Saturday, November 14, 2009

When they came for me ...

Twisting the knife after I'd left the paper and moved on to other things.

Published Feb. 1, 2008, in the Keizertimes

I moved to Keizer more than four years ago after getting a job at the paper you're now reading. My wife and I purchased a house literally four doors down from the area that is now Keizer Station. I said nothing. I knew what was in the works and understood it would impact us and the area around our home.

Generally, my experience has been a positive one. I have nothing but praise for the city's public works department and the plan they developed to manage traffic in and out of the area. (My wife works in Woodburn, so it's easy to imagine what a tangled mess it might have become with less leadership in that particular area.)

While I feel for my neighbors who have lived here far longer than I, and the undeniable upheaval they've endured, it was another Keizer housing struggle that drew more of my attention.

Beginning in January 2005, the residents of Iris Village, a manufactured home park, were threatened with the loss of the property their homes rested on if they couldn't or wouldn't pay for the land outright. Several residents were eventually able to arrange purchase of their land, but some simply had to walk away from the homes they'd worked hard to afford.

Then, in May 2006, the residents of Berkshire Estates, another manufactured home park in Keizer, were threatened with the closure of their park. In that instance, residents weren't offered the option of purchasing their land. One of those residents, whose circumstances brought him to the attention of the area's state representative, was able to find alternative arrangements. Many more were forced to walk away from their homes.

In both cases, residents of the affected areas packed the city council chambers to offer reasonable, heartfelt and tear-jerking reasons why their homes should not be pulled out from underneath them. They stood up, not just once, but many times, to make their case during public hearings and city council meetings. It always seemed to fall on deaf ears. When I asked why this testimony was not being considered, city officials responded that it was "emotional testimony" that didn't have any bearing on the letter of the law.

Guess what, folks?

Ripping people's lives asunder is bound to stir up some emotion. That doesn't mean that the arguments presented aren't valid - even if the argument doesn't fit within the law of the land.

I'm sure the scene was similar at the meetings leading up to the city council's discussion of a text amendment to allow a 120,000 square foot big box store in Area C of Keizer Station. It didn't surprise me that the members of the city council seemed to back off the proposal. It supported my hypothesis that the main reason the manufactured home parks were allowed to close was because the residents of Iris Village and Berkshire Estates were viewed as second-class citizens. I assumed that, since residents of a better social standing were the ones offering up protest, the money had been heard.

I am not overjoyed by news that the council members are may allow the construction of another big box store in the already unimpressive Keizer Station, but nothing the developers could put there would force me to abandon my home and file for bankruptcy.

Mostly, it's reassuring to know that the residents of Iris Village and Berkshire weren't treated any differently than the rest of Keizer's citizens.

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