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TID rejects deal that would finish roundabout

A different route to add a third leg to a roundabout has been proposed after Talent Irrigation District rejected a $1.5 million offer from the Talent Urban Renewal Agency for property to allow road construction.

TID and TURA had been in formal discussions since April 2016 on purchase of the agency’s headquarters site that would link the roundabout where West Valley View Road and Main Street come together to Wagner Street downtown.

“We always told the city if we moved, we would have to do it without any cost to the district patrons,” said TID board chairman Bob Morris. “We couldn’t have relocated with the amount of money they offered.”

Consultant John Southgate, who is advising TURA on a land development project, suggested the TURA board consider having a “partial” road project that he termed the first phase of the Wagner leg in a letter. A road extending about 50 to 75 feet south of the roundabout into property TURA owns east of TID was suggested by Southgate.

The road would serve as a primary entrance into the Gateway Project. TURA in November purchased two pieces of property totaling 3.5 acres south of the roundabout fronting Highway 99 for development. Eventually the full road might be constructed when the TID property or a portion of it is acquired to allow the extension to Talent Avenue, said Southgate.

“We offered twice the amount it was appraised at,” said Tom Corrigan, urban renewal executive director and city manager. Talent’s traffic plan calls for the third leg, so anyone who wishes to develop the TID property at a later date would have to meet that requirement.

Exercising eminent domain to acquire the TID site is not an option because Oregon law does not allow one taxing district or agency to take land from another government body, said Corrigan.

Both land and construction costs figured in the TID’s reasons for rejecting the offer, said Morris. The current facility includes an office, carpentry shop and storage buildings on 2.9 acres. TURA would have needed only part of the land for the roadway and would have used the rest for downtown development. An appraisal valued the land and property at $750,000.

“We wouldn’t have wanted any less of a facility than what we have now,” said Morris. “To relocate with an equal facility, that was always our concern.”

Gateway concepts are still in development and more land acquisition is recommended for the project.

Purchase of a property that includes the Mei Sum restaurant was suggested by Southgate also. The two parcels acquired in November surround the restaurant, which fronts Highway 99. Southgate said TURA’s ownership of the parcels is compromised by not controlling the restaurant property.

Highest priority should be placed on obtaining the property, said Southgate, who wrote that would be the best way to secure a developer. A public open house on Gateway concepts is tentatively set for May 31.

At its March 15 board meeting, TURA voted to enter into real estate negotiations as discussed in an executive session. Corrigan said he presented the board with four options but he would not reveal specifics of the session.

Extension of TURA’s life until Dec. 31, 2019, rather than July 30 of that year, would bring in another $1.4 million in urban renewal funding, Southgate said. That possibility has been discussed before, said Corrigan, but the board didn’t have time to consider it at the session.

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