Medford officials may take the first step toward higher-intensity zoning that could increase property values on 856 acres throughout the city.

Medford officials may take the first step toward higher-intensity zoning that could increase property values on 856 acres throughout the city.

A patchwork quilt of various parcels has been identified comprising either underutilized or mostly vacant land that could be rezoned — for instance, from residential to high-density residential or commercial.

"For the most part, I think it's going to increase the value of the property," said Bianca Petrou, assistant planning director.

At noon Thursday, April 4, the City Council will consider whether to continue with a two-step process that could lead to rezoning various properties.

"We'll be asking the council if they want us to move ahead with this," Petrou said.

If the city determines a property is eligible for rezoning, it would be up to the individual property owners to pursue the final step toward the actual zone change.

Both steps will require public hearings and raise the possibility of some controversy.

"It may not be the property owners who object — it may be the neighbors," Petrou said.

So far, the city has conducted an internal review of lands that could be rezoned. Many of the neighboring property owners affected might not be aware of the city's review at this point.

David Mostue, whose family owns 160 acres off Hillcrest Road now zoned residential, said he has already discussed the proposed zoning changes with the city.

He said the proposed commercial zoning on a portion of his family's property wouldn't have any immediate impact on his plans to open a wine tasting room and farm stand this fall.

"We don't have any real issue with it," he said. "Our primary goal is to make a functional farm."

However, if the farm idea doesn't pan out economically, Mostue said the potential to convert the property to commercial zoning might become more appealing. Another portion of his property is zoned residential and could be converted to higher density residential under the proposal.

The procedure to change the zoning on many properties within the city is part of a planning process that will eventually lead to annexing additional land that is now outside city boundaries. To justify the expansion, the city has to show the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development that lands already within its boundaries can be developed to their full potential.

Many of the properties identified in the Planning Department study are situated near the city limits. The list includes some property that could change to commercial zoning off Center Drive and off West McAndrews Road near Jackson Street. A 140-acre tract off Vilas Road totaling 140 acres is the single largest area proposed for a zone change.

In many cases, properties that would be converted from light residential to commercial or high-density urban residential already border areas with a similar higher density.

In southwest Medford, various parcels at the city limits have been identified as possible medium or high-density residential. An 18-acre area south of Manzanita Avenue could be changed from single-family residential to duplexes or townhouses under the proposal.

Petrou said two public hearings will be held to discuss the zone changes, one by the Planning Commission and another by the City Council.

If the city approves the idea, it could be enacted by the end of the year, she said.

At that point, a developer potentially could submit a proposal to finalize the zone change sometime thereafter, Petrou said.

"It's a long-term plan," she said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email