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Mixed density is the wave of the future

When communities plan to accommodate population growth, a mix of single-family and multi-family housing is usually considered beneficial — until the people who already live in an area hear about it. That seems to be the case with residents of existing single-family homes in the Vista Pointe neighborhood off East McAndrews Road in Medford.

A developer is moving ahead with plans for 132 townhouses on 8.5 acres. Neighbors of the proposed project oppose it on the grounds that it will increase traffic, drive down property values and generally be "out of character" with the existing neighborhood.

These are arguments frequently raised whenever a multi-family project is proposed in an area of single-family homes. But there are good reasons for approving such projects anyway.

State planning rules, especially the Regional Problem Solving process recently concluded in much of Jackson County, call for higher density within cities to preserve lower densities separating one town from the next while planning for anticipated population growth. Achieving those higher densities means more multi-family developments, which cannot all be clustered in one part of town.

In the case of this project, a planned unit development was approved for the property in 2003 that specifically called for high-density housing, so it's not as though the idea came out of the blue.

Traffic is a concern, but the project is not far off East McAndrews, a major arterial, and increased vehicle trips shouldn't be too big a problem as long as speed limits are enforced.

As for property values, multiple studies have found no detrimental effect on the value of single-family homes even when multi-family rental apartment buildings are added to a neighborhood. And these units are not being built as rentals, or as affordable housing. The original development called for three-story townhouses, but the developer reduced the height to two stories to better fit the neighborhood, aiming for a project that is "a little more upscale," according to the architect. The project will feature hot tubs and a 25-meter swimming pool.

City planners have not yet received any plans for the proposed project. When they do, they should make sure streets, sewers and other public services can accommodate the additional demand. But they should not reject higher densities just because neighbors oppose the idea.

One resident said neighbors don't oppose development, as long as it's limited to single-family homes like theirs.

Home ownership confers some benefits, but dictating what comes next isn't one of them.