Talent Planning Commission denies application for subdivision

TALENT — An application to build a 143-unit, 39-acre subdivision in Talent's southwest hills was denied by the planning commission Thursday evening.

Commissioners repeatedly cited uncertainty about a second access to the development in their deliberations, but also raised issues of road grades steepness and unit density allowed within the development.

Cynthia Care, Teresa Cooke, Cory Dalpra and Joi Riley voted for the motion of denial. Commission Chairman Sherman Lamb voted against the motion.

Artner Property Development LLC had proposed Pacific Stage Heights in an area that is bordered by rural lands on several sides. Owner Eric Artner and other company representatives declined to comment after the meeting. They could appeal the denial to a city hearings officer.

Residents of the area were pleased with the decision.

"I feel the commission did a good job of reasoning," said Rose Marie Davis, who has a cattle ranch adjoining the property and opposes the project. "Certainly the decision was justified."

Davis had voiced concerns about impact on wildlife that frequents the site and on buffers between residences and farms.

"It's not that we think there won't be any development there, but the density is unmanageable for the distance from town," said Susan Powell, speaking for her daughter Sarah, who lives next to the site.

"I think they made the right decision. The applicant didn't meet the burden on proving that the second access is found," said Sydnee Dreyer, an attorney who represented Davis. "It is the applicant's burden of proof."

A second access for the property was required by the City Council as a condition under which it approved annexation of 12 acres into the city for the project. But there is uncertainty about whether an access exists to that parcel over railroad tracks adjacent to Talent Avenue. Artner representatives had presented testimony and documents they said prove legal access exists.

The access issue is troubling, said City Attorney Kurt Knudsen. "This has all the makings of a Circuit Court trial of a day or two," he said. Nevertheless, the issue didn't have to stand in the way of approving the project, he added.

The deliberations had been carried over from the Nov. 27 meeting when commissioners agreed they need guidance from staff and legal counsel to sort out conflicting testimony. A public hearing on the application was held Oct. 25 and tabled until the November meeting when the commission ran out of time.

The commission was first approached for approval in May. Artner subsequently asked for a delay in June. Public testimony on the project was closed at the Nov. 27 meeting. About 25 people listened to the commissioners' deliberations.

Urban growth boundaries drawn up in 1974 included the site for future development. A total of 26 acres is already within city limits. City planning staff has recommended approval of the project.

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

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