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Day: September 5, 2014

Public turns out against apartment proposal

Susan Kendall speaks during Tuesday’s public hearing for proposed apartments on the Herber property.
Susan Kendall speaks during Tuesday’s public hearing for proposed apartments on the Herber property.

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Council chambers weren’t quite as full the second time around, but it was close.

In June, a public hearing about a proposal to convert the “cow pasture” along Verda Lane between Chemawa Road and Dearborn Avenue at Keizer Civic Center resulted in the council chambers being filled with about 100 people.

Another hearing on the topic was held during Tuesday’s Keizer City Council meeting. There were a few scattered open seats this time, but still approximately 90 people showed up. All who spoke were against the proposal, which means most left the meeting happy when councilors unanimously rejected the proposal from developer Mark Grenz to move forward with plans for 120 apartments (see related story, front page).

Grenz was one of the few to leave the room unhappy, as he stormed out of the meeting after the vote.

“Good night,” Grenz said gruffly in response to a question from the Keizertimes, the lone media at the meeting.

Mayor Lore Christopher opened the public hearing shortly after 7 p.m. and laid down a few ground rules, such as expected behavior (which wasn’t always followed) and the criteria by which councilors would make their decision. The proposal sought a comprehensive plan change, a change in zoning for the Herber family property and a lot line adjustment. Each of those three things had certain criteria that had to be met for approval.

“We’ll stay here as long as you want us to stay here,” Christopher told audience members at the start. “We’re all neighbors living together in the same community.”

City Attorney Shannon Johnson read off the criteria that had to be met in the quasi-judiciary case, assisted by Nate Brown, the director of Community Development. Copies of the criteria were made, with police chief John Teague distributing those to audience members.

Brown noted Keizer Hearings Examiner Cynthia Domas recommended approval of the application.

“The history of the property is we all love the cows and enjoy the open space,” Brown said. “The property is already platted for 14 spots. No conditions were placed on that years ago.”

Brown pointed out the property was used as a farm for decades.

“The cows are there as a grandfathered use,” he said. “They wouldn’t be allowed under today’s standards. They are there by permission because they have been there forever.”

While noting staff supports the application, Brown said it is “understandable this causes anxiety” in the neighborhood.

“I want to stress that the property is going to change,” he said. “It is private property under private ownership. It will be developed and the cows will eventually go away.”

Shortly before letting Grenz give his presentation, Christopher emphasized emotion wouldn’t play a part.

“I know we all feel the same way about how pleasant the site has been with the cows,” she said. “But an emotional appeal is something we can’t make a decision on.”

Grenz, a 35-year Keizer resident, noted the Herber family came to his Multi-Tech Engineering company and asked what the best use of the property would be.

“A change from single family to multi-family was the way to go,” Grenz said. “That is the avenue we have proposed. The Hearings Officer considered what we submitted and in each case we met the criteria.”

Grenz noted the property is in close proximity to bus stops, schools, parks and shopping. Grenz said fears that apartments would have a negative impact on surrounding property values is a “myth,” which drew chuckles from audience members. He also said there isn’t the impact on schools, crime or traffic that people assume with apartments.

After Grenz concluded, 16 audience members spoke, all against the proposal.

“We already see 230 apartments within a mile,” Judith Odle said. “Now it would be 350 apartments. We bought a residence, now you’re saying it’s not going to devalue? It is going to devalue and you know it. And with three stories, I’m not going to be able to see nothing.”

As happened in June, many of the speakers on Tuesday acknowledged the Herber family owned the property and can thus do what they want with the land, but asked councilors to consider the impacts of the proposal.

Bob Thompson was among those mentioning traffic impacts.

ARE YOU READY?

McNary’s defense ends a run attempt by Central Catholic High School in a jamboree appearance at Lake Oswego High School Thursday, Aug. 28. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
McNary’s defense ends a run attempt by Central Catholic High School in a jamboree appearance at Lake Oswego High School Thursday, Aug. 28. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

When the lights go on at McNary High School’s Flesher Field Friday, Sept. 5, both the Celtics and their opponents, the North Salem High School Vikings, will hit the field with something to prove.

For the Celtics, they’ll be aiming to show continued improvement after making it to the state playoffs last season and winning games in the postseason. The Vikings’ task will be sweeping the skeletons of an 0-10 season into the closet and slamming the door.

“I’m really looking for on-field leadership and execution of our basic plays. If we can do those two things well this year, we will position ourselves to win a lot of our games. If those two things suffer, we will not be able to progress as a team like we hope to. It’s so hard to evaluate your team in non-game situations so I’m really excited to get the first game over with so we can evaluate our progress across the board,” said Isaac Parker, McNary head coach.

The Celtics return with a new starting quarterback, Drew McHugh, surrounded by a throng of talented receivers.

Returners Kyle Torres, Devon Dunagan and Tanner Walker, who combined for 79 catches and more than 1,100 yards in 2013, are all back for senior seasons.

However, Parker said to be on the lookout for David Gonzalez as well.

