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Developer: Big box won’t bust cap

Of the Keizertimes

A developer planning a big-box store in Area C of Keizer Station said this week the store will be about 116,000 square feet.

Alan Roodhouse of RPS Development said the property would include one store of about 116,000 square feet along with several other buildings that will include “ancillary retail” and office space, consistent with requirements that mixed use development be included with any store larger than 80,000 square feet.

Roodhouse declined to name a tenant but said there would be a “discount grocery” component to the development. [MAP: 1]

“We have always believed a discount grocer component was essential to the success of Keizer Station,” Roodhouse said. “We still believe that, and that’s what we’re going to accomplish in Area C.”

Meanwhile, a group protesting a Walmart possibly coming to Keizer on Facebook garnered more than 500 fans in a week, and had more than 1,000 as of this writing. A counter-group, encouraging a Walmart to come, has about 50.

The issue centers around the amount of retail square footage allowed in the four areas of Keizer Station – and how big buildings can be within them. City staff recently put forth a proposal that would allow

developers to request a change for the cap within the master planning process.

The council voted 5-2 in support, which means a second reading on June 7. Councilors Cathy Clark and Mark Caillier voted against it.

Those in administration and on the council who support it say it will give the council a better idea of what a developer is planning than in the text amendment process, arguing that the council would at least see a footprint of a proposed building.
But its opponents, organized under the group Keep Keizer Livable, argue the quasi-judicial nature of the master plan process gives the council less power to say no to an expansion on the current building caps.

At the heart of the matter is Area C of Keizer Station, at the southeast intersection of Lockhaven Drive and River Road. Developers were given the ability in 2008 by the council to locate a big-box store there up to 135,000 square feet, and opponents of the latest measure fear it’s a precursor to bringing something even bigger to the traditionally residential neighborhood.

“What the outcome is going to be is they’ll remove the cap,” predicted Kevin Hohnbaum, a co-founder of Keep Keizer Livable.

He also said he had “no idea” what was driving the proposal.

Community Development Director Nate Brown said the proposed language “doesn’t reallocate anything.

“Right now they have the ability to do it, but last time it was absent of any kind of knowledge of what was driving it,” he said. “It puts it in the context of a master plan situation, which gives people a better way to consider what it is they’re talking about.”

Roodhouse said his group plans to submit a master plan once a transportation impact analysis is complete, but didn’t give a specific timeline. He said it would be designed in such a way to screen the larger tenant from the adjacent neighborhood.

“The plan we’re going to submit is totally consistent with the zoning and it’s also responsive, we think, in a very positive way to the concerns that opposition group had two years ago,” Roodhouse said.

Some elected officials have told reporters off the cuff that Keep Keizer Livable is intentionally misleading the public.

Clark called the information Keep Keizer Livable has been sending out via e-mail “incomplete.”

But she’s not ready to support the planning change because she said she doesn’t want to be constrained by a quasi-judicial process.

“My concern is we’re putting limitations on ourselves no matter how many caveats we put into the planning code,” she said.

Caillier said the timing of it all was “one of my concerns.

“I believe (city staff) when they tell me that no one has pushed for this from the standpoint of the development community or the community at large, that they see it as pro-active planning in anticipation of new commercial building,” he said. “I was not prepared to vote to allow yes to … provide additional discretion to change the caps. And my alternative was voting no.”

Both elected and appointed city officials note they have no power to stop a particular business from coming to town.

But that hasn’t stopped a group from forming an anti-Walmart group on Facebook, urging the public to speak up.

Hayley Rothweiler, a 19-year-old Oregon State student and McNary High alumna, founded the group after she said she was “absolutely fuming” at the council for approving the changes on first reading.

“It seems to me like the council has no interest in the community which it represents,” she said. “According to the research I have been doing, the only people that stand to really benefit from this venture is the developer of Keizer Station and Walmart itself.”

Clark waded into the Facebook debate, saying on the Keizertimes’ page that it’s a “non-issue” and the negative attention doesn’t contribute to attracting “quality business.”