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Day: March 7, 2011

Council says yes to what is likely Walmart

Only a potential legal challenge stands in the way of what is all but certain to be Keizer’s first Walmart location, barring a last-minute change of course by at least four city councilors.

The Keizer City Council unanimously approved a master plan that puts a 116,000 square foot discount grocer at the southeast corner of Chemawa Road NE and Lockhaven Drive NE. An order formalizing the decision still must be drafted and passed by the city council, but at this point it’s likely more of a formality.

The plan for the Keizer Station portion known as Area C also includes a multi-story medical building and a mixed use structure developers said would offer retail and office space.

Councilors added some significant conditions, including language that requires the developers to obtain building permits and construct both the large store and the multi-story buildings simultaneously, called a concurrency requirement. In order for the big store to get its certificate of occupancy – allowing it to open – at least a conditional certificate of occupancy must be obtained for the two towers planned as part of the development.

Developers have yet to say out loud who the tenant will be for certain but signs point to the mystery big box in question as being Walmart. Co-developers Alan Roodhouse and Chuck Sides have mentioned Walmart as a likely tenant in the past.

When asked who the tenant would be Monday night, Roodhouse told the Keizertimes simply “You know who it is.”

Be it Walmart or some other firm, Roodhouse said to expect the firm themselves to make the announcement. But the aforementioned concurrency requirement means the big store likely wouldn’t start construction until 2012, he said.

“And that will only be if we are successful in finding financing … and are able to finish by next year,” Roodhouse said. “And that’s going to be hard to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do on leasing the buildings.”

That said, Roodhouse is confident he and Sides will be able to meet the requirements.

“It’s only a matter of timing,” Roodhouse said. “We can complete the project.”

Representatives of Keep Keizer Livable didn’t discuss possible appeal options, but it is a possibility the group could petition the Land Use Board of Appeals to review the council’s decision.

This was the second city council meeting where the matter was heard. Between 60 and 70 people came to testify at Monday night’s meeting after the public hearing kept the council in session past midnight last month. The council amended the concurrency requirement to make it tougher on the developer, deleting a four-year grace period for the planned three- and five-story towers’ construction.

Other conditions attached address tree replacement and traffic monitoring on Modoc Drive. While they didn’t make a formal condition councilors asked the developer if parking lots would be available for Keizer Little League Park patrons to use. Under the current design Ridge Drive connects to a newly-extended McLeod Lane, which will have the only entrances into the large format store’s lot.

Ridge Drive also is adjacent to Keizer Little League Park and regularly gets congested during busy game days. City councilors discussed stricter enforcement of no parking rules on Ridge Drive, but Adams said Tuesday he doesn’t “see parking issues rising to the top of the list unless we receive complaints.

“The new development should allow for folks to not have to park on the road side,” Adams said.

Councilors Mark Caillier and Joe Egli asked for more time to review newly-submitted information, but their motion to continue the matter until the next council meeting was defeated 5-2.

Councilors explained their positions shortly before the final vote was taken:

• David McKane – “I’m confident the master plan we have in front of us took care of all of the issues … Reasonable people disagree.”

• Mark Caillier – “I believe what we did to the (concurrency requirement) was appropriate.”

• Joe Egli – “I’d love to have our own traffic study where we have a guy go out and do the work… it would make me feel a little bit better.”

• Cathy Clark – “This whole Area C is bound on only one portion on one side by residential, and part of that will be next to multi-family residential.”

• Jim Taylor – “Will this be the best thing for Keizer? I don’t know … I really can’t tell you if this is the greatest thing we can do. But things happen. Things change.”

• Brandon Smith – “I’ve heard a lot of times we should try to keep the small-town feel Keizer has. … I would suggest the city has changed significantly in the past 50 years.”

• Mayor Lore Christopher – “I think that whether a large format store went into Area A or Area C – zero difference. We’re still going to use Chemawa, which is a small arterial, or Lockhaven.”

Opponent group Keep Keizer Livable took umbrage with the mayor’s comments.

“The developers have said this is going to be a regional draw,” said co-founder Jane Mulholland. “This is people coming off the freeway. If it was in Area A they would not come off the freeway, go up to Chemawa and into Area C. That’s just ridiculous.”

Mulholland contended councilors “had their minds made up” and “misrepresented things we had been saying.”

The big box battle inspired a ballot measure Keizerites will finish voting on Tuesday. The measure, which would restrict retail buildings bigger than 65,000 square feet to the currently-built portion of Keizer Station, likely won’t affect the proposed big box grocer unless the land use application is overturned by either a judge or the Land Use Board of Appeals.

The measure has gotten most of its support from labor unions, and Jeff Anderson – secretary/treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 – felt councilors should have waited to see what voters said on Tuesday.

