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Talent hopes to add land for large-scale home developments

Plans to expand the city’s urban growth boundary are moving forward at a time the community faces a shortage of land for large-scale residential developments. Public opinion on draft conceptual plans to add land will be sought around the end of the year.

“Right now we’re functioning mostly on in-fill,” said city Community Development Director Zac Moody. “There are no new subdivisions and no new areas for large industry or residences. We won’t have a lot of economic growth if we don’t have the residential growth to go with it.”

Studies funded by grants from the Oregon Department of Transportation and by the state Department of Land Conservation and Development are looking at separate areas north of Suncrest and Colver roads, both adjacent to Highway 99. The studies will provide plans for city approval. The areas were identified for growth in a regional planning effort.

Enlargement of the UGB would be one of the first under the Regional Problem Solving formula developed by six Rogue Valley cities and Jackson County after a decade-long planning effort to retain agricultural land and separation between cities. Central Point will seek a UGB expansion later this month.

“This is the first (RPS project) with a grant,” said Dick Converse, principal land-use planner with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, which is preparing the plans with assistance from Talent.

Converse hosted a booth at the Talent Harvest Festival Oct. 4 where the public could learn about the effort and ask questions.

“The involvement with the Harvest Festival was excellent,” said Converse. “It exposed the project to more people than it would at an open house.”

One area, TA-4, is west of Highway 99 and east of the railroad tracks north of Colver Road. The site has 22 developable acres designated for industrial use currently in agricultural production. But future use might include an operation where agricultural products are processed and sold, similar to Rising Sun Farms a little farther north, said Converse.

Area TA-5 is north of Suncrest Road between Highway 99 and Bear Creek. The 28-acre area is designated for employment, commercial and residential development. That area might gain subdivisions as other designated growth areas adjacent to Talent are small or have features that would preclude larger developments, said Moody.

Property owners in the areas have been consulted on the proposals, said Converse. 1000 Friends of Oregon, which participated in RPS, also will be involved to ensure integrity of development with RPS goals.

“We are on the verge now of developing draft conceptual plans that will be reviewed at an open house and have public input,” said Converse.

Preliminary conceptual plans will be disseminated on the city’s website and possibly through social media. A public meeting is required, but both Moody and Converse are leery of holding an evening session.

“I would hope we would be able to use other forums to do these meetings,” said Moody.

Simultaneously Talent is revising its Transportation System Plan with state grant money. Some of the information from the plan may be used in the concepts if it is available in time.

Roads off of Highway 99 for both TA-4 and TA-5 will be considered in the conceptual plan and the transportation plan, said Moody. A draft conceptual plan will be presented to the Planning Commission and then to the City Council for approval. Work funded by the $69,000 in grants needs to be finished by June 30.

Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization would also review the plans before they are submitted to Jackson County for enlargement of the UGB. Ultimately, the land would need to be annexed into the city before development could take place.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.