Saving trees could alter location for The Big Toy

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KEIZERTIMES/File photo

KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Has a Keizer Planning Commission decision taken out some possible sites for The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park project?

In recent months Mayor Lore Christopher has pushed to have the community build play structure constructed in the front of the orchard area by Chemawa Road. The orchard is part of 28 acres of land within city limits but not within Keizer’s Urban Growth Boundary. In order for the land to be used, the UGB would have to be expanded to include the land.

Discussion of such a process was the main item on the agenda at the April 9 Keizer Planning Commission meeting.

By a 5-1 vote, commissioners agreed the KRP master plan should be amended to include the area in question.

“I move that the commission accept the staff report for the expansion of the UGB with a heavy emphasis on the governance of the master plan,” commissioner Hersch Sangster said.

Chuck Fisher made an amendment to the motion, based on a matter discussed during the meeting.

“We need to make sure to include the filbert trees remain under the master plan developed for the whole park for the entire acreage we’re bringing in,” Fisher said. “The trees shouldn’t be taken down prior to being part of the master planning process.”

Sangster agreed with the addition.

“Hopefully as part of the master plan there is the emphasis on the trees,” Sangster said.

As amended, all commissioners except for Matt Chappell approved the motion.

During the public hearing, West Keizer Neighborhood Association president Rhonda Rich had emphasized the need for trees to be considered.

“I want to see a master plan created before any trees are taken out,” Rich said. “I want it to be vested in the master plan for the trees. Don’t take out any trees until there is a master plan.”

Nate Brown, the director of Community Development who has been tasked with overseeing the UGB process, touched on the tree topic.

“The aspect of tree removal is not something we had previously considered,” Brown said. “Before anything happens on the property, there should be a master plan to govern it. Before any development, it should be master planned. There should be an assurance it is master planned before we piecemeal pieces off of it.”

The topic came up again the following night at the monthly WKNA meeting.

“At last night’s hearing, they voted to recommend approval to council, with the condition to do a master plan before the area is used and before trees are removed,” Brown said. “They want a master plan for the whole 28 acres before trees come down.”

Clint Holland asked how long the master plan process would take.

Public Works Director Bill Lawyer noted he anticipated the question coming up.

“I’m working on two timelines,” Lawyer said. “One is very condensed, very fast and requires special meetings. Right now I have the master plan amendment going to council at the July 7 meeting. The other option is a longer one, at the second council meeting in August or the first one in September. That is the more preferred option, with more outreach, think it out more and a more comprehensive master plan.”

Holland referenced the desire to start prepping the proposed orchard site earlier than that.

“If it goes that long, I thought we needed to make a decision by July 1 on where The Big Toy goes,” Holland said. “How are we going to do that?”

“That’s a very good question, Clint,” Lawyer responded. “I don’t know.”

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