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Talent transitional housing proposal receives grant

A $250,000 grant is waiting to help Talent Urban Renewal Agency create transitional housing for residents who lost homes in the Almeda fire on the Gateway tract of land the agency has been working to develop since 2017.

People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation informed the agency this week that the money would be available once a budget is in place, half of the costs are committed and permits are granted for the first phase. Previously the foundation awarded $38,500 to help with planning for the transitional use.

A town hall meeting on the proposal for the Gateway development will be held electronically at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, to inform the community of agency plans. The site is located on the southwest corner of Highway 99 and West Valley View Road.

“We are going to present the transition to permanent housing on the Gateway site,” said Jon Legarza, agency executive director. “Staff has been working with engineers and the (agency) board. We’d have 53 RV pads that will be transitional housing to Phoenix-Talent School District families.”

TURA has signed an intergovernmental agreement with the school district that would provide dwellings for the site. The district has worked with Rogue Retreat to accept RVs for use by district families displaced by the fire.

“What gets us excited about the project is that we see a tangible process being made to house these fire victims,” said Julia Beattie, president and chief lending officer of the bank. “Sometimes it’s difficult to get from the talking to the actual implementation stage. We have people who don’t have homes.”

The foundation’s grant committee designated the funds from a $1 million donation the bank made last fall to the foundation to aid fire recovery.

“We have learned how incredibly important it is for people’s sense of stability to be in the community they were previously in,” said Beattie. “Psychologically and mentally, it’s critically important to recovery from the stress of the event.”

Conceptual plans show the initial phase with 53 trailers or RVs, a play area and food truck site. Landscape is also shown along the property where it borders the highway and West Valley View. Legarza said a fence where murals could be created by artists is also a possibility.

One next-phase diagram shows creation of affordable housing on two parcels totaling 48 apartment units, with 35 trailers remaining. An alternative shows 37 trailers, a 24-unit apartment building and another building with ground-floor area for a makerspace, child care or other options, with 18 units on upper stories.

A longer range drawing shows several commercial buildings fronting West Valley View along with more apartments or townhouses and open space in the site center.

Underground service lines would need to be put in to serve transitional housing but then would be in place for conversion of the site to permanent residential and commercial structures, said Legarza. A site with infrastructure in place would be more attractive to developers, he said.

An agreement with Rogue Valley Sanitary Services, which gives that agency a right of way to replace an old main trunk sewer line along the south edge of the property, was approved by the board at its Jan. 20 meeting. That upgrade will help the Gateway development, Legarza said.

Talent resident Nancy Buono said at the meeting the agency should look at other city sites for transitional housing, and that efforts should be concentrated on developing the mixed use commercial/residential project vision created in 2018. She also called for working with Ashland Food Co-op on possible site development.

A memo expressing concerns that creation of transitional housing on the site would violate city zoning codes once an emergency order expires in September was sent by former City Manager Sandra Spelliscy before she resigned Jan. 4. But Legarza said Talent City Council or the city manager would have the option to extend the emergency order to accommodate the proposed setup. He said transition to some permanent housing on the site might happen starting in 2023.

In 2017, the agency amassed the 4.3 acres of land for $1.875 million with the intent of developing a downtown entrance with a mix of commercial and nonprofit buildings, affordable and market-rate housing and open space. Two earlier attempts to develop the site did not succeed.

Information on how to access the virtual town hall will be available on the agency website, talenturbanrenewal.com.

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

A look at Mountain View Estates in Talent, which was destroyed during the Almeda Fire. Transitional housing for those who lost their homes in the city will be discussed in a virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday. (Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune )