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Medford eyes nearly 900 acres for rezoning

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, said planner Bianca Petrou.

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 the Medford City Council on Feb. 27.

Public hearings concerning the properties are scheduled for Jan. 23 and Feb. 13, and opposition already is 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 acres 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, who lives on Oak View Circle, is particularly bothered with potential commercial designation for 13 acres on the corner of Pierce and Hillcrest roads.

"It's totally inappropriate to the neighborhood," Dailey said. "With commercial designation, you could have grocery stores, convenience stores, bars, gas stations and car lots right across the street from a single-family residential area."

The wooded landed east of Pierce Road is presently zoned for single-family residences, and Dailey said he would have no problem with houses across the road.

"The Larson Creek Shopping Center that has Albertsons and a gas station at the other end is only 10.69 acres," Dailey said. "This would be two acres bigger, and Pierce Road isn't going to handle that kind of traffic."

"The state requires us to have enough land to accommodate employment and residential needs for the next 20 years," Petrou said. "We need 709 acres of employment land — primarily commercial — because we have plenty of industrial land. 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.

A half-mile to the north, residents of Brookdale Meadows have a different set of issues. When the subdivision was developed 15 years ago, through traffic was eliminated because both ends of the street looping through the neighborhood exit onto Brookdale Avenue. However, the city's proposal would allow Castlewood and Greenridge drives to extend into potential apartment complexes.

"If this proposal goes ahead, it will essentially change the structure of our entire neighborhood," said John Thiebes, a retired biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Lone Pine School, the roads, utility, sewers and water — all the infrastructure here — is just not able to handle the magnitude of the proposed density."

Thiebes, Dailey and others have canvassed hundreds of homes in the area in recent days.

"In talking to neighbors, the general reaction was shock and outrage that there was such a proposal without significant notification to people who could be affected," Thiebes said.

The neighbors hoped to contact more people north of East McAndrews Road after getting notices in late December.

"We got the notice just before Christmas, and many of us were entertaining family members we don't see very often during the holidays," Thiebes said.

Although packets with written comments are already printed for the 5:30 p.m. Jan. 23 hearing, dealing with property north of Jackson Street, Huber said letters and emails will be accepted until the Planning Commission meets. Property south of Jackson Street will be considered at a 5:30 p.m. hearing on Feb. 13.

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."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

The intersection of McAndrews and Foothill roads is included in proposed zoning changes for east Medford. Nearly 900 acres within the city are being eyed for zoning changes. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell