Jacksonville says no to RPS committee

JACKSONVILLE — The City Council has withdrawn from a regional planning committee that will help shape Jackson County's growth over the next half-century.

All six council members and the mayor voted Monday for a resolution that said conditions created by the Greater Bear Creek Valley Regional Problem Solving Policy Committee preclude future involvement because the city cannot work effectively in the effort. The council passed another resolution that details nine areas of disagreement about the process.

Jackson County Commissioner Dave Gilmour said Jacksonville's withdrawal was unlikely to adversely affect the process. "I think we will be able to move ahead. It's more to Jacksonville's disadvantage than advantage to be outside of RPS."

Gilmour is the county's representative on the committee.

Jacksonville and the RPS committee have gone back and forth for more than six months about whether the city would continue to participate. Council members voted in October to support the process, then changed course in December. After efforts to compromise, the RPS committee put Jacksonville out of the planning process in March, but invited it back in early April after legal consultation.

An agreement to proceed with RPS has been signed by Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Medford, Talent and Phoenix. Jacksonville balked at signing, claiming it would be committed to implement incomplete plans.

"The representatives have been treated poorly and the council is of the opinion that we have worked hard to maintain a positive relationship with RPS, but the council has to do what they say," Jacksonville Mayor Bruce Garrett said. "That doesn't seem to be much in the way of teamwork."

Jackson County will undertake the next major RPS step — amending comprehensive plans to accommodate RPS findings. This past July, representatives from all the participating cities determined each must sign a participants agreement before the work could begin. Garrett acknowledged that Jacksonville's representative at the July meeting voted to have all sign, but said that vote didn't require the City Council to agree to sign.

"The comprehensive plan process is going to cost the county several hundred thousand dollars," said Gilmour. "We want people to be on board before we start it."

The council's second resolution alleged that the RPS committee has redefined the idea of participants to include only those who sign the agreement. The council resolution noted that participants signed resolutions nine years ago to enter the effort and have attended regularly and paid fees.

That interpretation didn't square with Michael Cavallaro, executive director of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, which coordinates the RPS process.

"Our definition (of participant) is an entity that signs the agreement," Cavallaro said. "Therefore if you do not sign you are not a participant. "In the absence of a definition from the state, we are adding our own definition."

Richard Whitman, director of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, said RPS is "primarily a local process, so it is up to the county and the cities to run the process and determine how to develop it. The whole purpose is to be locally driven."

Cavallaro said comprehensive plan work could begin in early summer. Before that can happen, Jackson County must give notice of the effort, hold a public hearing and establish a fund to cover possible legal challenges to the outcomes, Gilmour said.

Some committee members were disappointed by Jacksonville's decision to withdraw.

"We simply couldn't get the right information communicated back and forth to resolve the situation," said Kate Jackson, chair of the policy committee. "I think it's unfortunate. We've been at it for six months."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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