Medford planning chief may moonlight for Phoenix

PHOENIX — Medford’s planning director may take a part-time position with the city of Phoenix as it prepares to seek expansion of its urban growth boundary to allow for future growth.

Matt Brinkley, who was planning director for Phoenix from 2014 through December 2016 before going to Medford, would work a total of 75 hours between now and July through his Red Arrow Planning, Development and Research company. Phoenix City Council is expected to consider a contract at its Nov. 20 meeting.

“What this is talking about is how you update the comprehensive plan for an amendment to the urban growth boundary,” said City Manager Eric Swanson. “Most of the work that has been done, he’s had a hand in. He has the background and knowledge as to why things say what they say.”

Phoenix and other Rogue Valley municipalities designated land for further growth through a Regional Problem Solving process. Phoenix has been working to bring areas into its UGB since 2014 under RPS. State land-use laws require that communities show a need for expansion as part of the approval process that would ultimately lead to expanding city limits. Phoenix is projected to grow from 4,955 people in 2015 to 6,883 by 2035 and 9,775 by 2065.

“A lot of the really more difficult technical work has been done. All that stuff needs to be pulled together,” said Brinkley. The council met with Brinkley in a work session Nov. 6, where he detailed the process and discussed what he could accomplish.

Brinkley told the Mail Tribune he would withdraw from working for Phoenix if a conflict arose because of his duties as Medford planning director. The work would not impact his Medford duties, he said.

Phoenix councilors had some discussion about how an arrangement might work in view of Brinkley’s employment, said Swanson. But they also liked the idea of regional collaboration.

“The sentiment was that this makes it even more of a positive because we are thinking regionally and working with Medford,” Swanson said.

Phoenix and Medford have designated expansion areas that abut each other adjacent to North Phoenix Road, Brinkley noted. The areas were designated as employment zones in the RPS process.

Analysis of Phoenix’s need for adequate land and expansion began in 2014. Studies have looked at the transportation system, housing needs, economic opportunities, and parks and recreation. The council is adopting those into the town's comprehensive plan, a requirement for expansion.

“We need to demonstrate to the state that the city is using its lands efficiently,” said Brinkley.

Specific tasks and deadlines are spelled out in Brinkley's proposed contract. Among them would be interviewing stakeholders, updating documents with any new data, and attendance at City Council and Planning Commission sessions if required. Brinkley would also assist city staff with updates to land use and urbanization elements of the comprehensive plan.

Current City Planner Evan MacKenzie, who started in May, has worked on housing and transportation aspects of the documents needed for the process, said Swanson. MacKenzie has worked with a citizen action committee and the Planning Commission.

“(Brinkley) will be a part of the team to move this forward,” said Swanson. The work plan does not contemplate Red Arrow’s participation in the state or county UGB review process, Swanson wrote in a memo. He said that might happen as soon as late summer or early fall depending on county timelines.

First readings by title only were held on two ordinances Mackenzie has worked on at the council’s Nov. 6 meeting. They are repeal of the existing housing element and adding a new housing element to the comprehensive plan, and adoption of amendments to the city’s Land Development Code to implement the 2016 transportation system plan. Public hearings and second readings of the ordinances will be held at the Nov. 20 council meeting.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at

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