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Day: March 19, 2010

Keizertimes on Vacation

Keizertimes on Vacation

Keizertimes on Vacation — Ron Ruefner recently went to visit his son Ryan, a quarterback for the Danube Dragons of the Austrian Football League. Above, Ryan – who was a quarterback for the McNary Celtics – gets caught up on the local sports scores in Vienna, Austria. You too can have your vacation photos featured in the Keizertimes. Simply take the Keizertimes with you to your destination and photograph you or your group holding the paper. Then send the photo to [email protected] Do not resize or alter your photos. (Submitted photo)

Canine conflict spoils fun for some at park

A dog owner at Keizer Rapids Park pulls her pooch off another canine when the two got in a bit of a scuffle. Dog owners say it’s natural for their pets to sort out who is top dog, but the problem lies with owners who don’t watch their dogs and won’t stop a fight once it starts. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX

Of the Keizertimes

Since it opened nearly two years ago, the off-leash area at Keizer Rapids Park has been a haven for dogs and their owners.

But like any amenity, its very popularity has caused some problems – one of which is the conflicts arising between dogs, and sometimes their owners.

Terry Witham, a parks specialist for the city, said most dog owners supervise their dog closely and make sure any scuffles end quickly. But others, he said, aren’t doing their part to avoid conflicts – and are sometimes escalating them.

“There’s been complaints,” said Terry Witham. “Quite a few, actually.”

Witham told the Keizertimes that complaints indicate “we’re getting more and more aggressive … dogs, and aggressive owners as well. We’ll have an issue with the dog, and the owners kind of get into it.”

Ideas bandied about at the March board meeting included finding ways to supervise the park, but the primary problem is money.

“There was never anything put into the budget to help take care of it,” he said. “It makes it hard. We’re spread really thin. … Short of having enough funding to be able to hire someone to be out there full-time, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot we can do.”

Terry Witham tells people who feel threatened to call 911, and an owner with an injured dog should contact Marion County Dog Control.

“But by the time police get a complaint and someone gets out there to respond to it, people are already gone,” he said.

Keizer Police reported responding to only two specific incidents of aggressive dogs at Keizer Rapids Park in 2009, both of one dog attacking another within the dog park. Keizer Police Capt. Jeff Kuhns indicated his department doesn’t believe it’s a big issue.

“What has occurred at the dog park at Keizer Rapids Park doesn’t surprise me in the least,” Kuhns said. “When dogs are taken off leash and allowed to run with other dogs, common sense tells me there is going to be an incident from time to time.

“When such incidents do occur, especially those that result in the injury of a dog, we encourage the owners of the involved dogs to work together to resolve the issue.”

Shane Witham, who is Terry’s son and also works for the city of Keizer, is the park caretaker, living on premises with his family.

He said he hears anecdotes not only about aggressive dogs within the park, but about people on the parks trails being bothered by off-leash dogs. The city’s parks regulations state dogs must be on a leash unless they’re in a off-leash area like the dog park.

Sonya Beard, Marion County Dog Control’s office manager, said her office will respond to dogs acting aggressively towards people, but doesn’t get involved when there’s an incident within an off-leash dog park.

“Neither dog is trespassing because every dog is allowed to be in there,” Beard said.

“If one dogs acts aggressively to another dog, the other dog may react. It’s hard to say a dog has done something wrong if you have a group of dogs in an area that are all allowed to be there, and dogs are being dogs.”

She said Keizer Police should be called for dogs off-leash or running at large, but aggressive canines fall under the county dog control jurisdiction.

On a recent afternoon there were about a dozen or so dogs in the so-called “large dog” area of the park.

Matt Aquino of Salem counts himself as one of the regulars, bringing his nine-month-old Maya, a Labrador and collie mix to get some exercise about twice a week.

He and Dale Shuart of Keizer, who brought his dog Gus to the park, said dogs who don’t know each other will often test each other to determine who is dominant – the leader of the pack.

The problems start when conflicts move past that stage – and owners aren’t doing anything about it.

“I’ve seen dog fights (at the park) where one draws blood,” Aquino said.

During the discussion, Shuart’s dog was jumped by a pit bull while its owners scrambled to get it under control.

“I would say 75 percent of the problems between dogs are preventable if the owners are paying attention,” Aquino said. “Most of the time it’s the owner – they’re not paying attention or they’re texting.”

Shuart used to come to the park around lunchtime, but stopped because he “observed that’s when a lot of the trouble comes.”

He said owners who frequent the park get to know each other and figure out who they gel with and who “grates on each other’s nerves.”

Another man at the park said owners can have a bit of a short fuse, like getting angry when a dog jumps on them within the dog park.

