What's being called the biggest development to hit Talent in decades is drawing protests from residents about leap-frogging urbanization, traffic, noise and loss of scenic views.

What's being called the biggest development to hit Talent in decades is drawing protests from residents about leap-frogging urbanization, traffic, noise and loss of scenic views.

Even though the Pacific Stage Heights development is surrounded by farms and hilly patches of undeveloped land, it lies within Talent's urban growth boundary, where land is earmarked for residential development, and developers so far seem to be following all the rules.

"You can't deny a development on grounds of unpopularity," said Talent city planner John Adam.

The project, proposed by Eric Artner of Jacksonville, will get its first hearing before the Talent Planning Commission at 6:30 tonight at Talent Community Center, 206 E. Main St.

Artner said the proposed development on Belmont Road, off the south end of Talent Ave., meets the "green" standards of the state's Earth Advantage program and includes open space, hiking trails and a wetlands interpretive area, along with a wide range of sizes and prices for houses.

It would also require annexing a 12-acre plot into the city that's included in the development proposal.

Adam said the project has posed a challenge because of its size and the steep land developers want to use. Some of the ground has slopes of more than 25 percent, which could raise the possibility of slides.

Adam said the proposal also needs to adequately address storm water drainage and provide a buffer between agricultural and urban lands.

Adam said he will recommend the Planning Commission defer action, to give planning staff and Artner time to iron out those concerns as well as density issues.

Artner has applied for 152 lots on the 39-acre development, on the notion that the project's open space allows him "bonus density." Adam says city codes would limit the development to as few as 115 units.

The differences will have to be worked out, Adam said.

Most of the lots are concentrated in the downhill half of the project, close to Talent Avenue, a railroad line and a ditch maintained by the Talent Irrigation District. Artner said concentrating the residential lots is the preferred layout environmentally because it allows for more open space, trails and nature preserves on the undeveloped land.

"We're giving up nine acres for open space and park land," Artner said. "That's pretty generous. And their code allows the density we're proposing."

City officials have heard numerous complaints from neighbors whose opinions they sought through comment forms.

Andrew and Susana Schofield of Talent Avenue called the project "absolutely out of character" for the semi-rural neighborhood of single-family homes. They said it would decrease livability and increase storm runoff, traffic congestion and fire danger.

Gary and Linda Brewer of Talent Avenue questioned where water would come from for the new homes, since Talent buys water now from the Medford Water Commission. Sarah Powell and several other Talent residents asked officials to reject the project, saying it's not needed and there's plenty of land for development closer to town.

Adam said the argument that the project "leapfrogs" urbanization has no merit because there is little buildable land left in residential areas of Talent, and city services, including sewer, streets and water, have been extended to the site.

The developer will pay for paving Belmont Road.

Adam said many people just don't want the project to be built, "and I empathize with that, but the city drew up the urban growth boundary in 1974 and said this land is going to be urbanized. Everyone knew it would happen."

Artner described his project as "a great asset to Talent," and he expects to gain approval and begin breaking ground within four to six months. Home sales could follow within a year.

Adam said city planners and the Planning Commission want to make the project turn out well "because it's a flagship development for hillsides, which we haven't done before, and for the south-of-the-tracks area. It will set the standard."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.