JACKSONVILLE — Owners of 403 acres that include a former landfill site on the town's southeastern border are asking for an amendment to the county's comprehensive plan map, a move that could eventually lead to development.

JACKSONVILLE — Owners of 403 acres that include a former landfill site on the town's southeastern border are asking for an amendment to the county's comprehensive plan map, a move that could eventually lead to development.

South Stage Landfill Inc. and Bottjer-Gambee Inc. have applied for the change that would redesignate the site from forestry/open space to rural reserve. Even with a map change, building could not take place without a zoning change.

"The comprehensive plan amendment is simply a land-use action to more accurately reflect the configuration of the property," said Mike Montero, agent for the landowners. "What is apparent is that it's not really forestland. It doesn't support forestry."

The Jackson County Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the change at 9 a.m. Thursday, May 27, at the Jackson County Courthouse, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

"Without changing the zoning, they aren't allowed any new uses, should this application be approved," said Craig Anderson, a senior planner with Jackson County's Development Services Department. "The effect of (the change) would take the property from resource designated land to non-resource."

A change of zoning would allow the construction of residences. An arrangement that clustered houses could have one unit per 15 acres. Without clustering, one unit per 20 acres would be allowed.

Landfill use on about 100 acres of the site ended in 1998. The area is monitored for environmental impacts. Construction cannot take place on the landfill site, Anderson said.

About a dozen written comments have been received on the application, said Anderson.

"I believe it is productive forestland. The land should continue to be used to produce forest products," said Dave Riant, whose own land is adjacent to the site and is zoned woodland resource. "I don't want to see it divided into parcels that are too small to be viable."

There's also plenty of land available in the area for building at this time, said Riant, who knows of 10 parcels for sale.

Other comments by neighbors expressed concerns about possible contamination from the site, traffic and impact on wildlife from development.

Jacksonville planning commissioners' concerns were expressed in a letter sent to the county by City Planner Amy Stevenson. Commissioners supported a clustered development to preserve open space if the zoning changes. They also said any development should not have access to Third Street because impact on that street was not addressed in a traffic study submitted with the application.

A portion of the land was considered for inclusion in the town's urban reserve as part of Jackson County's Regional Problem Solving process in 2006. The land was later withdrawn from consideration and Jacksonville dropped out of RPS in 2009.

Redesignation of the land to rural use would give it a higher priority for inclusion in the town's urban growth boundary under state land-use laws.

"What the ultimate use of the property is going to be is simply unknown at this point. It's been in the family for over half a century," said Montero. "The landfill is no longer an active solid waste disposal site so the family is just positioning it for down the road."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.