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No home for Talent Estates

TALENT — A landowner is uncertain whether he will appeal the latest denial for the proposed 26-acre Talent View Estates subdivision in the south part of town.

“We haven’t made up our minds yet. We are doing our due diligence. We really don’t know,” said owner Tony Nieto. Among factors under consideration are costs of an appeal, he said.

Talent Hearings Officer Roger Pearce denied an appeal Sept. 5 of an earlier rejection of the project by the city of Talent. Several attempts have been made over the years to develop the land.

Nieto has proposed 49 housing units west of the CORP railroad tracks going up a hillside near city water tanks at Belmont Road. Nieto is seeking approval for the development under an expedited land division process allowed by state legislative action. The process bypasses typical steps, including approval from a planning commission and potential review by the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

Neighbors adjacent to the site have opposed the project, as have others in the south Talent area. Lack of a second emergency access for the development over the tracks has been cited by both neighbors and in rulings as one reason for denying the project.

Under the expedited procedure, denial by a government entity can be appealed directly to the Oregon Court of Appeals. An appeal would need to be submitted by Sept. 26 to meet a 21-day deadline imposed by rules.

Pearce denied the application, arguing it does not qualify as an expedited land division because it does not satisfy four separate minimum street or other right-of-way connectivity standards from the city subdivision code as required by Oregon Revised Statutes. He ordered the application remanded to the city for consideration as a land-use decision or limited land-use decision as required by ORS.

City officials are awaiting the end of a 21-day deadline for a court appeal. At that point, if there is no appeal to the state court, they would inform Nieto that the application could be considered again under the regular process if he submitted the appropriate fee, said city Community Development Director Zac Moody.

Talent officials turned down the original request by Nieto in a June ruling. But the applicant appealed that decision, and it was heard by Pearce July 16.

Development of the site has been attempted several times in the past, most recently in 2005 by Eric Artner. In both the current application and in Artner’s efforts, creation of access over the railroad tracks and lack of a second access for emergency situations have been cited as an obstacle to development. In his legal arguments, Pearce cited, among a number of cases, LUBA’s ruling in 2005 on the application submitted by Artner for the same area.

Development of the area west of the tracks and south of Rapp Road is envisioned in the city’s 2005 Railroad District Master Plan. But Pearce ruled that the document is not an “acknowledged refinement plan” as required by Oregon statutes.

A one-lane, gravel, private rail crossing currently exists at Belmont. A new public road section would need to be created to cross the railroad, but there were not any street or right-of-way improvement proposals that would meet city design standards in the application, Pearce noted.

“At the hearing, the applicant had a surprising dearth of information about CORP right of way,” Pearce wrote.

The city, “perhaps in an excess of caution,” also reviewed the application under city zoning and subdivision codes, in addition to the primary issue of access requirements, Pearce wrote in his decision.

Lawyer Tommy Brooks of Cable Huston LLP, Portland, represented the applicant at the hearing. Ashland land-use lawyer Chris Hearn represented neighbors opposed to the project, while Rebekah Dohrmann was attorney for the city.

Reach Ashland freelancer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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