SHADY COVE — Although city councilors expressed unanimous opposition Thursday to endorsing the formation of a heritage district, they agreed to solicit the opinion of city residents before taking a final vote.
The delay was suggested by City Administrator Danise Brakeman, who said she thought public opinion would give the council a chance "to see how our people feel about this."
If approved by voters, the Rogue Valley Heritage District would raise more than $800,000 a year to support Jackson County's 15 historical societies and museums and fund historic preservation.
It would raise property taxes no more than 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $6.28 annually on a home assessed at $125,500, the median price of homes in Shady Cove.
Shady Cove is one of 11 city councils district supporters are asking to endorse the plan. Councils can opt out of the district before it goes to voters. Campaign chairman Tam Moore said Jacksonville, Eagle Point and Gold Hill already have passed resolutions of support.
To get the measure on the ballot, Moore said volunteers will need to collect signatures from 15 percent of the county's registered voters.
"Were aiming to be out collecting signatures by the first of May," he said. "So we probably need action within the next three weeks or so, so we can go through the legal hoops necessary to get this on the ballot."
"I sympathize with your cause," said Councilman Gary Hughes, "and I'm not saying I wouldn't support it as a citizen. But one thing we have to realize as a council is that if we let this go to a vote of the city, it does not matter which way the city votes. "… If the citizens of our city said 'no' and the rest of the county said 'yes,' our city would still be part of the district."
Councilman Bill Kyle asked how much total property tax Shady Cove residents would pay if the district were approved. Moore said, based on the most recent assessment, $10,900.
"I have the same problem I had with this two or three years ago," Kyle said. "We're taxed up to the hilt now, and adding another nickel on city residents — I have a real problem with it."
The previous attempt to form a heritage district failed in 2008, when the petition drive to place the measure on the ballot came up short by nearly 7,000 signatures out of the nearly 16,600 required. In that campaign, Shady Cove was the only city council in the county that declined to participate.
"If you do like you did last time," said Jack Vaughn, treasurer of the Upper Rogue Museum in Trail, "you'll be disenfranchising all the people in Shady Cove. They won't be able to vote on it or even sign a petition. "… About half the stuff we have in the museum is from Shady Cove, but if Shady Cove doesn't want it, well, then, we'll just close her up and turn her back into the bar she was."
Shady Cove resident Ed Mayer urged the council to support the heritage district.
"Shady Cove is not an island," Mayer said. "History is the history of this area and it isn't just the history within the city limits. I think it's important for us to see history as important to our culture and it includes the whole area."
The council will vote on the heritage district resolution at its April 4 meeting.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.