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Cap amenity fee at $25,000

A plan to enact a fee on commercial deveopment to fund public amenities in Keizer is going to get a second, deeper look by the city council.

The council was scheduled to act on the amendment to the development code at this week’s meeting. The issue has been continued to the first council meeting in October. The public hearing on the matter will also be re-opened.

The public amenities will include landscaping that is up to code for new development and also a contribution to Keizer’s public art program equal to 1 percent of the project’s total worth.

Many cities, counties and states have such a provision. In many cities in America a visitor can see lots of public art that is paid for with a required 1 percent contribution.  Keizer’s public art program has become anemic and has yet to live up to its potential. Establishing a contribution program from commercial development is a good way to assure that the public art program is well-funded and continues to add pieces and events to our city.

A sticking point that arose at this week’s council meeting was the cost to a developer. The value of a new dental office being built in Keizer Station could be up to $8 million; one percent is $80,000—a large contribution for public amenties in Keizer. Some say there should be more parity amongst differing developments. As it was pointed out at Monday’s council meeting, a dental office is a specialized building that has much higher cost and value than a standard office.

When the council takes up this issue again next month it should consider a cap on contributions. For example, a 1 percent contribution for art, with a cap of $25,000. If there were only two new commercial developments a year (it is very unlikely there would be that few), the public art program would get a $50,000 shot in the arm. That’s much more than it has ever gotten in any one year period.

There are costs to doing business. The costs from the city of Keizer are low. Marion County is the body that issues permits for construction and they set the cost for such permits. It is relatively inexpensive to do business in and with the city of Keizer. When many individuals and companies endeavor to ‘give back’ to the community, a contribution of 1 percent of a project’s worth, capped at $25,000, is an investment benefits the whole community.

Several councilors that have stated that they are not artists and do not feel competent to assess art submissions. There is a mechanicism in place for that purpose:  the Keizer Public Arts Commission, which should remain the final word on acceptable art.

Funding public art willy nilly doesn’t work. The council should push forward and make required contributions easy  for developers to swallow so the city can be a showcase of art for now and into the future.