Talent gateway developer asks for free land

(Correction: This story originally stated that Talent Urban Renewal Agency board members Ken Baker and Robert Harrison had ties to the group Talent Maker Space. The two have no affiliations with the organization.)

TALENT — A developer selected for the Talent Urban Renewal Agency’s gateway project wants to receive the 4.23 acres of land at no cost.

TURA’s board of directors on a split vote Nov. 1 approved entering negotiations with Development of Southern Oregon/Ethos Development. Two other developers submitted proposals, but one withdrew prior to the vote.

The agency and the developer will negotiate an agreement over the next three months under a "request for expression of interest" process. DOSO/Ethos would develop the site in exchange for the property.

Board members Emily Berlant, Daria Land, Stephanie Dolan and Ryan Pederson voted for the DOSO/Ethos proposal. Members Ken Baker and John Harrison voted against. The board comprises City Council members.

Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood, who serves as board chair, said she favored the proposal for its excitement and innovative spirit.

“Talent can do better than this,” Baker said. “We can give citizens a better return on their tax dollar.”

After the meeting, Baker expressed disappointment that only five minutes of discussion was held before the vote. The board held a study session on the proposals Oct. 25, when they interviewed developers.

TURA acquired the land on the southwest corner of Highway 99 and West Valley View Road for $1.88 million with the intention of developing a vital downtown entrance that would include urban housing. The site includes a restaurant building and a former convenience store and video store.

KDAHomes of Ashland submitted the other RFEI that was still under consideration. Former Talent City Planner Mark Knox and developer Laz Ayala are among partners in KDA. Hanlon Development of Portland had submitted the third RFEI but withdrew.

DOSO's managing partner is Jerryck Murrey, a development project manager with the  Housing Authority of Jackson County. Paul Del Vecchio of Portland is principal of Ethos Development.

While negotiations are underway, an Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development quick response grant for transportation growth management will produce studies and create plans simultaneously to help assist the developer.

“DLCD has agreed to fund selecting a consulting team,” said Josh LeBombard, Southern Oregon representative for the department’s Community Services Division. He estimated the work will cost $50,000 to $60,000.

The first goal of the DLCD effort is an analysis of what the market can bear in terms of residential, commercial and maker-space creation, LeBombard said. A second goal would be the creation of a conceptual plan. Representatives from the state, the city and the developer will participate in the effort.

“The city of Talent has a lot of different interests in what they want to see on the site,” said LeBombard. “It is the gateway to the community.”

DOSO/Ethos’ vision includes control of the entire 4.23 acres. Financing may include a variety of methods. DOSO/Ethos anticipates a project budget of between $12 million and $15 million.

Creation of 40-plus residences, limited car access, commercial spaces, space for events and creation of a commercial maker space are projected. The area would be developed in three phases through 2020. City parking requirements may need to be reduced, according to the document.

KDA’s proposal had suggested that other sites besides the TURA land might be considered for a maker space.

Baker asked board members to disclose their relationships with the Talent Maker Space organization.

Ayers-Flood and Dolan are on the group’s board of directors. Pederson has helped sponsor maker-space events. Berlant said she has no financial ties with the group but shares work space with the organization and appeared in a video by the group. Land has offered to help the organization. All said they did not have conflicts in voting on the issue.

“I just don’t feel those people should have been voting,” Baker said Thursday. “Legally they were correct because Maker Space is a nonprofit. Morally and ethically, I don’t see how you could sit there and make a decision.”

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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