“David has been showing some flashes of greatness.  Anytime he touches the ball, he could score,” Parker said.

On the ground, expect junior Brady Sparks to be filling the vacated cleats of Brett Hildebrand in the Celtic running game. Sparks will likely take on the brunt of the ground-level push, but a newcomer to the Celtic jerseys is primed to lessen the burden.

“I have really been enjoying coaching Riley Moore, a senior transfer from Amity,” Parker said. “He has brought such a positive attitude and has been enjoying every step of the way. I think he has a chance to be a good play maker on both defense and possibly on offense as a back-up running back.”

For the Vikings, Devin Varay is expected to have the most impact on offense. The senior rushed for 504 yards on 105 carries as a junior running back, and was an all-league selection as a linebacker.

North Salem’s quarterback Zac Liner is taking over as shot-caller after a multipurposed junior year. Overall, the Vikings have five returning varsity players on offense and six on defense, but many on the roster will play both sides of the ball due to lack of depth.

On defense, Parker said the Celtics will have their work cut out for them in the form of senior fullback Larry Nedelec.

“He is a big kid and we have to execute good tackling fundamentals against a kid like him,” Parker said.

Nedelec may be a test for McNary, but the Celtic line is returning heralded talent on both sides of the ball. Returning all-league honorees include Connor Goff, Tevita Maake, Steven Wilkerson and Lacroix Hill. Junior Jason Sperle, in his third year with the varsity team, will also play a big role in the Celtic line.

So, there’s a grenade in my desk drawer…

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

High on the list of things teachers don’t want to see in their desks when returning from the summer break: a grenade.

That’s just what one teacher at McNary High School found last Thursday, Aug. 28.

As a result, the Keizer Police Department was called and the bomb squad was called in. Staff members went home early.

“It wasn’t really a bomb threat,” MHS principal John Honey told the Keizertimes this week. “What happened was we had a staff member who lost a family member. While going through their stuff, he found an old World War II grenade. He sent a text to one of our social studies teachers who teaches about World War II, along the lines of ‘I know you like props.’ He put it in the staff member’s desk drawer.”

Honey, who is starting his fifth year as MHS principal but will be handing the job over to Erik Jespersen at the end of the semester, said the teacher in question didn’t know about the grenade.

“The teacher never saw the text,” Honey said. “He comes back to work and there’s a hand grenade sitting in his drawer. He let us know. We had no idea how it got there. In order to be as cautious as we can, we called in the police and the bomb squad. They discovered it was never a danger, but they had no way of telling that by just looking at it.”

While the bomb squad checked things out around 2 p.m., everyone cleared out as a precaution.

“We evacuated the building,” Honey said. “It was an hour’s worth of intense excitement. Fortunately, we didn’t have any kids around.”

Honey said the grenade looked the stereotypical pineapple-style hand grenade.

“It was big, green and heavy, and looked dangerous,” he said. “The teacher didn’t know where it came from and we didn’t know. There was never any malice or threat involved. It was a pretty honest mistake. My comment to the teacher was it was done with the best of intentions. But if you went through a person’s belongings after they passed away and you found a Colt .45 revolver, you wouldn’t bring the gun to school. So why bring this to school?”

As he’s ready to wrap up his time at McNary, Honey said the grenade reminded him of a similar incident from his initial time at MHS.

“In my first week on the job at McNary, we found a handgun in the lost and found bin in the gym locker room,” he said. “It had the ammunition and a clip with it. We sort of panicked. We were wondering if someone was stashing weapons. Police did a search and found it had been stolen a couple of days earlier when someone was moving. It probably got stolen and a high school kid had it and just dumped it. It wasn’t a threat or anything malicious.”

Honey credited the school’s good partnership with the KPD, especially in those two cases.

“Those have been the only two serious incidents in my time here,” Honey said. “Neither weapon was used maliciously. There was never any intent to cause harm at school. I’d much rather find there was nothing malicious than to find there was a plot. It was a comedy of errors, but an unfortunate comedy of errors.”

Honey said the incident is being looked at internally.

“We will conduct an investigatory meeting and respond accordingly,” he said. “I cannot discuss the results of personnel issues. Suffice it to say that we will do our best to make certain that such an incident is not repeated at McNary.”

Apartment plan gets nixed

KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy
A near-capacity crowd listens Sept. 2 as Keizer City Councilors discuss a proposal for 120 apartments on Verda Lane at the cow pasture. Councilors unanimously rejected the proposal.

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

In the end, the numbers didn’t add up.

As a result, members of the Keizer City Council unanimously rejected a proposal that would have cleared the way for approximately 120 new apartments along Verda Lane between Chemawa Road and Dearborn Avenue, on land referred to as the cow pasture.

The decision came three hours into a meeting on Tuesday night – a day later than normal due to the Labor Day holiday – that attracted a near capacity crowd of about 90 people (see related story, pg. 3). Council chambers had been filled in June when a public hearing on the topic was held in front of the Keizer Hearing Officer.

