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Residents should help decide how to grow city

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The question asked on the front page of the December 8 issue of the Keizertimes hopefully will motivate every Keizer resident to get involved in deciding how and where our city grows. The issue most certainly got me reflecting on how relatively easy it has been to get around this town but how that condition is changing and will predictably become so much more challenging if we do not plan and act wisely.

A considerable stroke of pure genius was the decision to occupy—for multiple retail and living space use nearby—that area named Keizer Station bordering Lockhaven Drive, Ridge Drive, I-5 and the south side of Volcanoes Stadium. Keizer Station reminds me of my early days as a school teacher in Beaverton, having Portland’s then newly-built Lloyd Center, where there was always a place to park, it was crime-free and it offered the only one-stop shopping in Oregon at the time. At present, shopping malls may be on the decline elsewhere while Keizer Station is one that will be viably-important for years to come.

River Road North  is getting more and more congested and thereby increasingly difficult to negotiate as a result of businesses along it where—as just one example—drivers think it’s okay to block the street so they can get their coffee.  Keizer police could start issuing tickets but that’s a negative for them when it should be a business responsibility to establish a site that does not impede traffic. Conditions we have already, and growing, along River Road North, could be curtailed if a proactive city council and mayor would not permit traffic-impeding conditions.

While we’ve still got a measure of time, we should move as much business by incentive to Keizer Station and increase available space there so that new or existing businesses can locate or re-locate there instead of River Road.  At the same time, more high rise apartment buildings for seniors (such as Bonaventure at Keizer Station) and the general population should be built in what could become a much larger space for all investors interested in developing retail space and apartment buildings.

Keizer Station is rapidly expanding and will continue to grow as Keizer’s population grows and more traffic uses Interstate 5.  It would appear urgent then to negotiate with Volcanoes Stadium to help its owners relocate, although it may require eminent domain to get it done.  Then, too, there’s open land immediately to the west of the ball park and some, too, just north of it before farmland that could be incorporated into an expanded shopping center as we move through the years of growth and development predicted to come and, to one degree or another, has already arrived.

Regarding this subject, most certainly a case for civil engineering and road work should be a part of development deliberations.  All paths to Keizer Station become heavily congested before holidays and often during certain times of any day.  Woodburn Company Stores became a dangerous exit before the highway improvements were made.  This is the time to get started for Keizer Station, not only for its freeway location but also access by the Salem Parkway NE as well as Chemawa and Lockhaven Drive.

Another casualty of letting things grow topsy turvy is the rich farmland near Keizer’s city limits, that land adjoining it and the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).  The entire nation keeps using up rich farm land to house people on city lots and acreage when it would seem proactively wise to ask how we’ll eventually feed everyone when land to grow fruit, vegetables and farm animals is covered with people living on it.  It’s truly a matter that’s ignored at what promises human peril.

Hope proactive over reactive becomes a well-established Keizer modus operandi.  Otherwise, we give our next generation big problems we likely could have done a whole lot about. One final thought here: talk, persuade, cajole a large grocery, pharmacy, clothing, electronics, jewelry store to be built inside Keizer Station. That would be a crowning apex to a shopping location that could be among the very best in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)