The park has two gates – one on the northern end and one on the southern end, which is where the parking lot is. Shuart said a lot of the trouble starts at the southern gate because the dogs get excited. To avoid the logjam and risk to his dog, he often parks away from the park and enters through the northern gate. But large boulders block the area from being used for much parking.

Clint Holland, a parks board member, said the majority of conflicts happen at the northern end of the park.

“A lot of dogs have a tendency to stay close to the gate,” Holland said. “… Maybe part of that is their parents won’t walk that far. If we can open that (northern area) right now, it will cost nothing.”

Currently dog owners can bring up to three dogs with them to the off-leash dog park. Some at the park suggested that’s too many dogs to control if something goes wrong.

Pedestrian killed on I-5

A Keizer man was killed Thursday morning after he was hit by a vehicle while crossing Interstate 5 on foot.

Oregon State Police report a 2000 GMC Yukon driving southbound struck the victim near mile marker 259 at about 5:44 a.m. Thursday. Officials believe the pedestrian was crossing the freeway from west to east on foot. Several other vehicles reported running over the pedestrian after the first crash.

The pedestrian, identified as Dale Allen Underwood, 44, of Keizer, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Southbound lanes of Interstate 5 were shut down for three hours as investigators were on scene. Officers are still trying to figure out why he was in the area, and would like to speak with anyone who had contact with Underwood in the hours prior to the incident.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Trooper Joseph Skipper at 503-378-3387 ext. 32000.

Recession leaves retail holes

By JASON COX

Of the Keizertimes

Notice more “for lease” signs on River Road than you used to?

A recent informal survey of commercial vacancies along River Road found at least 25 available office and retail units. And Pam Rushing, a commercial real estate broker for Coldwell Banker Commercial, said River Road currently has about a 13.3 percent retail storefront vacancy rate.

A spike in available real estate is a byproduct of a downturned economy. In fact, commercial real estate agents say fear of the future and a lack of credit are primary deterrents from investing in or expanding a business.

Jennifer Hand of Gall Real Estate Services sees a light at the end of the tunnel, but says prospective tenants are taking “baby steps” instead of leaps.

“People are thinking we’re going to be coming out of this,” Hand said.

Julie Frazier, an advisor for Sperry Van Ness, said her office is “receiving so many more phone calls than we were last year. … I think overall it’s looking promising.”

In addition to increasing optimism – or perhaps decreasing pessimism – many landlords are doing almost whatever it takes to get retail and office space filled.

Hand said length of lease has been a barrier.

“(Tenants) are hesitant to sign a five-year or 10-year lease, and a few years ago that wasn’t a problem at all,” Hand said.

“Landlords are needing to be more creative and more flexible than they have had to be previously,” said Jeff Corner, principal broker for 1st Commercial Real Estate. “Rent concessions, free rent periods, shorter or more flexible lease terms have all been things that have become more common in the marketplace. What we know to be the case is it’s getting more and more difficult for landlords to justify spending money on tenant improvements while at the same time granting lower rent, or rent concessions.”

Well, not all landlords.

“Landlords who are well-positioned financially are not so desperate that they give away the farm to get a tenant in their space,” Frazier said. “They also are cautious about putting tenants in at greatly-reduced lease rates that, when the economy turns around, might be detrimental to the overall value of their property.

“But we are also seeing landlords who do whatever it takes to get the tenant in the door,” she added.

But there are certainly other factors in play. Depending on who you ask, Keizer Station was either a boom or a bust for River Road businesses.

Frazier believes that Keizer Station “will probably, if not already, be a good thing for the retail community in that area. … People driving by that aren’t from this area probably don’t know a whole lot about Keizer and what’s there. Now there’s a sort of beacon that shines from the freeway … into the local area.”

Rushing thinks that Keizer Station is a hit with residents, but has hurt the River Road business strip in that major, nationwide tenants prefer Keizer Station.

“And I think a discount grocer will be great for the people in Keizer, (but) I don’t know how the local stores, like Roth’s and Albertson’s, are going to fare with a discount grocer going in,” Rushing said.

And for better or worse, agents spoke of River Road and Keizer as a “submarket” to the greater Salem area. Corner said businesses moving to the area often want to try Salem first before opening a Keizer location.

“You’re going to tend to focus on the larger market area first, then look to the smaller submarket areas second,” Corner said, citing Sonic Drive-In as an example.

“South Salem and Lancaster Drive are the number one choices,” Rushing acknowledged. “River Road ends up being third on the list.”

She said higher traffic counts on Lancaster Drive and a somewhat wealthier demographic in south Salem were two reasons retailers cited. Corner also noted that retailers are looking at rooftops, density and traffic, saying Keizer “is a smaller community, so it’s a smaller trade area.”

