The Keizer Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee met Wednesday (September 20th). A summary of the meeting is below.
Senator Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) was scheduled to join us but was hung up at the Capitol for legislative meetings. We are working to get her rescheduled later in the year.
Much of the meeting discussion then turned to two items working their way through the City Council process. These items include changes to the rules and fees around property development as well as the city’s sign code.
Landscape & Amenities Update to the Keizer Development Code: Currently, the development code has certain landscape requirements for new construction. Some expensive remodels lately have the city looking to expand these requirements to remodeling projects of over $100,000. These projects would have to bring landscaping up to the current code. This requirement would have triggered for the recent remodels of Waremart and Taco Bell.
While cost is one factor here, another includes questions like what happens when someone is remodeling space in a center where they do not own the parking lot; they simply have the use of it? They may not be able to do anything about the landscaping.
Additionally, the proposal calls for each project (regardless of cost) to set aside 1 percent for “public amenities.” This could include benches, fountains or payments to the public art fund at the city.
In this case, there are issues related to fairness. For example, a medical clinic with 16,000 square feet of space may need to pay more than large retail store which is many times larger. The medical clinic while smaller has more expensive equipment making its cost per square foot much higher.
The Chamber is opposed to these changes as presented. The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and possible vote at their Monday, October 2nd meeting. We are asking business owners to come testify on the effects of these amendments to their businesses.
These were drafted with little if any input from local employers or developers. As the changes have progressed, many questions have come up. We believe getting all of the affected parties around the table for a discussion could be helpful.
Proposed Solution: Place on hold the current proposal and invite employers and developers into a conversation on this issue.
If you are interested in testifying before the City Council on October 2nd, please contact me or Danielle with any questions.
Sign Code Changes: This summer, city staff approached the Chamber about changes to the sign code. Based on a recent United States Supreme Court decision, city sign codes must be content neutral. No more can Keizer have sections for “political signs” and “real estate signs” for example. Some members of the Chamber have been working with city staff and the Keizer Planning Commission to craft the necessary changes. Currently, the Planning Commission is awaiting a draft of the proposal to vote on and possibly send to the City Council.
While most of what we believe to be in the proposal is acceptable to the Chamber, there are a few items of concern remaining.
- Political Signs – this generated much discussion however the proposal calls for allowing temporary or portable signs in Keizer. Around election time, the sign code will allow an unlimited number of these signs. If the proposal comes out this way, the Chamber will have no problem with it.
- Window Signs / Stickers – Some area business are using window signs (think Goodwill and Jersey Mikes). Not only do some of these stickers provide shade in the business (customers can see out but not in) they mask things like offices with safes and store rooms with racks and boxes. The proposal is expected to call for no more than 50 percent of the window to be covered. This could allow people walking by to look into offices with safes and would expose store rooms to public view. The Chamber is opposed to changing the current rules around window signs.
- Electronic Message Centers – Current city rules allow electronic signs to be changed once every 15 minutes. This limits their usefulness to businesses which make a significant investment in them. The current proposal allows changes once every 60 seconds however the Chamber would like to see Keizer match the Salem rules with changes allowed as frequently as every 8 seconds (businesses could leave messages up longer should they choose). Allowing more frequent changes would allow businesses to post public service messages. For example, Willamette Valley Bank often posts messages about events at McNary. During the community discussion on the police funding fee, many businesses posted messages about the meeting. It is easier for businesses to post these types of messages if they work them into messages about their own business as well.
Proposed Solution: Remove the changes to window signs / stickers and allow electronic message centers changes every eight seconds (Salem’s rules) and then pass the proposed changes to the sign code.
The Planning Commission is done with public testimony on this issue. Our next opportunity to weigh in will be with the City Council. We do not at this point know when the City Council will take this up.
The committee had a discussion about what information members would like moving forward. Ideas included upcoming business related ballot measures and how we can help. There is also interest in inviting members of the City Council to meet with the committee. Please let me know if there are issues in which you would be interested in having the Government Affairs Committee look into.
We also had a discussion about creating a Political Action Committee (PAC) for the chamber which we could use to help educate employers and the community about issues taking place in which they might have an interest. The PAC could also be a place where we could roll in items like candidate questionnaires as we get closer to elections.
Our next Government Affairs Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 18th at 12:00PM at the Keizer Chamber Office.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact me.
Jonathan Thompson, Chair
Government Affairs Committee, Keizer Chamber of Commerce
Cell: (503) 580-1294