“Why (did) they slap the voters in the face before they have even spoken?” Anderson said. “I think their time has come. I think this process has awakened the citizens and I think we’re going to see some changes in two years.”

Three council seats along with the mayor’s chair are up for election in 2012.

Anderson predicted at least one, if not two, River Road groceries would close if the store is built.

Local musicians headline Forest Ridge arts event

Forest Ridge Elementary is hosting a Music in Our Community event this Tuesday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Guest artists Brad Hirsch, Delana Beaton, Jenny Gleason and Cathy Heithaus will play for the audience and share their experiences and influences as part of the music community. Format is round-robin show-and-tell style.

All guests are local, performing musicians with family ties to the school. Hirsch is a percussionist who will be sharing his steel pan music. Beaton will bring a concert grand harp, as well as a smaller one. Gleason and Heithaus are cellist and violinist, respectively, with the Salem Chamber Orchestra.

Door prizes will include tickets to performances by local musical organizations.

Forest Ridge Elementary is hosting a Music in Our Community event this Tuesday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. Guest artists Brad Hirsch, Delana Beaton, Jenny Gleason and Cathy Heithaus will play for the audience and share their experiences and influences as part of the music community.  Format is round-robin show-and-tell style. All guests are local, performing musicians with family ties to the school. Hirsch is a percussionist who will be sharing his steel pan music. Beaton will bring a concert grand harp, as well as a smaller one. Gleason and Heithaus are cellist and violinist, respectively, with the Salem Chamber Orchestra. Door prizes will include tickets to performances by local musical organizations.

ART THAT MOOOVES

Ali Zuro
Ali Zuro, a senior at McNary High School, paints her “Art of Dairy” life-sized cow. She is one of 30 nationwide finalists in a Safeway-sponsored contest. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Asked whether she’s ever attempted to paint a canvas as large and undulating as the cow currently taking up residence in Room 54 at McNary High School, Ali Zuro replied, “Nooo.”

A unwitting nod to the animals that inspired the annual Art of Dairy Contest sponsored by Safeway.

Zuro’s concept sketch for a painted bovine was chosen as one of 30 nationwide finalists nationwide in the contest and the life-size plaster cow was delivered to the school last week. The theme of the is year’s contest is “Sharing Joy,” and Zuro’s concept combines painting with her love for theater.

“It will have the comedy-tragedy masks and a stage with people on it and the audience. That’s how I think joy is shared through the arts,” Zuro, a McNary senior, said.

It’s not the first time a McNary art student has been selected as a finalist in the contest. In 2006, Celt Tonia Lee went on to win first place overall in the competition.

“The first couple of years we did it on a whim, it was something I would give to students as extra credit,” said Connie Toland, McNary art teacher. “This year we really worked at coming up with

designs attuned with the contest theme.”

Should Zuro repeat her predecessor’s success, it will mean McNary’s visual art department will be awarded $20,000, and both Zuro and Toland would receive a $5,000 award.

Final photographs of the completed heifer must be submitted to contest judges by April 1.

One catch to the deal is that Zuro only had to submit a concept for one flank of the piece, she’ll need to come up with a plan for the reverse side on the fly.

“I’m thinking a backstage view on the other side,” Zuro said.

The whole thing came as quite a surprise. Left to her own devices, Zuro finds much more joy in calligraphy and two-dimensional drawing.

“I’m not actually not a painter, the thing that’s going to be tricky is blowing up the design for a piece this big. It’s not going to be very detailed since it’s coming from a concept sketch that was really small. The faces are going to be a challenge,” Zuro said.

Toland, however, has nothing but faith in her young charge.

“I first met her as a freshman and immediately knew she had incredible ability. She’s taken to calligraphy more than any other student I’ve had,” Toland said.

Transit construction may not start until 2012

File Photo

Salem-Keizer Transit officials said this week it may be next year before building starts on a new center in Keizer.

It took one step closer to reality after the Keizer Urban Renewal District voted last month to sell $1.77 million worth of land in Keizer to the transit district earlier this month.

Transit officials said the transaction has still not yet closed.

The site at Lockhaven Drive NE and Keizer Station Boulevard NE is about 2.7 acres. The Salem-Keizer Transit board approved the buy in December.

It would serve as a satellite transit facility for the agency, which is based in Salem.

SKT General Manager Allan Pollock said the district will “be going through a design process, which will include public involvement,” including open houses “to get feedback on the preliminary concept and incorporate any ideas the community has.”

He said grading could start this fall but starting building construciton is unlikely unless the design process moves forward quickly.

Funds to buy the land and build the center come from state and federal grants, according to Steve Dickey, the SKT director of transportation development. The transit center is one piece of developing the site that has come to be known as Area B of Keizer Station – south of the homes in the Gubser neighborhood, east of McLeod Lane NE and north of Lockhaven Drive NE. A medical facility is proposed for the site’s west side.