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49-lot housing project proposed in Talent

TALENT — An expedited land division application has been made to develop Talent View Estates on a site where a subdivision was rejected in the last decade.

Landowners Tony and Tori Nieto want to create 49 single-family home sites on 26.6 acres at 201 Belmont Road on a hillside south of the CORP railroad tracks in southeast Talent.

State regulations allow the expedited procedure, which doesn’t require a hearing before the Planning Commission, if specific criteria are met. City Community Development staff will make a determination on whether the application meets state and city criteria for approval.

Lack of the usual public process for approval and a proposed single access point over the railroad tracks concern Vern Davis, who has a ranch just south of the site. Lack of a second access over the tracks was an issue that derailed the previous application.

“(The access issue) affects people both within the city limits and those of us on the next railroad crossing,” said Davis, who is involved with the South Talent Neighborhood Association that formed earlier this year to monitor developments in the area.

“We are not anti-development. Talent has a housing need. We’ve got a wait-and-see attitude on this,” said Davis. The group has retained Ashland land-use lawyer Chris Hearn because the expedited process is not used often in Oregon, Davis said. The group was notified of the subdivision application along with all property owners within 100 feet of the project.

Under the state statute for expedited divisions, the development must either create enough lots to allow building residential units at 80 percent or more of the maximum density permitted by zoning for the site or be sold or rented to households with income below 120 percent of the mean family income for the county. Plans shows that the development would be built at 96 percent of allowable density.

The site is inside city limits and has been identified for building under the city’s Comprehensive Plan housing element. The land division application addresses requirements found in Talent’s code for such projects.

City staff deemed the application as complete May 7. That opened a 14-day public comment period which ends Monday. The city must make a ruling within 63 days or the applicant can seek approval through county circuit court.

A city ruling could be appealed to the city’s hearings officer. Appeal of a hearings officer’s ruling would bypass the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals and go to the state Court of Appeals.

Community Development Director Zac Moody wrote in an email he expects to issue a decision around mid-June. The city already has received written comments about the project. Proposed findings prepared by the applicant conclude all city standards for zoning and subdivision codes have been met.

A proposal for a 143-unit subdivision with 100 townhouses on 39 acres that included the new subdivision land was rejected by the city, and the denial was upheld by Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals in 2008. A key issue was lack of a second access across the railroad tracks.

Creation of an access street at the end of Belmont Road across the railroad tracks to serve developments in the area is called for under the city’s Railroad District Master Plan. The application includes plans for construction of the Belmont rail crossing and closing of the private crossing that exists there.

A cross street, Hollyhock Road, would be created in the development and could serve as a collector for adjacent properties if they are developed.

Under the plan there would be 31 lots of 6,000 to 7,200 square feet built on land with slopes of less than 10 percent. Eighteen home sites ranging from 13,600 to 30,000 square feet would be placed on steeper land, but no structures would be built on slopes that exceed 25 percent.

Deborah Wallace grew up in the area and used to ride her horse down Talent Avenue in earlier days. Wallace was among those who attended a meeting of neighbors held in Talent April 13.

“Talent Avenue is not designed for that type of traffic,” said Wallace. “It’s an unstable hillside. Where are they going to put the runoff?”

Loss of productive agricultural land to development also concerns Wallace. The site used to have a peach orchard and has the advantage of gravity flow irrigation from a Talent Irrigation District canal that runs across the top of the site, she said.

Jay Harland, consulting planner for CSA who signed the proposed findings of fact and law, did not return a call seeking comment.

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