City officials surprised at growth plan land addition

Medford officials have expressed surprise that Jackson County recently proposed adding another 394 acres to the city's future growth area as part of a 10-year-long regional effort to prepare for a doubling of the county's population.

The county Planning Commission recommended Medford take in a total of 4,805 acres under the Regional Problem Solving plan — about 400 more acres than the city had designated.

"We were under the understanding that we were discouraged from making changes like that after 10 years of work," said Suzanne Myers, a city senior planner.

City Council members plan to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes, but initial reaction suggests the council hasn't embraced the idea, particularly because the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development has warned cities about taking in too much land.

Areas that would be added under the proposal include land north of Vilas Road to Gregory Road, the Hollywood subdivision area off West Main Street and agricultural land west of Oak Grove Elementary School.

The county Planning Commission also recommended not including high-value farmland along South Stage Road as part of Medford's future growth.

Residents in the areas proposed for addition into the city have previously opposed inclusion in Medford's boundaries.

Cities that plan to add land for future growth under the RPS process include Eagle Point, Central Point, Medford, Phoenix and Talent. Ashland is the only city in the process that won't add acreage, with city officials there saying they prefer to increase density. The RPS process was started a decade ago with the premise that the county should prepare for a doubling of population by 2060.

The combined effort by the county and local cities is part of a state option that grants more local control — if all the entities can agree — for determining where future growth will be directed.

If Jackson County succeeds in finalizing the proposal, it would be the first of any county in the state to sign off on a Regional Problem Solving plan. Other counties have failed to come to similar agreements because of difficulties in getting the local governments to work together.

In Jackson County, Jacksonville opted out of the process several years ago.

Myers said the city plans to hold a public hearing on the county proposal, possibly on Sept. 1, although details haven't been finalized.

Hearings will also be held by the county commissioners, who will debate the county Planning Commission recommendation.

Planning Commission members were divided on the recommendation, voting 3-2 in favor.

Don Greene, chairman of the Planning Commission, said he voted against the idea and helped to prepare a minority report opposing the idea.

"It was kind of a last-minute thing," he said. "It was not a unanimous decision."

Greene agreed with including land north of Vilas, but opposed taking in high-value farmland west of Oak Grove Elementary.

Greene also agreed to take out land along South Stage. Initially, that proposal resulted in Medford being short of acreage, requiring adding more land from other areas. That led to inclusion of the land west of Oak Grove, which Greene said he opposed because it provides an important buffer between the city and other agricultural land.

Adding 400 acres could also be a problem with the state, Greene said.

"I think that could be an issue, particularly with the farmland being brought in," he said.

The county has prepared a 2,000-page document to support its findings about the RPS effort and to justify the proposed changes.

The county Planning Commission proposed other changes, including reducing the growth area for Phoenix by 18 acres and for Talent by 75 acres.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

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