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J'ville planner at 'flash point' turns in resignation

JACKSONVILLE — City Planning Director Amy Stevenson, who sometimes found herself between property owners who wanted projects and commissions charged with upholding codes, has tendered her resignation.

City officials will not replace Stevenson immediately, said City Administrator Jeff Alvis. Her resignation becomes effective Tuesday, July 7. She was hired as planning director five years ago.

Stevenson handled building and remodeling requests that had to be reviewed by the town’s Historical and Architectural Review Commission and by the Planning Commission.  National Historic Landmark status takes in 326 acres in the city, and one-third of its structures contribute to that status.

“Her position was kind of a flash point,” said former HARC Commissioner Gary Collins. Many projects in town need HARC endorsement, he explained.

“I always thought she did a good job and was well motivated,” said Collins. “I don’t think people particularly blamed her when they didn’t get through HARC, but there were always issues. It takes time and it takes money.”

Stevenson worked with existing codes while attempts to revise them were underway.

“She was very much a code person,” said Alvis. “She knew the code, and I think she did a good job for the city.”

In May 2012, Stevenson said Title 18 of the municipal code, which governs building and remodeling activities in the town’s historic core, needed to be rewritten to remedy numerous problems. Stevenson said then she hoped to have the work done and approved by the end of that year. The revision is still not complete after three years.

In 2014, a draft version of the new code was nearing completion, aided by a $14,400 grant to pay for work on historic preservation provisions. A Citizen Advisory Committee on Planning Code was instituted last year to help move the process forward.

Stevenson also dealt with neighbors’ concerns that development at Bigham Knoll did not follow approved plans. In 2011, neighbors complained that creation of a separate prep kitchen for Frau Kemmling Schoolhaus Brewhaus was not approved and resulted in disruptions at night.

Mitigation efforts were later approved to allow the prep kitchen. 

With Stevenson's departure, city planner Ian Foster will be employed on a full-time basis, said Alvis. In addition, the city will contract with Rogue Valley Council of Governments for planner Dick Converse’s services when needed. Converse has worked on several city planning efforts in the past. He was already under contract to review the revised codes when Stevenson submitted her resignation.

“I’ll be overseeing staff.” said Alvis. “We’ll try if for a couple of months and see how it goes, then make some decisions on what we will need to do.”

Stevenson did not respond to phone calls or an email asking about her future plans.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. He can be reached at tboomwriter@gmail. com.