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Talent Urban Renewal terminates deal with developer

Efforts to craft a final agreement with DOSO Properties to develop Talent’s Gateway Project were terminated by the town’s urban renewal agency board Wednesday.

Talent Urban Renewal Agency had been negotiating exclusively with DOSO since January 2018 to develop a signature parcel of land at the entrance to downtown off Highway 99.

“It had been clear for a while that DOSO probably wasn’t the best fit for the project,” said agency Executive Director Sandra Spelliscy. DOSO principal Jerryck Owens-Murrey also said the agency and the company were not a good fit.

TURA seeks to develop its 4.3 acres on the corner of West Valley View Road and Highway 99. DOSO had proposed building a 60-unit affordable senior housing project, creating townhouses and constructing two commercial buildings. Two other commercial pads are on the site, and the city Planning Department put total project value at an estimated $22 million.

“We had gotten into a situation where the initial proposal that TURA and DOSO agreed to involved significant subsides to the developer in terms of both land write-downs and tax subsides,” said Spelliscy. As a result, Oregon’s prevailing wage laws would have come into effect and significantly increased the cost of development, Spelliscy said.

Under the initial agreement, DOSO would have gotten two lots for $1 each, would have paid market value for a townhouse site and had an option on a fourth lot. TURA was also to supply $590,000 for design, engineering and permitting.

“He had to know for a while that this (prevailing wage need) was going to be an issue. We weren’t able to come to a meeting of the minds on a new direction. It was a mutual parting of the ways,” said Spelliscy.

“I just think it wasn’t a good fit. I think the team just had a difficult time finding a common ground with the schedule,” said Owens-Murrey. “In development there are an amazing number of moving parts. It was difficult to reconcile that with the city’s expectations.”

In September, DOSO and TURA entered into a preliminary agreement that called for completion of a final agreement to develop after environmental cleanup work at the site was complete. That work has now been accomplished, said Spelliscy.

TURA’s board directed the agency staff to come back with a new request for proposals initiative in 60 days so the project can be developed.

DOSO was selected by the board in December 2017 following a similar process. TURA’s board is composed of Talent’s mayor and city councilors.

Former board member Ken Baker had voted against the September agreement and also the initial choice of DOSO. Board member John Harrison also voted no on both times. Baker lost the November mayor’s race to incumbent Darby Ayers-Flood and is no longer on the board.

“I just didn’t feel that we had done our homework on the developer that was chosen,” said Baker. “I didn’t see enough of a track record out of him in development to justify him being selected over the other one.”

KDA Homes of Ashland submitted the other proposal. A third developer withdrew from the process at the time.

“As the process was moving along, from the financial standpoint I just wasn’t getting good vibes on how stuff was shaking out,” said Baker. “It wasn’t coming together. It wasn’t the right combination.”

The final concept with senior housing, market-rate housing and commercial pads was viable, said Baker, who is a home builder. But a recent downturn in the real estate market may make it difficult to lease proposed commercial spaces, he added.

Plan development by Walker Macy Landscape Architects of Portland, done with a $60,000 state transportation planning grant, will help the agency going forward, said Spelliscy. The process has helped create a clear vision of what the agency might achieve, she said.

“We knew from the beginning it could be a very long process. I think we are really committed to it so we just keep working until we get it done,” said Ayers-Flood. “I’m confident we will see a good end.”

Community workshops were used to create a vision for the site, and citizens want to see that carried out, said Ayers-Flood. She also wants to see a third leg created to a roundabout on West Valley View Road, an initial goal for the property acquisition by TURA in 2016.

“I feel like TURA is in a very good position. We have a clear vision of the kind of project that is wanted. We have a design that is approved by the board,” said Spelliscy. “We didn’t have the same kind of vision a year ago. It puts us in a better place in terms of looking for a developer.”

“I came to the table with the best of intentions. The board did as well. Sometime this happens,” said Owens-Murrey. “Talent is still a good opportunity, and I hope they find a developer who can extract that value.”

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

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