State reviews community growth plans

In planning for growth, several local jurisdictions face a fight with state agencies over using farmland for development.

Medford Planning Director Rob Scott said after six years of planning, it's possible some cities won't get the needed approval from agencies such as the Department of Agriculture to adopt the "regional problem solving" plan as proposed.

"That is a conundrum," he said.

Scott will provide the Medford City Council with the latest update on future growth areas at noon today, Room 151, Lausmann Annex, 200 S. Ivy St., Medford.

The process, in its sixth year, is a formal effort by seven cities and Jackson County, led by the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, to plan for the valley's population doubling from its 2000 figure of 135,000 to 270,000 in the next few decades from Eagle Point to Ashland.

Five of the six expanding cities have selected for development some land identified by the state Resource Lands Review Committee as critically needed farmland.

Medford is proposing 6,476 acres for urban reserve land, 1,877 of which are already defined as parks currently outside of the city limits and will remain park land. Medford has proposed 592 acres currently zoned commercial farmland, 318 of which (near South Stage Road and Coker Butte Road) are pending state approval for future development.

Of the 1,840 acres Central Point is proposing, 636 are zoned commercial agricultural, and of those 391 are still pending approval by the state. Of the 1,375 acres Eagle Point is proposing, 89 are zoned commercial agricultural, all of which are pending approval. Of the 1,082 acres Jacksonville is proposing, 180 are commercial agricultural, and of those 147 are still pending approval. Of the 873 acres Phoenix is proposing, 49 are zoned commercial agricultural, all of which are pending approval. The Phoenix figure includes 266 acres already developed but that are outside of the urban growth boundary. Talent is proposing 291 acres, none of which are agricultural lands. Ashland is not requesting any growth in its footprint. Ashland officials have decided there's enough commercial and residential land inside the urban growth boundary but outside the city limits to handle its needs.

In addition to the Department of Agriculture, several state agencies, such as the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Department of Environmental Quality are reviewing the lands in September.

Michael Cavallaro, RVCOG director, said of all the agricultural land proposed, approval of Central Point's development on agricultural land west of the city is most critical, because the city is constrained by I-5 on one side, Medford on another, and has nowhere else to grow.

Scott said though the state agencies have been involved in the discussions from the start, he would be "surprised" if they gave the green light to all the agricultural land. But Cavallaro said he thought the jurisdictions stood a good chance of getting complete acceptance, because they were careful to only tap into the less productive agricultural lands.

"On the whole, the cities did do a very good job of avoiding the (farm) land," he said.

Kelly Madding, Jackson County's community development director, said she hopes if any farm land is not approved by the state, that it doesn't harm the regional effort.

"If some of the areas are not supported by the state, hopefully everyone will stay in the process," she said, adding the plan could always be amended later if needed.

"This isn't the only plan for 50 years that's cast in stone," she said. "It'll be evolving."

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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