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Yet another conversation

Here we go again. A community conversation, co-sponsored by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Community Development Department, will be Wednesday, Feb. 28 to discuss the future of River Road.

We’ve been here before. The last time was the River Road Renaissance Advisory Committee in 2012, led by a high-priced consulting firm out of Portland. What came out of that endeavor was the creation of five districts along River Road. From that came a short-lived project of beautification, adding meandering sidewalks, bioswales and native plants. Unfortunately, the Renaissance Project was stopped short when the Urban Renewal District funds were used to pay off construction overruns of Keizer Civic Center and making up for shortfalls at Keizer Station.

The 43-page report from the initial River Road Renaissance discussions haven’t been sitting on a shelf for six years. The report gets perused from time to time. It is one of two reports about Keizer that gather more dust than attention. The other is the Keizer Compass report, a community project that set out to design what the city should look like in the 2020s.

Yet, here we are, getting ready for another discussion about River Road. If you are talking about something you can say you’re doing something. Not in our book. Talk is cheap, we’ve talked and talked before. Let’s implement.

We urge the facilitators of the upcoming Community Conversation to keep the discussion on track and not let it turn into a bitch session about what the city is doing wrong. If there must be another conversation about River Road let it be one that answers the primary question: what kind of city/River Road corridor do the residents of Keizer want? It is a basic question, one that needs to be answered before a shovel of dirt is turned or a zone is changed. If the majority of people do not want to expend public money to turn Keizer in general and River Road specifically into a dense, commercial center, then the conversation ends and we should move on.

It is important to remember that iterations of reports about the future of Keizer were the work of a very small number of residents. To make credible policy one should rely on more than the opinions of less than 1 percent of the citizenry.

When having a conversation about River Road specifically, though, it is important to have all those affected. That includes not only the people who own a business along the city’s main thoroughfare but the people who own the properties. A lessor has only so much leeway to make major structural or landscape changes. If we’re going to talk, let’s be sure all the players are at the table.

The community conversation about River Road may very well hinge on a few narrow topics such as sign and landscape codes. We can have that conversation but the city and its people will be best served if a consensus is reached to give the Chamber of Commerce and the city a direction.

After this discussion we want to see action, as do most of the people interested.