Jackson County is the first and only county in Oregon to receive state approval on Thursday for a Herculean effort that charts the growth of local cities for the next 50 years.
"There is no doubt about it — this region is shining right now," said Michael Cavallero, executive director of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.
The seven-member Land Conservation and Development Commission approved the Regional Problem Solving plan unanimously.
For more than 10 years, six cities, the county, the state, 1000 Friends of Oregon and others have debated, argued and battled over the RPS plan that tries to balance a doubling of the population with preserving farmland.
The RPS process is intended to allow cities to coordinate their growth and preserve buffers between cities. It originally involved seven cities and the county, but Jacksonville dropped out of the effort.
Jackson County will now be eligible for more state and federal dollars for transportation and other projects.
Among the road projects on the back burner that could move forward are a proposed overpass at South Stage Road at Interstate 5 and the widening of Foothill Road on Medford's northeast side.
Cavallero, whose organization shepherded the RPS process for most of the last decade before handing it over to the county, said environmental groups and the cities collaborated on the process.
He said that 20 years ago Jackson County had a reputation for bucking state rules and regulations.
"Southern Oregon was the bad boy in planning," he said. "Our reputation was dreadful in Salem. Now, anybody who looks at us couldn't be anything but impressed at what we've accomplished."
Cavallero said he anticipates the kind of planning that went into Jackson County will attract the attention of businesses who want to move here because they will know how the area is going to grow.
For instance, as part of RPS, Medford and Phoenix have targeted an area south of the Rogue Valley Manor that could become a commercial and light industrial hub.
— Damian Mann