Bypass plan hits skids in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE — A proposal to bring a 30-acre piece of property deemed vital for a truck bypass route into Jacksonville's urban growth boundary has been shelved after the property owner said he would no longer provide financial assistance.

David Freel said he didn't feel assured the application would move forward in a timely fashion after conversations with Jackson County officials. Freel owns 30 acres of agricultural land immediately north of Royal Mobile Estates that runs from Old Stage Road on the west to Highway 238 on the east.

"Given that data (in the application) is time-sensitive, if it goes on the back burner for three to five years, you're going to need to update all of these studies for tens of thousands of dollars," said Freel.

City officials approached Freel about bringing his land into the city, he said. As part of annexation, Freel would have built a road to serve as a bypass and developed three acres of commercial property, multifamily housing and single-family residences.

The City Council decided not to go forward with the process after Freel wrote in a letter to the city that based on conversations with Jackson County planning staff and administration, "we were informed of the lack of 'political will' on the part of the Jackson County Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners to facilitate a UGB application presented on behalf of the city of Jacksonville."

Freel attributed the county position to the city's decision to no longer participate in the decade-old Regional Problem Solving process in which Jackson County municipalities have proposed additions to their boundaries.

"It has nothing to do with our political will," said County Administrator Danny Jordan. "It has to do with our work plan and the preference of the board (of commissioners) to facilitate the RPS process before we facilitate the UGB process."

The county's work plan for next year calls for consideration of urban growth boundary applications on the assumption that work on the Regional Problem Solving process largely will be concluded, said Jordan. UGB expansion requests are not subject to time lines or mandates, said Jordan.

City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen said the city was going to contribute $10,000 toward the process. Freel said application costs could have totaled up to $60,000.

"Basically, he was going to be helping with preparation of findings and the application, but (with) the withdrawal of that support ... the council said that is too much for our city budget and we are not going to proceed," said Wyntergreen.

A bypass route was proposed in 1970 and has been considered by the county, state and city ever since. Rerouting of truck traffic would help preserve historic buildings, many constructed in the 1800s, along California Street. In a framed 1979 letter in Old City Hall, then-U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield wrote he would be commencing efforts shortly to secure funds "to make this needed project a reality."

"Given the current circumstances and the situation, I don't feel light at the end of the tunnel," said Freel. "It's disheartening, to say the least."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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