And some simply think Keizer isn’t a great place to do business, Frazier said.

“I have a client looking to relocate one of his businesses, and he said, ‘Don’t bring me anything in Keizer. That’s certain death for my type of business,'” Frazier said. “There’s a perception, real or imagined, that it’s not as viable or successful a trade area as some of the others.”

That said, the River Road Renaissance program – where business owners traded a piece of ground to the city’s urban renewal agency for new, meandering sidewalks with plants, fountains and benches – has been a positive step, agents said.

“It just feels like a place you’d like to be, especially on a beautiful sunny day,” Frazier said. “If you could go to one of two same-type businesses, and one’s warm and inviting with greenery and plants, that’s where you’d choose to go and do your business.”

Funds for River Road upgrades used to buy land at Keizer Station

By JASON COX

Of the Keizertimes

About $637,000 set aside for River Road improvements and other urban renewal projects will instead be used to buy land at Keizer Station.

But city staff say the ultimate intent is to reimburse the Urban Renewal Agency – and, in turn, money set aside for improving River Road’s look – once the land is sold as part of a larger development project.

The Keizer Urban Renewal Agency, which consists of the city council and mayor, voted Monday, March 15, to purchase some 53,143 feet of land from Flora J. Tiersma. The parcel cuts diagonally across land from the south end of the Gubser neighborhood, across Keizer Station Boulevard and up to almost Lockhaven Drive. It sits in an portion of Keizer Station designated as Area B.

All is coming from urban renewal dollars. About $470,000 is coming directly from River Road Renaissance, while the rest will be bought on credit, Finance Director Susan Gahlsdorf said.

The City of Keizer already owns much of the surrounding land. City Manager Chris Eppley hinted that the land is an important piece of developing the land. The city hopes to be able to sell the land to developers at some point, he indicated.

“Having the whole parcel to work with makes it much easier to work with,” Eppley said at Monday’s meeting.

The only objection at Monday’s hearing came from Dave Bauer, who questioned how useful the whole parcel may be and said entry and exit would be difficult. Eppley said the purchase would allow for more sensible entry and exit options for the business that will eventually be built there. Eppley also said the property is in the master planning process.

Latest KURB project will be the last for a while

By JASON COX

Of the Keizertimes

New sidewalks and a parking lot reconfiguration for Town and Country Lanes garnered a funding recommendation from the Keizer Urban Renewal Board. [MAP: 1]

However, the board stopped short of fully funding what it deemed to be improvements to the building’s façade. Typically the program has only funded 100 percent of changes made within the city’s right-of-way near River Road. Instead the board recommended funding 50 percent of these additions.

The proposal calls for, among other items, installing a meandering sidewalk and a small outdoor sitting area for customers of either the Herb Garden Café or Java Crew, the small drive-through coffee shop in the bowling alley’s parking lot. It would also redesign the facility’s parking lot, provide a raingarden for stormwater mitigation and a small footbridge along the River Road pedestrian corridor.

“These improvements can help but improve the look of south Keizer as you’re coming in,” said Mardi Smith, promotions director for Town and Country Lanes.

Board members also learned the project would likely be the last they’ll fund in this fiscal year, as they were informed a land purchase approved Monday by the Keizer Urban Renewal Agency used up the remaining River Road Renaissance (RRR) funding for the year.

Community Development Director Nate Brown said this expenditure would be the last they’d be able to make until property tax revenues start coming in November. The agency voted to spend $470,000 of RRR money on land at Keizer Station (see related story), but City Manager Chris Eppley and Finance Director Susan Gahlsdorf both said they expected the RRR fund to be reimbursed once a whole land sale is made at Keizer Station.

Low bid on the project was about $113,964; however, revisions to the cost thanks to removing additions like landscaping, some paving and flower boxes on the front of the building weren’t immediately available.

Councilor Brandon Smith questioned whether the board should be funding façade-like improvements, saying it typically hasn’t done so in the past. Smith, who also is on the Keizer Urban Renewal Agency, is the board liaison.

“It’s not a façade; yes it enhances the project and it draws it all together, but it’s not keeping with, in my estimate … within our right-of-way area,” said Board Chair Greg McLeod.

Brown said there was some precedent in the Keizer Village project for funding landscaping within private property. He said RRR dollars paid 50 percent of that cost.

Laura Marshall, manager at Town and Country Lanes, said she was happy with getting just the right-of-way improvements, but was concerned that the project may look incomplete without the full treatment.

