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July 25, 2006 No easy road to growth By Damian Mann For The Tidings A complicated effort to expand the boundaries of local cities will just have to remain complicated after a state land agency shot down a move to exclude other state agencies

No easy road to growth

A complicated effort to expand the boundaries of local cities will just have to remain complicated after a state land agency shot down a move to exclude other state agencies in the decision-making process.

The Regional Problem Solving Policy Committee had decided in June that it was difficult enough to reach agreement with the seven cities involved as well as the county and the state Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The RPS committee then decided to exclude other state groups such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, even though they were part of the statutes governing the process, which began six years ago.

DLCD Director Lane Shetterly sent the policy committee a letter July 5 warning that dropping these other state agencies could undermine the entire process.

In addition, Shetterly wrote, “Implicit in this, of course, is the point that we do not believe DLCD has the power or authority to represent or act for other state agencies in agreeing to the regional plan.”

After receiving the letter, the regional planning committee last week reversed its decision.

The regional process is attempting to plan for the doubling of Jackson County’s population in Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Jacksonville, Medford, Phoenix and Talent. Proposals range from adding zero acres in Ashland to increasing Jacksonville’s urban growth boundary by 138 percent.

In addition, a high-tech corridor has been proposed for the Tolo Road area north of Central Point on 1,539 acres, 609 of which overlap with Central Point’s proposed urban growth boundary.

Cities will hold open houses in the coming months to get public reaction to the proposals.

County Commissioner Dave Gilmour, a representative on the RPS policy committee, said the committee was looking for a way to expedite a process that is already difficult and time-consuming.

“We said, ‘Wait a minute, this is going to take years,’” said Gilmour, referring to the prospect of review by state agencies. “We didn’t want them to have veto power.”

If even one of the communities or agencies rejects the plan, the entire process could come to a halt, he said.

Despite impatience to bring this process to an end, Gilmour said, “I think people are still committed to move forward even though there are significant barriers.”

John Renz, DLCD regional representative, said it has been difficult for other areas in the state to come to an agreement. Only La Pine in Deschutes County has completed a similar plan to address its potential growth.

Lane County was pursuing a growth plan but Springfield and Cottage Grove dropped out, scuttling the process.

Renz said of the process locally, “We’re certainly the most complex project to have gotten this far.”

One of the big stumbling blocks might be the amount of land some communities want to include in their growth plans.

In particular, Central Point and Jacksonville both could face opposition. Central Point wants to expand by 2,790 acres, much of it in farmland. Jacksonville wants 1,679 acres, although it proposes to keep much of the land as a buffer.

“These are two communities we have some concern about,” said Renz. “I’m fairly confident there will be cutbacks.”

Gilmour said that as the process moves forward, many of the communities likely will have to scale back on their proposals for additional land.

Although he reports back to the two other commissioners, Gilmour said the county hasn’t been actively included in the RPS process because so many other issues have come up.

“There will not be much input from the county until the very end,” he said. “If they (other county officials) don’t give them some feedback, this may crumble at the tail end.”

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

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