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Talent may not need extra lands for growth

TALENT — Two areas totaling 50 acres immediately north of the city limits flanking Highway 99 may not be added to the town’s Urban Growth Boundary anytime soon.

An economic opportunity analysis shows that the city has about 63 acres of developable commercial lands within its limits and current urban growth boundary. There are also 26 acres of industrial lands in the current boundaries. Projections shows a need for 20 acres of industrial land and 17 acres of commercial land by 2036 when the workforce would grow from 1,393 to 1,590 by 2036.

““With your downtown not even developed, it's hard to justify bringing that property in, too,” said Talent Planning Director Zac Moody. “We have some work to do to really develop lands before we can start bringing in more land.”

ECONorthwest of Portland developed the analysis, which will be considered for adoption on Aug. 17 by the City Council as part of a revision to the city's economic element in its comprehensive plan. That element was last revised in 2000 based on 1990 census data.

Areas north of Colver Road west of Highway 99 and Suncrest Road east of Highway 99 were identified as future growth land in a Regional Problem Solving initiative undertaken by Jackson County and five other Rogue Valley cities. The area west of the highway was envisioned as commercial and light industrial use. The area to the east was seen as mixed residential and commercial uses.

Residents in or near the eastern area expressed concerns when a conceptual plan was developed last fall they could lose property or be negatively affected by growth. The City Council adopted the conceptual plan, but a master development plan for the area would need to be bought back to the Planning Commission and the council before the area would be added to the UGB.

Besides identifying lands for commercial and industrial operations, the analysis also provides strategies for the town’s economic development. A chart shows implementation of a number of strategies over the next five years.

“We spent a little extra time developing a timeline,” said Moody. “It’s a very aggressive plan with good policies for redevelopment of those many acres of commercial and industrial land that we have.”

Among the strategies are:

  • Creation of a city Economic Development Commission.
  • Identifying sites for businesses that are shovel-ready.
  • Examining system development charges to determine if they impede development.
  • Changing zoning rules to allow residential use of the ground floors initially in what would ultimately be mixed commercial and residential structures.
  • Expediting the land use permit process and/or reducing building fee costs.

“(The study) causes the city to really take a look at the other lands in the city and are they really properly zoned,” said Moody.

Reconsideration of zoning on some of the commercial and industrial lands to allow high density residential development, especially on about 50 acres in the downtown area, might be considered, Moody said.

A technical advisory committee met three times to help the consultant develop the plan. The study and comprehensive plan changes were adopted by the Planning Commission on July 28. A $20,000 grant from Oregon’s Division of Land Conservation and Development helped fund the $32,500 study.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.