The meeting had been pushed back to September since members of the property-owning Herber family were unable to attend a meeting in August. However, no members of the Herber family were in attendance on Tuesday.

The Hearing Officer report indicated developer Mark Grenz had met the requirements for a comprehensive plan change, a zoning change and a lot line adjustment, all of which were necessary in order for the apartment plans on the Herber property to move forward.

Councilors disagreed.

During 15 minutes of discussion, councilors raised several concerns.

“I found two significant flaws,” council president Joe Egli said, referring to the Housing Needs Analysis in the staff report. “We’ve told everyone we need 136 acres for single family housing and 9.9 acres of (Medium Duty Residential) land. This will take the area of our biggest need and make it greater, while wiping the other one out to zero. On that alone, I can hang my hat on saying no.”

Egli’s concerns started an avalanche. Councilor and former mayor Dennis Koho lamented land that was sold to make way for the Salem Parkway at the other end of Verda.

“I don’t want to see us do that to this open land,” Koho said. “The (Herbers) are open to compensation. Maybe the citizens of Keizer would pony up I don’t know how many millions. I would be willing to help lead such an effort. It’s a lot of money. The fundamental change, taking down trees and blocking views are all issues we can say no on.”

Mayor Lore Christopher was among those believing Grenz greatly downplayed the potential impact the proposed apartments would have on traffic. A roundabout is already planned at the current four-way stop at Verda and Chemawa due to high traffic volume.

“The reason why we’re doing the roundabout is it’s a major thoroughfare,” Christopher said. “The impact will be significant. Any three-level building is significant. They (Herber family members) are entitled to their inheritance. But the decision is my fiduciary responsibility. I knew Rosalie Herber well. This would not be what Rosalie wants. I think those impacts aren’t minor. You can’t mitigate 120 apartments, you can’t mitigate 240 cars.

“I would wish you well,” the mayor added. “If you want to divest yourself of that land, that is something Keizer could look at. We have never paid millions for park land, but it certainly is an option. They have 14 lots they can develop. What you’re proposing is too significant. It’s too much impact on those neighborhoods. Would I want to live by three-level apartments? Not on your life. And neither would you, Mark.”

The mayor echoed the concerns several citizens expressed during the public hearing that the plans to change the comprehensive plan didn’t meet the criteria calling for such plans to “not significantly adversely affect existing or planned uses on adjacent lands.”

Egli made a motion calling for city staff to bring back an ordinance with wording denying the request, pointing to issues with adversely affecting neighborhoods and not meeting housing needs. Councilor Jim Taylor asked for and received a friendly amendment that the application didn’t meet traffic mitigation concerns.

Taylor, who noted he’s lived in Keizer his entire 67 years, gave his rationale.

“I added traffic because I simply think it will create a huge problem, especially when the roundabout comes in,” he said. “Now, with the stop signs, you have breaks. It won’t happen with this. Besides, councilor Koho doesn’t like roundabouts anyway and this will just give him more fodder.”

With that, the vote to deny the request passed 7-0.

An unhappy Grenz was asked for comment after the meeting.

“Good night,” Grenz growled as he continued walking.

Egli noted Grenz could appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals. There is also the possibility councilors could change their vote when the ordinance is brought forward. City attorney Shannon Johnson said the goal will be to have the ordinance ready for the Sept. 15 council meeting.

“They have to evaluate their choices,” director of Community Development Nate Brown said of the Herber family.

KHC honoring DAR luminary

dar-logo

A memorial plaque honoring Anna Maria Pittman will be dedicated on the front lawn of the Keizer Heritage Center on Sunday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m.

The plaque memorializes the namesake of the Anna Maria Pittman Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Keizer chapter was chartered on Dec. 4, 1985 and shares the mission of the DAR, which was founded in 1890 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The non-profit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization is dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history and securing America’s future through better education for children.

Tammy Goesch, chair of the memorial plaque project, noted the Keizer chapter embarked on the project in 2012 under the leadership of then-chapter regent Corale Goesch.

“The goal was to raise awareness of Ms. Pittman’s part in our local and regional history,” Tammy Goesch said. “While more information on her life can be found in the region – at the Willamette Heritage Center, at Willamette Mission State Park and at the Lee Mission Cemetery – Keizer itself was lacking a memorial to this major figure. Plans for a historical and educational plaque to be sited at the KHC were approved by a resolution of the City of Keizer in October 2012 and fundraising then began in earnest.”

Goesch noted donations are still being accepted.

“It is hoped this memorial plaque will pique the interest of the public to learn more about Anna Maria Pittman, pioneer, missionary, teacher, wife and mother,” Goesch said. “Her life was relatively brief, but her energy and dedication continue to inspire.”

The Keizer Heritage Center is located at 980 Chemawa Road NE, next to the Keizer Civic Center. The program will start promptly at 2 p.m. and last approximately 20 minutes. There will be a dedication of the plaque for Oregon State Regent Ellen Hopkins, a presentation by the McNary AFJROTC Color Guard, period music and light refreshments.