Talent development talk draws a crowd

TALENT — A development company will need to wait another month to find out if it can proceed with one of the largest projects in recent town history.

Lengthy public testimony at a Planning Commission hearing Thursday forced the commission to continue to Nov. 29 consideration of the 39-acre, 143-unit Pacific Stage Heights subdivision.

Located in the southwest area of the city, west of the railroad tracks, the development proposed by Artner Property Development LLC drew concerns from nearby residents about traffic and access, density, storm water runoff into wetlands and buffers with farmland.

"The city has anticipated this is to be developed for a long time," said City Planner John Adam. The land was designated for development in 1974. Planning staff has recommended approval of the project.

But neighbors raised a slew of concerns at Thursday's meeting.

"They had no buffering for my portion of (adjacent) land," said Rose Marie Davis, who runs a cow and calf operation on 60 acres south of the site and spoke at the hearing. Developers agreed to add buffers at the session, she said Friday.

Davis said other concerns raised include safety issues related to two large city water storage tanks next to the site, the hazards of two irrigation ditches running through the property, encroachment on wildlife habitat and increased traffic.

"There will be lots of traffic coming out of the development," said Davis.

The City Council required that the project have a another access in addition to Belmont Road when it annexed 12 acres needed for the project on Aug. 15. The second access will be the old Pacific Stage Road, which is still shown as a right of way by Jackson County, said Adam.

"The public (railroad) crossing is not in the best of shape," said Adam. "It's feasible as a secondary access but most people would probably not choose to use it."

Belmont Road will be routed underneath the railroad tracks. In addition, the project incorporates plans to link to a future connector road that will run south from Rapp Road west of the railroad.

"We would have liked to have gotten an OK to proceed last night," said Matt Small, an Artner representative. "We understood that might not happen. We'll just keep plugging away at this."

An initial public hearing on the project held May 24 was continued to June 14. The applicant subsequently asked for more time to revise plans for the project, which will include a mix of townhouses and homes on larger lots. There also will be open public space and trails.

Pacific Stage Heights was submitted under the city's planned unit development regulations that allow for greater density than regular zoning. The rules are designed to help avoid urban sprawl. They allow up to five units per acre, but Pacific Stage will average 3.7.

"I know that the surrounding neighbors don't agree with that (level of density)" said Adam. "But it's disappointingly low from an urban perspective, given the mandate from the state and city comprehensive plan."

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

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