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Mayor looks to ease growth boundary tension with Salem

Keizer Mayor Lore Christopher
Mayor Lore Christopher


Of the Keizertimes

While some city councilors were still stinging over remarks made at a Salem City Council work session earlier this month, Mayor Lore Christopher said the two communities are “in counseling,” a nod to the matrimonial terminology that has been used to describe the Keizer-Salem relationship.

At that work session several councilors had advocated a regional approach to possible urban growth boundary (UGB) expansion, i.e. essentially treating Salem and Keizer as one community for planning purposes.

Christopher sought to strike a balance between that viewpoint while not conceding all major future development in the area to Salem.

“Employees don’t know boundaries, crime doesn’t know boundaries,” Christopher said. The mayor said a split of the boundary would only be palatable “if we have no other alternative.”

Other councilors, however, questioned how willing Salem’s leaders may be to listen to Keizer’s case.

“Some of the comments we heard from Salem’s meeting kind of made it sound like, well, Keizer made their bed 30 years ago and you’re going to have to lie in it,” said Councilor Brandon Smith. “That didn’t sit too well with me.”

“I don’t think we say, ‘we really absolutely don’t want to do this,’” said Councilor Jim Taylor.  “If you can’t work well with us we’re going for it.”

Christopher added she’d received two apologies from Salem city councilors over remarks that Keizerites chose limited options for expansion upon incorporation in 1982.

The relationship between the two communities is significant because four jurisdictions –  Salem, Keizer, Marion County and Polk County –  would all have to agree on a UGB amendment. Should the jurisdictions be unable to agree the next step could be going to the Salem Keizer Area Planning Advisory Committee (SKAPAC) for conflict resolution.

Meanwhile staff urged the council last week to seek paths of least resistance before proposing splitting the UGB.

This included adopting projected population numbers the city’s top planner said were less likely to cause legal headaches than higher numbers. The city council tentatively agreed on a projected population of 48,089 in 20 years. This number is used by planners to indicate how much land a city may need to accommodate expected future populations.

And speaking of marital terms, Community Development Director Nate Brown told councilors opting for a UGB split could “jeopardize the positive working relationship we’ve had with Salem in the recent past” and “would be a big cost in resources and time” with not-so-significant gains.

“The costs far outweigh the benefits at this time,” Brown said. “If we get to the point in the future that we find issues that are at an impasse and are unresolvable… we look at it.”