Jacksonville to reconsider adding future growth area

JACKSONVILLE — The City Council will consider another attempt at adding an area for future growth that drew objection from the state when the council meets at 7 tonight in Old City Hall.

A December letter from the Department of Land Conservation and Development to the Greater Bear Creek Regional Problem Solving Policy Committee withheld support for the proposed addition.

Regional Problem Solving is an effort by Rogue Valley communities to plan for growth over the next 50 years.

The letter said the city had not adequately justified inclusion in its urban reserve of an agricultural area known as JK-10 along Highway 238 to the northeast. The area includes Little League fields, a pear orchard and a Medford Irrigation District stabilization pond.

Council members heard from developers who said they're willing to scale back the acres for future inclusion from 50 to less than 15 at a study session held Feb. 12. Developers are proposing a medical spa for the site.

"Personally, I think it's a good idea," said council member John Dodero. "It's a place where people would come for medical procedures that have to do with enhancement."

Deliberations on the parcel highlight the conflict between state regulations and efforts by the city to maintain its historical texture, officials say.

"I realize they are trying to go by their own rules, but the whole idea of the RPS was to try to accomplish goals that the cities have that can't be done underneath the existing regulations," said Dodero. "I personally have been saying, 'Why are we part of this process?'"

At this point the council has decided to stay in the process, said City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen. "We want to see if we get recognition of some of our special characteristics," he said.

State land-use goals envision six residential units per acre. That criteria is in conflict with the city's desire for two units per acre in future city lands to create a village pattern with more density downtown and less in outlying areas, said Dodero.

"When you work with these (state) metrics you get more of a homogenized outcome rather than a texture from the community," said Dodero. But he added the city could probably work with three units per acre.

At its Feb. 5 meeting, the council reconsidered two other parcels it earlier rejected as urban reserves. It voted unanimously to resubmit JK-8, a parcel that includes the closed South Stage Landfill. The site could potentially provide a fire escape route for parts of town and other public routes, said Wyntergreen.

A motion to resubmit JK-3, property north of South Stage Road just east of current city limits, resulted in a tie vote when council member Bill Leep, a real estate agent, abstained because he had a listing adjacent to the property. Leep announced at the study session that he has dropped the listing, opening the door for reconsideration tonight.

Owners of JK-3 had sought inclusion of 50 acres in the urban reserve. The defeated motion was to include 11 acres that are surrounded by city land on three sides.

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

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