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To build 'consensus for everyone'

CENTRAL POINT — A decade after Beebe Road neighbors saw century-old wells destroyed by construction of a nearby subdivision, longtime resident and orchardist Marty Mingus has worked to ensure his rural neighborhood won't similarly be affected by future projects or development.

Mingus spent recent months meeting with city officials to help incorporate development standards for a planned transit-oriented district that would allow special conditions for existing agricultural activities and protect water supplies for the rural neighborhood.

"Unfortunately, we're in an urban growth boundary, so the decisions the city makes will affect us, so we're just trying to be proactive," Mingus said.

"Some pretty interesting things can happen when you've got residential houses 10 feet from orchards. We have windmills that run in the winter, smudging, tractors running at 6 in the morning and spraying. With this, if somebody buys a home near my property, they'll have to sign a legal document saying that they know I have a right to farm. And really it's for their protection, too."

City officials say the special transit-oriented district, such as one on the city's west side near the Twin Creeks development, will be a boost for property values and ensure smart, managed growth.

Transit-oriented developments, in essence, establish stricter development standards while bringing flexibility in ways that property can be developed by allowing, for instance, agricultural and residential uses in the same area. They are designed to support multiple modes of transportation, from vehicles to pedestrians.

The city's second TOD, approved by planning commission members last month and due for a final review March 28, would encompass the area east of Interstate 5 and north of Pine Street between Bear Creek and Hamrick Road.

While Mingus' property won't be impacted by the new zoning until his property along Beebe Road is brought inside city limits — and if he had his druthers it never would — he said city officials were proactive to ensure neighbors concerns are addressed "before it's too late."

Mingus said much of his motivation to keep tabs on changes in the city stemmed from the loss of well water about a dozen years ago for neighbors along Beebe Road when the digging of a water line dried out a number of wells.

A resulting lawsuit dragged on for years, Mingus said, and yielded more money for lawyers than homeowners.

"It was definitely motivation to make sure nothing like that would happen again," said Mingus.

"With the conditions included in this with the city, if a developer buys the property next to mine and wants to drain the surface water to have a stable place to build, that's fine, but it shouldn't affect my agricultural well that I have there."

Humphrey said working with Mingus and other property owners was a no-brainer for the city. Humphrey said the city also worked to address concerns raised by Oregon Department of Transportation officials.

"We had to resolve some things with ODOT and Marty and the neighbors. I think everyone is satisfied with what we came up with and that everyone's interests were taken into consideration," Humphrey said.

". . . What we wanted was to get some consensus that worked for everyone, whether that area develops quickly or it takes some time to develop."

ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said city officials have agreed to put limits on types of development in the new district, ensuring nearby transportation infrastructure can handle added volume.

"The city has agreed to keep their growth at what they state in their transportation system plan and agreed to a trip cap," Leaming said.

"They'll continue to work with us on the interchange area management plan for Exit 33 and agree to do a traffic study any time they develop more than 2 acres at a time."

Humphrey said, with the area along Hamrick Road providing some of the only developable land in the city, planners put much thought into how to allow growth while considering existing property owners.

"I think that with what we came up with, if somebody wants to develop we would like to think they can and if they don't want to develop or they want to continue to farm, they have that choice, too," he added.

"Some cities are more amenable to residents than others. I like to think were not so big we can't work with our residents."

Changes made to zoning requirements in the new district won't take effect until properties are gradually brought into the city limits.

Property with existing agricultural uses would be grandfathered in until such uses ceased.

"My son is in college," Mingus said. "If he moves somewhere, we might want to move, too. But we have a right to use our property the way that we want to until that point.

"If I had a preference, would I like to keep things just the way they are? Yeah, nobody likes change. But I've got to commend the city for meeting us and helping address our concerns. It didn't start out that way, but it's really worked out."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Discussion on development of Central Point-area land east of Interstate 5 has produced an agreement that developer Mike Duncan, left, orchardist Marty Mingus, center, and Tom Humphrey, Central Point community development director, can agree on. The trio are pictured in Mingus’ orchards off Beebe Road. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell