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Talent residents upset over order to remove plantings

TALENT — Residents in a rent-subsidized development are unhappy they must remove plantings and yard features because the Housing Authority of Jackson County will redo the landscape to save water and expense. Grass lawns will be removed, replaced by wood chips and drought-tolerant shrubs.

Tenants of Patio Village, 233 Eva Way, now have until Friday, Sept. 11, to remove the materials. Many were initially upset when told at an Aug. 26 meeting called with one day’s notice that work could begin as early as the following Monday.

“It’s awful. There was very little here when I got here,” said 84-year-old Gail Gray, who has lived in the same spot for nine years. “We care very much about our little places.”

A volunteer moved 22 potted plants in Gray’s yard onto the patio during the weekend so they would not be taken. Over the years, patio areas outside many of the unit have been extended with adjacent plantings, features or gardens. Other plantings have also been done.

The Housing Authority of Jackson County has received grants and loans to assist with the $200,000 project that will also see installation of water-saving measures in the 64 units. The development's water bill average is approximately $3,000 per month with a high of close to $6,000 in the summer months. Individual units are not metered.

“This is the only project that we have that has extensive grass. We plan to save about 50 percent of that water bill,” said Scott Foster, the housing authority's executive director. “We are helping (the residents) to put any plant material to save into pots. We are working with the tenants.”

The possibility of rate increases by the Medford Water Commission, which supplies water to Talent, also prompted the action, Foster said. Changes will help keep down rent increases, and the possibility of a community garden space will be explored, he added.

MPower of Oregon awarded $20,407 in grant funds along with a loan of $61,221 for the project. MPower funds will be used to remove and replace the irrigation system and install low-flow toilets and other water-saving measures inside the units. The landscape overhaul will be paid by the housing authority from reserves for such projects.

Landscape contractor Chris Kennedy of Superior Lawn and Maintenance visited the site Monday and told some residents they could retain some adjacent features, said Linda Pratt, who has landscaped around her unit extensively. She was unhappy that some people were told they will have to lose their improvements.

“A lot of the people can’t afford the pots and planting soil,” said Pratt. “Some things need to be left in the ground. I wanted this spot so I could have a garden.”

Working in the garden is therapeutic, said Pratt. She enjoys sitting out on her patio in the morning with hummingbirds, bees and butterflies coming and going.

Monica Landing will miss the grass. She says her 12-year-old granddaughter will no longer be able to play right outside her unit once wood chips are in place.

“All of this comes out of our own pockets,” said Landing, pointing to her plantings. “This is my therapy.”

Twenty-year resident Bonnie Morgan said she got permission to create features adjacent to her patio. Kennedy told her that they could remain, she said.

Patio Village has 53 rent-subsidized one- or two-bedroom units. Rents range from $420 to $600 based on income with a maximum annual gross income for two people of $35,840. There is a one- to two-year waiting list for the subsidized housing.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.