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Medford plans zone changes to boost development density

Medford planners have identified 856 acres of undeveloped and under-utilized land within the city for potential commercial, high- and medium-density zoning.

The city is looking at 50 parcels of one or more tax lots to meet residential, commercial and industrial development needs during the next 20 years, planner Bianca Petrou said.

The Planning Commission is expected to make its recommendations, clearing the way for rezoning of parcels primarily in the northeast and southwest parts of town, to Medford City Council on Feb. 27.

Public hearings concerning the properties are scheduled for Jan. 23 and Feb. 13, and opposition is already mounting in some quarters.

A cluster of 93 acres between East McAndrews and Hillcrest roads, bracketed by Pierce and Foothill roads, has drawn response from several hundred nearby residents who have written letters or signed petitions protesting the proposed changes.

If approved, 75 acres could be converted to medium-density housing and 18 for commercial use.

"There is absolutely no demand for that kind of housing," said John Dailey, who heads up the Committee to Save Pierce Road Neighborhoods. "And the city has no plans whatsoever for the traffic it would generate on Spring Street."

Dailey said there are plenty of reasonable locations for future building.

"Some changes, on the face of it, are pretty reasonable," Dailey said. "Good ideas and zoning for higher density should be encouraged where it's appropriate. But it might be a good idea to have a conversation with the neighborhood before you slam in apartment buildings everywhere."

Petrou explained that the state requires the city to have enough land to accommodate employment and residential needs for the next 20 years.

"We need 709 acres of employment land — primarily commercial — because we have plenty of industrial land," Petrou said. "For residential, we need about 1,000 acres to accommodate the need."

There are three ways to achieve the state's mandate: Expand the city's Urban Growth Boundary, intensify density within the boundary or a combination of the two.

"Our staff recommended a combination of both," she said.

— Greg Stiles

Read more in Wednesday's Mail Tribune.