feel, increase house prices, attract living wage jobs, add tax money to the city’s till, and preseve our local, rich agriculture land.

The future belongs to those who plan for it. Let’s plan a reasonable and considered expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary.

(Lyndon A. Zaitz is publisher and editor of the Keizertimes.)

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