Residents against apartments

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Larry Odle was among those speaking out against a proposed apartment project at the corner of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road during a public hearing on June 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)

Larry Odle was among those speaking out against a proposed apartment project at the corner of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road during a public hearing on June 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

There weren’t signs, but it was pretty clear where the crowd stood on the issue.

At the public hearing in front of Keizer Hearings Officer Cynthia Domas in council chambers at Keizer Civic Center on June 12, approximately 100 people filled the room to talk about a proposal to convert the so-called “cow park” by Claggett Creek Park into land for more than 100 apartments.

Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, emphasized the purpose of the hearing was to consider an application for a comprehensive plan map change, a zone map change and a lot line adjustment.

“The concern we all have is we want to see what is being planned,” Brown said. “We want adequate safeguards so what is there is consistent with the standards of the community. Here, we have a certain set of tools to set those.”

After proponent Mark Grenz of Multi-Tech Engineering spoke (see related story, pg. 3) about his proposal, it was a chance to supporters to speak.

There were none, so Domas started going down the list of opponents. A total of 23 people spoke, with many more passing on the opportunity to do so since their ideas had already been expressed by others.

Larry Odle, who lives on the same block of Verda Lane, was among a number of people recognizing the property owners can do what they want with property, but hoping for something else.

“I’m sure most of us have an emotional connection to this property,” Odle said. “I feed the cows. The Herbers have been excellent neighbors. I have no problem with them dissolving their property; it’s their inheritance. The rest of us would love for it to stay as a farm.

“My concern is with the development of the property other than single family residences,” he added. “I have concern of its effect upon us. Verda has not been developed (for more traffic). There’s also the concern of valuation of our homes across the way.”

Like others, Marylin Prothero had school and environmental concerns.

“I’m wondering, what would be the impact on schools?” she asked. “Kennedy Elementary is already overcrowded. There’s also the environmental impact on Claggett Creek. There’s also the flooding concern.”

City staff noted an analysis from the Salem-Keizer School District, utilizing the school district’s model, showed minimal impact on schools.

Like many, David Bevens shared warm recollections of seeing the cows on the property.

“For the people that own properties around, that’s their inheritance, too,” Bevens said. “It devalues their property. I believe it should be developed, but let’s be mindful. Make improvements to benefit everyone, not just the landowners.”

Another common theme was concern about growth.

“This is a small town with a small town feel,” Brandon Baldwin said. “That attracts people. I grew up seeing the cows and horses. Albeit this is a family’s property and it’s their decision, but I speak for many when I say I don’t want it to do anything but stay what it is. Having 300 more people with no connections to the community will do nothing for the small town feel.”

Baldwin was also one of several to express frustration with the process.

“It sounds like a decision have already been made and that this is just a formality,” he said.

Deborrah Blair had an idea for something other than apartments on the property.

“I’m more for having the city buy it, putting a park there, maybe with a plaque with the Herber name there,” Blair said.

Susan Kendall noted she moved from Tigard to Verda Lane in Keizer near the Salem Parkway about 18 months ago to be in a more rural setting.

“I’m disappointed with the amount of traffic in front of our home,” Kendall said. “The traffic noise is horrendous. It backs up in front of our home. We can’t get in and out of our driveway very well. I’m concerned about 200-plus more cars being added to that.”

The property is right next to a roundabout scheduled to be installed next year. Brown addressed that, since several people wondered about the connection between the two projects.

“The roundabout is part of the Transportation Systems Plan adopted in 2008,” Brown said. “There is no connection between this proposal and the roundabout.”

Sam Litke, senior planner for Keizer, noted a traffic impact analysis shows 84 new trips during peak morning hours at the intersection and 102 in the peak afternoon hours. Litke also addressed the cow topic.

“As the property is zoned now, the cows have been a non-conforming use for years,” he said.

Domas will submit a report to the Keizer City Council. Once the council has the report, a public hearing will be scheduled. That will most likely be at either the July 21 or Aug. 4 meeting.

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