They say real estate is valuable "because they aren't making any more." But that doesn't appear to be the case in a White City industrial park that mysteriously added 175 acres to its total.

They say real estate is valuable "because they aren't making any more." But that doesn't appear to be the case in a White City industrial park that mysteriously added 175 acres to its total.

The land creation came to light recently when computer-mapping software discovered that the 500-acre Whetstone Industrial Park off Kirtland Road actually is 675 acres.

"That seems like a great discrepancy," said an incredulous Jackson County Commissioner Dave Gilmour at a board meeting Wednesday.

When Whetsone was created by the board of commissioners on Nov. 10, 1982, the property was part of a master plan that required review by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Owned exclusively by the city of Medford at the time, the land was turned into an industrial park in hopes it would attract much needed business to the valley during a nationwide recession.

The industrial park is west of Table Rock Road and south of Kirtland Road.

When it was created by the county, Whetstone had five 20-acre lots, five 50-acre lots and two 75-acre lots, which add up to 500 acres. The property mostly is zoned general industrial with a swath of open space reserve where a creek is located.

However, that 27-year-old master plan won't work because the original lot sizes didn't take into account the previously undetected 175 acres, which represents a 30 percent increase over the original estimate. In addition, the approved lot sizes are too big to attract businesses to the park in an increasingly competitive statewide market.

Another problem has popped up. When Whetstone was created, the wet areas that dotted the landscape didn't seem to be a problem. Since then, environmental regulations mean the vernal pools are off limits, which limits the amount of land that can be developed.

Both the city of Medford, which owns in excess of 410 acres within Whetstone, and Amy's Kitchen, which owns 50.78 acres, have requested a new master plan to allow for more flexible development, according to the county. However, a spokewoman for Amy's, Debby Fortune, said that as far as she could determine the company hasn't asked for a review of the master plan.

The county Board of Commissioners decided this week it will review the master plan to take into account the increased acreage, the lot sizes and the wetlands.

County assessor Dan Ross said he checked with his staff to see whether anyone in his office found the discrepancy in acreage for Whetstone, but said, "Nobody knew a thing about it."

He said his office didn't do any remapping of the property out there, so he was a bit puzzled about the findings, but thought the reason for the discrepancy would be lost in time.

Kelly Madding, county development services director, said she didn't know how the 175 acres went undetected all these years until it was flagged by her department.

"I think, 27 years ago, our mapping technology was not as sophisticated as it is today," she said.

A Mail Tribune article from March 12, 1982, indicated the property was 450 acres when the city of Medford first proposed creating an industrial park.

Later articles indicated the property was 500 acres and also showed Medford has had an ongoing interest in creating smaller parcels in Whetstone because it was proving difficult to sell lots.

Madding said the later 500-acre estimate probably reflected an approximate size for Whetstone, though she said even an approximate estimate wouldn't usually be off by 175 acres.

Another possible theory is that the county and the state were in the midst of a recession and staffing levels had been reduced markedly for planning departments, which could have made it more difficult to determine the size of the property, she said.

Bill Hoke, acting planning director, said he's reviewed city files in hopes of discovering where the extra acreage came from.

"I have no explanation for it," he said. "But we'll find out sooner or later."

Hoke said when the property was originally carved up into larger parcels, it was in an attempt to attract big industrial manufacturers.

Since then, he said, "The landscape of the business environment has changed."

Being able to sell smaller parcels would give him more flexibility to attract business in the future, he said.

But with the current economy, he added, "I can't sell a piece of dirt right now."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.