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A better way

Regional planning is under way. Ignore the process at your peril

We like to think of ourselves as citizens of the Rogue Valley. But, in fact, most of us live in the Bear Creek Valley, a relatively narrow stretch of land reaching from Ashland to north of Central Point.

That narrow stretch will likely be stretched in the years to come ' stretched by population growth and the demands that growth brings with it.

Population growth and its impacts are the focal points of a regional planning effort that, if followed, will provide a road map for local governments throughout the Bear Creek Valley in future planning decisions.

Officially called the Greater Bear Creek Valley Regional Problem Solving Project, the plan will eventually identify growth areas ' and non-growth areas ' for the cities and the county. Coordinated by the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, the project's goals include protecting prime farmland and valuable open space, identifying future transportation and infrastructure needs and helping communities retain their own identities.

Faced with a project whose acronym is GBCVRPSP, it's easy to see how the eyes of area residents would glaze over. But ignore this project at your own risk, because you may wake up one day to find it is the guiding principle for land use throughout the area.

City councils ' from the cities of Medford, Ashland, Central Point, Phoenix, Talent, Eagle Point and Jacksonville ' have been asked to identify by June the specific areas in which they wish their cities to grow. Those recommendations will be forwarded to a committee made up of representatives of all participating jurisdictions, plus state agency representatives.

From there, a plan will be developed and forwarded to the state for approval. If a city disagrees with the final plan, it can pursue its case separately with the state.

Giving that kind of power to a regional group takes courage and commitment on the parts of city officials ' courage to relinquish some power and a commitment to protecting the livability of the valley by reaching a regional agreement.

We have seen the failures of short-term thinking and poor planning, with too many cars jammed onto too few roads, too many houses pushing onto once-productive farmland, too many parking lots, too many strip malls, too many communities gutted as customers and then businesses leave their downtowns.

Through the regional planning effort, we're now trying to see if there's a better way, a way that protects each community and the whole of the valley at the same time. If you want to participate in that effort, you can begin by reviewing the RVCOG supplement, titled Now x 2, that was included in last Friday's Mail Tribune, by checking out the project online at or by calling RVCOG at 664-6674.

Santas redux

This year the rather odd-looking Santas adorning downtown are just about as odd-looking as last year, but at least the Heart of Medford Association has found a way to minimize the damage.

Rather than hang them in conspicuous spots, HOMA has put them in obscure locations around town and is offering prizes to folks who try to find as many of the Santas as they can. Prizes include a night at the Red Lion and Craterian tickets.

Last year the Santas were described variously as a horrible mistake, like those cartoon witches that run into poles, red-suited cat burglars, SWAT-team Santas and Wile E. Coyote plastered on a canyon wall.

This year the sniggering has subsided a bit, what with some design improvements on the Santas and their location in the hinterlands, ostensibly to participate in the contest.

Let's hope this contest idea works out. If not, maybe these strange Santas should go elsewhere, somewhere far, far away.