Subdivision plans stymied by LUBA decision for now

A 34-lot subdivision approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in February has been returned to the county for further review by a state land board.

Although the state Land Use Board of Appeals agreed with most of the county's decision, it said local officials had failed to address state planning requirements and county ordinances that were set up to protect winter habitat for deer and elk.

In approving the subdivision of 343-acres on the slopes of John's Peak off John's Peak Road, the commissioners changed land designated as Forest Resource to Rural Residential, which would allow smaller lot sizes than are required for animal habitat.

Nine property owners living near John's Peak Road had requested the subdivision.

"This decision was so wrong, I felt I had to accept the case," said Debbie Vincent, a Medford attorney who appealed the decision to LUBA on behalf of the Motorcycle Rider's Association, whose property is adjacent to the proposed subdivision.

"The bottom line is that the county approved a 34-lot subdivision in the middle of a protected forest resource environment," she said.

"We haven't mapped out any sort of blueprint of how we plan to proceed," said Medford attorney Mark Bartholomew, who represents the property owners. "Frankly, we don't consider any of the issues to be fatal."

LUBA's decision said making a change from Forest Resource land to Rural Residential requires a formal change to planning goals, even when the county decides the property is not Forest Resource land.

County counsel had said no formal change was necessary. LUBA suggested the county revisit the issue.

LUBA's decision relied on a letter from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which recommended denial of the subdivision because the resulting housing development of 10-acre lots would undermine protection of the deer and elk winter range.

LUBA noted that current county ordinances say adequate winter range is set at a minimum of 40 acres.

Bartholomew said he was confident LUBA's concerns would be overcome.

"We thought the original plan complied with the (county's) comprehensive plan and the land development ordinance," he said.

"What it boils down to is that LUBA needed stronger evidence on a couple of issues."

Neither side is ready to commit to their next move, although Vincent did say she expects the LUBA issues to eventually be brought back before county commissioners.

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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