By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Progress is being made towards expanding Keizer’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) at Keizer Rapids Park.
During Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting, councilors unanimously directed city staff to prepare an ordinance to adopt findings with revisions proposed last month by the Keizer Planning Commission.
Planning Commission members had, by a 5-1 vote, recommended the KRP master plan from 2006 be amended to include 58 additional acres into the park. Of that land, 38 acres are already in city limits but not in the UGB.
A key addition made by Planning Commission members was that the filbert trees in the new acreage remain until the revised master plan is developed.
Nate Brown, the director of Community Development for Keizer, acknowledged having land in city limits not within the UGB wasn’t common.
“It was unusual, but it was allowed for in our case,” Brown said.
The UGB expansion process has been discussed quite a bit this year, since the 28 acres at the front of the park has been mentioned as a possible site for the Big Toy playground. However, work can’t be done on that land until it is within the city’s UGB. The land includes a filbert orchard.
Concern aplenty had been expressed in recent months about the ability to get the UGB process taken care of before the scheduled Sept. 17 to 21 playground build date. In turn, that led to discussion of the build date being pushed back.
Councilor Marlene Quinn, chair of the Community Build Task Force, had said on April 21 a decision on whether or not to push back the project would come at Monday’s meeting. However, the topic was not on the agenda and was not discussed at all during the meeting.
Afterwards, Quinn admitted she misspoke about the process and noted mayor Lore Christopher had the item removed from the agenda.
“It’s got to go to the task force,” Quinn said. “Then the task force makes a recommendation to the Parks Board, then the Parks Board makes the recommendation to here (on May 19). I didn’t realize that, so I misspoke. Lore reminded me that’s the process.”
Brown noted the UGB topic wasn’t being worked on solely because of the project.
“The need for annexation and UGB is driven by several things,” he said. “You’ve heard about the Big Toy. It’s simply not the only driver for what we’re doing tonight. It was certainly part of discussion. But we’re here to justify what we have to go through to move an UGB. We have to demonstrate our needs and do a site analysis.”
The analysis also ties in with the city’s Housing Needs Analysis from last year, which showed the city needs to acquire more park land over the next 20 years.
“One master plan objective long in play was the need to acquire more parcels,” Brown said. “The proposed findings show this is the more logical extension of meeting that service.”
Councilor Jim Taylor wanted to ensure the action wouldn’t lead to something.
“Just to be very clear, what we’re proposing has nothing to do with building houses, correct?” Taylor asked.
City attorney Shannon Johnson confirmed that.
“Look at the zoning for the property, which would be public,” he said. “Housing is not allowed in that zoning.”
As has been previously mentioned, three other jurisdictions – Salem, Marion County and Polk County – would have to also change their master plans to accommodate the altered UGB for Keizer. Brown said progress is being made in that regard.
“Everybody has been extremely positive,” he said. “All three of those jurisdictions are working very hard. The cooperation we’ve gotten from all three has been very positive and uplifting.”