CENTRAL POINT — An 80-foot right of way on the city books from the 1880s will be challenged by a local couple who need additional square footage to justify construction of a second dwelling on their Ash Street property.

CENTRAL POINT — An 80-foot right of way on the city books from the 1880s will be challenged by a local couple who need additional square footage to justify construction of a second dwelling on their Ash Street property.

Their neighbors are divided over whether reducing the public right of way from 80 to 56 feet would result in higher property values and neighborhood beautification or cause excessive infill, erode privacy and cause safety concerns and higher tax bills.

The variance would affect 16 properties in the area. The City Council will discuss the proposal at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 140 S. Third St.

Bryan and Lisa Herrmann of Medford own a rental property on Ash Street that is 250 square feet shy of the required acreage for subdividing and adding a second home to the property, which is just under a quarter-acre.

Lisa Herrmann said their proposal would bring a number of homes, built within the right of way between Freeman Road and Seventh Street before the 1970s, into compliance with city codes.

"The way the rules are written, if their houses burnt down, they couldn't even rebuild," Herrmann said.

"The street is as wide as it is for teams of horses, so there's no reason not to return the excess amount of right of way to the property owners. It would be a benefit for the properties to be bigger but some of the older neighbors are really suspicious of someone giving them something."

Gene Skelton, who bought his property in 1970, said he saw no reason to change property lines "on paper" when nothing visually would change.

If the Herrmanns' property is too small for a second dwelling, it would remain so "regardless of whether it changed on paper," he said.

Skelton and a handful of neighbors cited privacy and safety concerns in opposing the Herrmanns' plan to add another house to their land.

"If the houses are too close together, there's a risk during a fire," Skelton said.

Skelton's wife, Betty, said city staff members told neighbors that council members were unlikely to approve of a decision to benefit merely one property owner, "but that's what they're doing."

"When they started this it was for their purpose and their purpose only. It didn't feel right that one person should profit from changing something for the whole neighborhood," she said.

"After the fact, they're saying they're doing us a favor and our property values will go up. I know enough to realize that any time you mention your property values going up, it means your taxes going up, too. They're just sneaking it through as something that's going to be good for the whole neighborhood but what it's really about is them getting to build another house."

Planning Commission member Chuck Piland said the commission and city staff had reviewed the request and understood from county and city officials that the residents would see only a slight, if any, change to their tax bills. The change would bring the neighborhood up to current codes, he said.

Piland said the Herrmanns originally requested 10 feet at either end of their property. City staff suggested 12 feet to accomplish the 56-foot right of way in place along the remainder of Ash Street.

"Either way, the neighbors are gaining property to their front yards, which will bring them into compliance with setback requirements," Piland said.

Joe and Pansy Hasler, who live next door to the Herrmanns' rental property, said the additional dwelling would curb their backyard privacy and add one more rental to a once quiet neighborhood.

Pansy Hasler said the council should "consider the people who live here."

"We're against it because it's going to up our property value, but you only get value if you sell your property, which we're not planning on selling so we only get higher taxes," she said.

"We've lived here for 35 years and things have been the way they are. What they are doing is for one property owner who doesn't even live in Central Point."

Lisa Herrmann said she didn't understand why neighbors were leery of the change.

"Over the course of 130 years, sometimes things change," she said.

"This really surprises me. If my neighbor next door was trying to get more land for me, I would be shaking their hand."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.