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Report OKs cow park change

Larry Odle was among those speaking out against a proposed apartment project at the corner of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road during a public hearing on June 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)
Larry Odle was among those speaking out against a proposed apartment project at the corner of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road during a public hearing on June 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)

Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Hearings Officer’s report about a controversial land use change at the “cow park” on Verda Lane isn’t coming to the Keizer City Council until September.

If the public hearing on the topic from last month is any indication, council chambers will be a busy place again on Sept. 2.

Herber Family LLC is attempting to change zoning from Single Family Residential to Medium Density Residential and to change the Lot Line Adjustment, consolidating the current 14 lots into one 7.5 acre parcel.

During the June 12 public hearing, a developer discussed plans to build approximately 120 apartments on the property, which would require the removal of the cows currently on the property. Most of those who spoke at the hearing were against the idea, with many expressing a desire for the cows to remain.

The report from Cynthia Domas was submitted to the city earlier this month.

“It is hereby found that the applicant has met the burden of proving the applicable standards and criteria for approval,” the recommendation reads in part. “It is recommended that the Comprehensive Plan map amendment, Zone Change and Lot Line adjustment be approved.”

The report acknowledges councilors will have final authority on the issue and lists a series of suggested conditions.

The conditions include issuance of sewer permits, connecting to existing sewers, coming up with a master water system plan, abandonment of any existing wells, street improvements that will “provide an adequate transportation system” along Verda Lane, the development of an overall storm drainage plan and a vacation of the Philip Street right-of-way.

Nate Brown, director of Community Development, noted during Monday’s council meeting the anticipated delay in the discussion.

“The family has out of town commitments for the month of August,” Brown said. “We felt it was important for them to be able to offer testimony.”

During the June 12 hearing, developer Mark Grenz of Multi-Tech Engineering noted the Herber family came to him and asked what the best use of the land was.

“We determined residential is not the best use of the land,” Grenz said. “This land is ideally suited for high-density housing. It will probably be in the 120-plus (apartments) range, probably three stories.”

Aside from Grenz, no one else spoke in favor of the proposal.

Larry Odle, who lives on the same block of Verda Lane, was among the many acknowledging property owners can do what they want with their own property – though he hoped for something else.

“I’m sure most of us have an emotional connection to this property,” Odle said. “I feed the cows. The Herbers have been excellent neighbors. I have no problem with them dissolving their property; it’s their inheritance. The rest of us would love for it to stay as a farm.

“My concern is with the development of the property other than single family residences,” he added. “I have concern of its effect upon us. Verda has not been developed (for more traffic). There’s also the concern of valuation of our homes across the way.”

Since that meeting, several have suggested the city purchase the property and preserve it as open land. City leaders have not shown interest in that idea.