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Commissioners are way off

Rural development scheme is not in valley's best interest

Jackson County commissioners Jack Walker and C.W. Smith want to give your grandchildren San Jose.

Well, OK, they can't really give them San Jose, since other people seem to own it, but they're paving the way &

8212; literally paving the way &

8212; for a replica San Jose right here in the Rogue Valley.

The two Republican commissioners are pushing a plan to open up 105,000 rural acres for development on home sites as small as 10 acres. They say many of these sites aren't suitable for farming or forest use and that means they should be available for development.

County studies estimate the properties would hold about 2,600 home sites.

What the study and the commissioners don't include in their estimate is that 2,600 rural homes would require 2,600 rural driveways, 2,600 septic tanks, 2,600 wells and 2,600 times-the-number-of-drivers-in-the-household cars or trucks. This is not the simple issue that Walker and Smith try to paint: that this property is improperly zoned and not capable of agricultural use, so the only thing left to do is turn it into homesites.

What they don't consider is the overall impact on the livability of this valley. Their proposals will make life better for the folks who develop their rural ranchettes &

8212; and worse for the other couple of hundred thousand people who share this valley. Instead of hillsides dotted (covered in some cases) with trees, our grandchildren will be able to gaze upon expensive homes. Do you have a favorite hiking, biking or Sunday driving route? Add a few hundred houses along the way and consider the difference.

One house sitting on a foundation in the middle of a large open space doesn't necessarily degrade the entire area. But the owners will build a driveway to get to that house, which will bisect the fields between the home and the nearest road. Two thousand, six hundred driveways will split up a lot of acreage and put a spiderweb of new roadways across the land. That does degrade the area.

The more of these rural homes that are built, the more they will come into contact and conflict with existing or potential agricultural uses. That will speed the demise of ag and encourage even more properties to be sold off for home sites. The commissioners, who profess to love the county's rural areas and the beauty of the valley, don't seem aware that they are helping to destroy it.

This is the rock-in-the-well theory in action. The story goes like this: The citizens of Jackson County have a well that produces wonderfully cool and clean water. But, quite often, as the two commissioners pass by the well, they drop a rock in it. What the heck, they say, one little rock won't hurt. Well, when the one rock becomes thousands, even tens of thousands, one day the people find they can no longer get water from the well. It's that last rock that blocks their bucket, but it is all the rocks over all the years that killed their treasured well.

Unless they learn to respect the value of rural lands, that is the legacy commissioners Walker and Smith will leave to future generations. Maybe they'll get a road named after themselves for their effort.