Building on the cow pasture

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The first steps are being taken for a residential development on Verda Lane between Chemawa Road and Dearborn Avenue. Many people will recognize that land as the place where the cows lazily graze. Keizer’s hearings officer held a public hearing regarding plan map and zone map changes for that property on Thursday night.

The city’s comprehensive code is loose and allows a lot of leeway in the design of structures. It is the result of a city that prides itself on minimal city intrusion on the private sector. Officials say there is little the city can do to compel developers to adhere to a specific look. There are a few stringent limitations such as color, height and use.

 The intersection of Chemawa and Verda is busy throughout the day, no more so than during commute times. It is the gateway to downtown via Chemawa—it leads the way to the civic center, the Keizer Heritage Center and the city’s core. Developers’ designs should consider the import of that area. Multi-family housing can be designed like a bunker or it can have aesthtic value, such as two- and three-story townhouse-style units with garages and retail space on the ground floor. There are plenty of examples of such developments throughout the valley and in the Portland area.

Any zone change there should be for mixed use as opposed to straight residential. But the mixed use should be spelled out: small retail. A mini-grocery store (versus a convenience store) would be an excellent retail use for that area.

The city should be vigilant when it is time to approve any plan for that area. It should reserve the right to conjole the developer to construct buildings that are attractive not only to tenants but to neighbors and those passing.

As a major intersection, any development there will be seen by thousands of eyes each day. The Keizer way may be hands off when it comes to private property, but for such a large tract of land near downtown, the city and its citizens have an interest in a development that could set the standard for not only that area but any part of the city that would be the site of a large project.

 When a plan is submitted to the city there will be public hearings. That’s when homeowners can weigh in on what they want their neighborhood to look like. We did it with Keizer Station—a private development—we can do it with a major project in a residential area.

  —LAZ

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