“As far as we are right now we don’t have the funds to make it look like it’s presented here,” Marshall said. “It’s up to the board to decide how this is going to end up unless we can get a 50 percent facade grant from Marion County and have it matched by you.”

Council says parks can rock and roll all night … until 9 p.m.

By JASON COX

Of the Keizertimes

Amplified music must cease by 9 p.m. thanks to new parks regulations passed Monday by the Keizer City Council.

The Council voted Monday, March 15, to enact the new restrictions and also reduced the amount of advance time needed to secure an event permit.

Recommendations came from the Keizer Rotary Amphitheatre Task Force, according to a memorandum from City Attorney Shannon Johnson.

Depending on the type of event, the city must now get either 30 days or 60 days notice – this was changed from as much as 180 days advance notice.

Councilor Cathy Clark, who chaired the task force, said her group wanted to “make it clear when the sound was going to be turned on and when it was going to be turned off. Part of the problem last year was people didn’t know when it was going to stop.”

Exceptions could be granted for events like movie nights, she added.

In other business, the Council:

• Authorized temporary signage for the Keizer Farmers Market;

• Amended the Keizer Development Code governing floodplain development.

• Authorized Classic Homes Inc. to perform remodeling of the Keizer Little League concession stands. Repairs were needed due to a burst pipe in December. While the total project cost is $46,489, all but $1,000 is covered by the city’s insurance policy.

Developer says big box plan may be near

By JASON COX

Of the Keizertimes

A developer of Keizer Station’s Area C said last week he expects to submit a master plan for the area “within the next few weeks.”

The area in question is bordered by Chemawa Road to the west, a set of railroad tracks to the east and Lockhaven Drive at the north.

It was also the center of heated debate in 2007 and into early 2008, as developers successfully pushed through a text amendment allowing a big-box store up to 135,000 square feet to locate there, provided there was a specified amount of mixed-use development.

And Alan Roodhouse of RPS Development said his proposal will include mixed use as well as a large retail tenant, although he declined to name the companies he’s in negotiations with.

“We’re negotiating with somebody,” Roodhouse said. “I’m not allowed to say who they are, but I think people will have a pretty good idea.”

In the past developers have acknowledged ongoing talks with companies like Winco and Wal-Mart. Roodhouse confirmed the company he’s talking with at the moment was a “discount retailer” but didn’t elaborate further.

The proposal will include a building larger than 80,000 square feet, but at least somewhat less than 135,000 square feet, making it big enough to require a corresponding amount of mixed-use development. Under the deal reached by the developers and the Keizer City Council, any retail square footage over 80,000 square feet on the primary building must include a corresponding amount of mixed-use development – that is, structures that can blend office, retail and residential.

“More recently, we’ve been looking at mixed use that involves apartments as well as commercial,” Roodhouse said.

Roodhouse expects the tenant would buy the land from his firm once the master plan process is complete and a tenant has signed on, adding that Target and Lowe’s also own the land their buildings sit on.

Roodhouse acknowledged the delays, noting he had made similar statements last year. But the downturned economy is making banks queasy about business financing, he said.

“That has slowed things down,” Roodhouse said. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re eager to get going and produce some jobs, both in the short term for construction and the long term for permanent jobs.”

City, volunteers work to improve creek shoreline

The city and a group of volunteers are restoring native plants along the Claggett Creek shoreline at Ben Miller Park.

The goal is to reduce erosion and keep silt and dirt out of area waterways. Elizabeth Sagmiller, the city’s environmental program coordinator, said that part of Claggett Creek “has steep, eroded banks and poor water quality. … Allowing plants to crowd the site will mimic more of a natural condition found in undisturbed areas outside the city.”

Last summer, volunteers and crews removed some 20 cubic yards of trash, debris and invasive plants.

In February, city staff along with the Claggett Creek Watershed Council and Keizer Rotary Pioneers members installed some 200 native plants, adding weed mats to block weed growth. Highway Fuel donated compost.

About 350 more plants will be put in by the end of April, Sagmiller said. Ultimately the goal is to block most access to the creek in that area.

“The outcome of this effort will be a stretch of riparian corridor that is occupied by a variety of native plants, which will filter impacted water and create shade and habitat for wildlife,” Sagmiller said.

The project is a requirement of the city’s Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Plan for the Willamette Basin.

Live chat with Rep. Thatcher March 25

Rep. Kim Thatcher (file photo)

Got questions about the 2010 Oregon legislative session or upcoming ballot measures? Or just want to vent?

Here’s your chance to engage your local state representiative from the comfort of your home or office.

Join a live chat with Rep. Kim Thatcher, R – Keizer, at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 25, at Keizertimes.com.

The chat will be listed under the “Up to the Minute” section.