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Developers lining up for expansion

Developers are jockeying for position in what could be the biggest land rush in Medford in the next 20 years.

The city is attempting to identify 1,650 acres that could be brought into the city limits by ranking properties according to size and proximity to sewer, water and transportation services.

“Everybody’s saying, ‘What can I do to make my score better,’ ” said Bianca Petrou, assistant planning director. “There’s a lot of people who want to get in.”

Petrou said developers with properties just outside the city limits in so-called "urban reserves" have been calling the Planning Department to see how their properties rank.

An open house that will show maps of properties and their suggested rankings will be on display from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Carnegie Library.

The city expects to double its population over the next 20 years and expects to run out of developable land required to handle 15,000 new houses and commercial development. The city has 18,000 acres in its urban growth boundary.

The state allows cities three options to handle expected growth: Increase the density within existing boundaries, expand boundaries for expected growth or do a combination of both.

The city likely will seek a combination of the two. A planning proposal that would require City Council approval calls for increasing the density on an existing 800 acres, which would require 100 acres less for expansion

Still, based on growth projections in a 2007 study, the city will need to add about 1,000 acres for residential and about 650 acres for commercial.

Petrou said developers interested in improving their rankings could file letters with the city indicating they would bear the costs for improving infrastructure provided by the city.

“What we’re telling developers is to bring in their proposals sometime before January,” she said.

Most of the urban reserves that the city is contemplating bringing into its limits are to the northeast and southeast of Medford with a number of parcels to the west and south.

Some of the biggest tracts of land under consideration are north of Vilas Road and surrounding Foothill Road. Another big swath to the south includes the Centennial Golf Course owned by the Rogue Valley Manor as well as other lands to the east extending from North Phoenix Road to Chrissy Park. A smaller area of land south of Garfield Street and north of South Stage Road is also being looked at. Several smaller parcels on the western boundary of the city are being considered.

Pacific Retirement Services, parent company of the Rogue Valley Manor, wants to build an active adult community around the golf course, a project that was proposed several years ago.

The golf course would become the central theme for the 1,000-unit residential complex.

In the ranking system, a property that encompasses a big area gets a higher score than a smaller property. Likewise, the distance to sewer and water and the impact on roads also contribute to the overall score.

City Council is expected to make a decision on where it wants to expand to sometime in January.

Randy Jones, general manager of Mahar Homes, said his development group is interested in the expansion discussions, particularly for properties located east of North Phoenix Road. He said the expansion will help add onto the Summerfield development that was part of the last expansion undertaken by the city in 1990.

“We’ve been talking and working on that for years,” he said. “We are part of this process. A whole bunch of people are too.”

The Southeast Plan, where 1,000 acres were slated for development in the early 2000s off North Phoenix Road, wasn’t developed as quickly as projected. When the recession hit, development came to a virtual halt, stalling projects such as the massive Southeast Plan, where 1,000 acres were slated for development in the early 2000s.

Jones said he will be going to the open house to see how the properties are ranked, and how the properties he’s involved with are scored.

“I’m kind of curious,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.