Housing agency reaches out to Cherry Creek opponents

The Jackson County Housing Authority wants to extend an olive branch to residents who have objected to a proposed 100-unit, low-income housing project in east Medford.

"We're making an attempt to reach out to neighbors," said Jason Elzy, director of development for the housing authority. "We're seeking common ground and a solution."

His agency sent out 330 letters this week to residents near the proposed Cherry Creek apartment complex and also will run an open letter in the Mail Tribune Friday.

The proposed 16-building complex, comprising 94,550 square feet and 150 parking spaces on nearly 6 acres, would be at the corner of Spring Street and North Berkeley Way, adjacent to Donahue-Frohnmayer Park.

Neighbors say the two-story complex surrounded by residential neighborhoods will drive down property values and increase traffic congestion.

The housing authority wants to meet with residents over the next month to address their concerns. At the same time, it is pursuing an appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals after the Medford City Council denied the project on Sept. 22 because it determined the project was incompatible with the neighborhood.

Elzy said some of the issues raised by property owners already have been incorporated into revisions, such as removing a gate that would have provided easy access into the park, getting rid of a private driveway on Spring Street, building a wall around the complex, creating additional landscaping, increasing the number of parking spaces and installing fencing around the apartments.

These changes would lessen the impact the project would have on the surrounding neighborhood, Elzy said.

His agency would be happy to consider other changes in the design to address concerns, he said.

"Really, at this point, we're reaching out to the opponents and the people in the neighborhood to come back to the table," he said.

Elzy said zoning on the property requires building a complex with a minimum 98 units.

Jerry Pringle, a nearby resident, said the latest effort by the housing authority frustrates him.

"They won't give up," he said. "This is not an appropriate place for that type of project — period. I just don't understand why they keep persisting."

Chris Hill, another resident, said she was suspicious of the housing authority, saying the agency hadn't contacted her, or other residents, about any compromises being considered for the project.

Hill expressed concern that the housing authority is attempting to reach out to the community at the same time that both sides continue to pursue legal issues through their respective lawyers.

She said the housing authority failed to start a dialogue with residents about the project until this point.

Without being able to review the proposed changes, Hill said she couldn't say whether the housing authority comes close to addressing the neighbors' concerns.

She said more than 100 people are directly involved in opposition to the project.

The zoning is too dense compared to the surrounding neighborhood, Hill said.

"It's too large, too intrusive," she said. "My hope would be the housing authority looks at the public opinion that shows we do not want this project next to the park."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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