An expedited land-use application to build 49 houses on a hillside in the south end of Talent has been denied by the city.
Lack of a second access to the project over railroad tracks — an issue that led to rejection of a similar request a decade ago — was among the reasons cited for the denial.
Tony and Tory Nieto had proposed creation of the Talent View Estates on 26.6 acres at 201 Belmont Road. State land-use law allows an expedited application that bypasses much of the usual land-use approval process if certain criteria are met.
“The applicant failed to provide evidence that issues of secondary access as it relates to upgrading Belmont Road have been successfully resolved,” Community Development Director Zac Moody wrote in the ruling. That would include approval from the Oregon Department of Transportation for rail crossing upgrades.
Issues related to reconstruction of the Talent Irrigation District Talent Canal at Belmont Road have not been resolved, and no approved permits from the Bureau of Reclamation have been provided, the ruling noted.
“I was disappointed. The reason we tried to get the subdivision in is that the numbers show how short Talent is on housing,” Tony Nieto said. “Our parcel is one the largest in the city that could be built on. It would be good for the future of Talent, help the tax base and help the economy.”
Several agencies noted the proposal did not address issues or permissions needed for development.
In submitted comments, Jackson County Fire District 5 said the development did not meet 2015 Oregon Fire Code for fire apparatus access due to potential delays or blockage from rail traffic. The application should be amended to provide a secondary access in accordance with the code in Talent’s comprehensive plan, the district wrote.
CSA Planning Ltd., which prepared the application, argued that a secondary outlet required by the comprehensive plan for all new developments was not needed because homes in the subdivision would be equipped with automatic fire sprinkler systems. But the city said other safety and emergency response factors are considered when assessing a proposal.
“The problem with that property has always been one of access. That came through pretty clearly in the denial,” said Vern Davis, who lives next to the site and serves on the South Talent Neighborhood Association. “We’ve been down this road four times since the ’80s. Access may not be insurmountable, but it is close.”
A railroad district master plan prepared by the city shows development on that side of the tracks coming from Rapp Road down to the south end of Talent. The lynch pin could be a connector road coming from Rapp for additional access, said Davis, but access at Belmont alone doesn’t work.
Jackson County Development Services found that proposed transportation improvements had not gone through the required land-use review and permit process and is therefore incomplete with respect to a rail crossing.
Talent Irrigation District noted that any construction within the current TID canal right of way must go through a process with the federal Bureau of Reclamation and meet other criteria. The federal bureau stated that a HazMat review would need to be conducted and that the Talent Main Canal is eligible for registration in the National Register of Historic Places and will require hiring of an archaeologist to consult with the state Historic Preservation Office.
Jackson County Roads and Engineering and Oregon Department of Transportation’s Rail Division also did not offer support due to issues related to the rail crossing.
A total of 270 pages of comments regarding the project were submitted. Nearby neighbors submitted concerns about loss of farmland, removal of trees, storm runoff increases and other issues.
A number of city development criteria were met by the proposal, including traffic circulation, pedestrian access, density requirements and lot size, the ruling stated. But storm water runoff and tree preservation criteria were not met.
The ruling could be appealed to the city’s hearings officer. Appeal of a hearings officer’s ruling would bypass the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals and go to the state Court of Appeals.
Nieto said he was uncertain whether an appeal would be made.
“We are going to look at the city concerns. We may try coming back to talk to them,” said Nieto. “It’s just too bad more neighbors couldn’t get behind the project to help the city have development. You know housing drives everything.”
Moody, Interim City Manager Sandra Spelliscy and Dick Converse, a planner with Rogue Valley Council of Governments, reviewed the ruling. The city’s attorney was also consulted.
Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org