City should accept Housing Authority's offer

The deal to develop two smaller projects rather than one resolves lengthy dispute

One final obstacle remains to completing a deal settling the dispute over the Cherry Creek low-income housing project. It's hardly an obstacle at all, as these things go. The Medford City Council should approve the compromise plan when it comes before it on second reading next week.

Credit for surmounting the final hurdle goes to the Housing Authority of Jackson County, which was cast as the villain by neighbors of the Cherry Creek project when it was first proposed.

The Housing Authority wanted to build 100 family housing units on Spring Street next to Donahue-Frohnmayer Park. Neighbors mounted a vigorous campaign to kill the project, saying it was incompatible with their neighborhood of mostly single-family homes and would cause traffic problems on Spring Street.

The City Council bowed to the neighbors' pressure and rejected the project, citing the incompatibility argument.

The state Land Use Board of Appeals overturned the city's action, finding the council had made several errors. The city appealed, and the Housing Authority threatened to proceed with a civil rights lawsuit.

Eventually, the city and the Housing Authority reached a compromise. The complex was split into two separate projects, one of 50 units off Spring Street and one of 50 units on a city-owned lot downtown off Grape Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. The city would swap the downtown lot for 2.5 acres of the 6-acre Cherry Creek property. The 2.5 acres would create a 200-foot buffer between the 50-unit housing project and the park, and a 15-foot buffer between Spring Street and the project, which would front on Berkeley Way instead of Spring.

The obstacle arose when appraisals showed the Housing Authority's 2.5-acre property was worth $129,000 more than the city's downtown lot. The Housing Authority offered to split the difference, but the council balked.

The Housing Authority then offered to cover the entire $129,000 discrepancy. That's in addition to $150,000 the authority previously agreed to pay the city to develop the Spring Street property.

The Housing Authority has gone to great lengths to get these projects approved. The Spring Street neighbors are on board with the scaled-down project there, and will see additional park space on the 2.5 acres of transferred property.

The City Council should swiftly approve the deal.

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