New Phoenix Planning Director Evan MacKenzie said he likes working in small towns but said he will be involved with expanding city limits to handle future growth.
MacKenzie said he will continue the city's efforts to bring more than 400 acres adjacent to the town’s north side into city limits. Phoenix is projected to grow from 4,955 people in 2015 to 6,883 by 2035 and 9,775 by 2065.
“I really like working in a smaller jurisdiction that is really hands-on, and you do everything, you get involved. You just don’t get that in a larger jurisdiction,” said MacKenzie. Phoenix is smaller than other Oregon jurisdictions where he’s worked, he noted.
MacKenize has been with the Community Development Department in the city of Reno, Nevada, since May 2016. He succeeds Matt Brinkley, who left Dec. 31 to become Medford’s planning director.
MacKenzie said he wasn’t actively looking for a new position, but the opportunity looked interesting with a growing town that is pursuing an urban growth boundary expansion, affording the chance to do long-range planning.
Regional planning allows Phoenix to bring 453 acres on both side of North Phoenix Road, called PH-5, into city limits for a mix of employment and industrial development. City Council in February adopted a revised economic element for the town’s comprehensive plan, a necessity for adding land into the city.
Adoption of a revised comprehensive plan is probably about three to four months away, said Mayor Chris Luz. After that, the city would go to Jackson County to have the land added into the city’s UGB, a step required before bringing it into city limits.
Previous work experience in Pendleton gave MacKenzie the opportunity to do long-range planning.
“We have a small shop, and we have a lot of people coming in with questions and permit applications,” said Interim City Manager Dave Kanner. “Certainly, master planning of PH-5 is going to be a very big challenge.”
Some areas of the city might see development of new subdivisions, and planning needs to take place to implement infill development throughout the city, Kanner said.
“I also know that at least a couple of councilors have talked about a need for some kind of planning for affordable housing,” said Kanner. “That might be something we will have Evan work on.”
With all the development and redevelopment occurring in the downtown area, it will be important to have a planning director who can do some downtown master planning, said Kanner.
“The new downtown area is kind of exciting and really an opportunity to create a neighborhood center,” said MacKenzie. He encourages the "third-place concept" where people have a home, a work place and a third place to hang out, which might be a barber shop, coffee house or bar.
Interested in pedestrian and bicycle issues, MacKenzie said working on a smaller scale offers the opportunity to do things to encourage people to walk and bike.
MacKenzie was with the city of Pendleton Community Development Department from September 2008 to January 2016, where he was a senior planner. In Oregon, he has also worked with planning departments in Ontario, Baker City, Hillsboro and Baker County.
MacKenzie has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Portland State University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. He has specialized training in floodplain development and bicycle and pedestrian amenities.
MacKenzie will receive an annual salary of $72,500. He is expected to begin work in May.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.