Proposed changes to Jacksonville’s development codes have been indefinitely postponed while city officials consider how to proceed in the face of opposition to the revisions.
The city Planning Commission took the action last week at what was to have been a continuation of a mid-January session for public input on the changes. About 150 people showed up for a Feb. 1 meeting, and 140 attended a Jan. 18 session, where testimony was heard from 11 speakers. The commission has also received extensive written comments on the proposal.
“Where I hope it goes is eventually they start the process over if the can prove that there is a need,” said resident Linda Meyer, who submitted 28 pages of comments on the draft.
Concerns voiced by the public included the proposed elimination of the Historic and Architectural Review Commission that oversees all building in the city. A Historic Preservation Committee that would oversee a designated downtown historic district and landmark structures and adjacent properties was proposed in place of HARC.
“Another approach is to be concerned about the whole character of the town,” said Meyer. “Each neighborhood has a character to try to maintain to maintain the character of the town.”
Jacksonville is relatively intact, which is rare, said Meyer, and therefore HARC shouldn’t be taken away.
Interim City Planning Director Dick Converse recommended the tabling action to the commission. He plans to sit down with City Administrator Jeff Alvis and Principal Planner Ian Foster early next week to discuss the next step.
“One possibility is talking with the City Council and perhaps establishing another Citizens Advisory Committee,” said Converse.
Revision of the codes started in 2012, and it has been worked on by city officials, study groups and an advisory committee. One impetus was confusion in finding answers to development questions, with a need to often look in three or four different sections of current codes, said Converse.
The makeup of the previous advisory committee drew criticism, with some claiming the city had not followed Goal 1 of Oregon’s land-use development rules that calls for broad public participation.
”It has to do with ensuring that Goal 1 … has been complied with satisfactorily. Any time you have a project of this magnitude, participation is part of the process,” said Converse. “The comprehensive plan is really specific on the formation of the committee. It’s a chance to look at (the revisions) at a foundation level again.
"The Planning Commission moved quickly on advice of the city attorney (Sydnee Dreyer) to go into indefinite postponement rather than taking testimony,” said Converse.
Converse said four or five people spoke against tabling, but he surmised they were worried about being precluded from offering testimony. Those opportunities would arise in the future if revisions are brought back. Written testimony was taken after the meeting and is welcome at any time, said Converse.
He said city staff received valuable comments on specific items in the draft, and some might be inserted almost verbatim if revisions are made to the current document. Among the issues addressed in comments were home occupation regulation, zoning in the Fifth Street entrance corridor into town, building height, building to the front line of properties and how vacation rentals might be handled in residential areas.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.