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Wildlife advocates want subdivision project revised

TALENT — Wildlife habitat or green development? The Planning Commission will have to choose between two visions for 39 acres on the outskirts of town.

Neighbors of the Pacific Stage Heights subdivision cite the presence of wildlife in the area as one of several reasons the project should be revised. The developer's representative contends the project is environmentally friendly and has support from others in town.

"We still have the same people continuing fighting with the same arguments on issues that have already been answered," said Eric Touzet, designer for Artner Property Development LLC.

Artner wants to build 143 housing units on a hillside in the southwest part of town. Touzet said the project includes solar power options, a trail system that will be open to the public, a community garden, parks and a wetland. He noted that denser development, including townhouses, will occur low on the site, and larger lots will be made farther up the hillside.

Opponents of the project say they may appeal if it wins approval from the Planning Commission when a public hearing continues Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. in the Talent Community Center. Meanwhile, they have scheduled a fundraiser Saturday to help with costs of their legal battle.

"We've been meeting on a weekly basis for the last few months trying to see how we can, not so much stop the development, but limit it," said Sarah Powell, who lives next to the proposed development site.

"We're concerned with one access point" for traffic, said Powell. "They keep showing a secondary access point, but they talk about it being for emergencies only and gated and locked. It just seems like (one access road is) not enough."

Opponents would have to make their case to a hearings officer, said John Adam, city planner. If the hearings officer ruled in their favor, the developer

(see correction note below) then could petition the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

The development's site — on the outskirts of town, relatively distant from grocery stores and other services — also worries Powell and other opponents of the project.

"They're starting from the edge of town and working backward for in-fill," said Powell. "It's against how Talent wants to grow."

Rose Marie Davis, a neighboring rancher, said the land is visited by wild turkeys, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, deer and a cougar. Davis said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has designated the area as "wildlife sensitive."

Touzet said he heard backing for the project among neighbors and others while visiting the area over the past two weeks. Some neighboring residents feel the project will set a high quality standard for future development in the area, he added.

"I found large support from the business community in Talent, who are struggling," said Touzet. "They are very excited about a community that will be green. They are excited about the type of client that it will bring."

Opponents have incurred legal research costs and charges for flyers and copies of city documents, said Powell. Those expenses prompted them to hold the fundraiser, scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Wellsprings, 2253 N. Highway 99.

There is no admission charge, but a meal of chicken or tofu, salads and bread will be available for $10. There will also be a pie sale. Entertainment will include a jazz group and a woman who performs bird imitations.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

Correction: The original version of this story made incorrect reference to who would appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals. This version has been corrected.