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Talent council continues land-use action for a third time

Photo courtesy cityoftalent.org

Talent City Council delayed action for a third time on a developer’s request that could result in 11 new housing units when it voted unanimously Sept. 15 to continue a public hearing with no date set.

Developer Evan Archerd is seeking amendments to both the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning map that would allow high-density residential development on a two-acre parcel on West Valley View Road. The site is currently zoned for highway commercial use.

Several city councilors supported the continuation because they would like to see an affordable house unit required, as recommended by the Talent Planning Commission in its approval given in January.

“We are trying to put pieces in place that will allow those (commercial) properties to be used in a better and higher way than they are now, and also in a way to be used to create opportunities for lower-income people,” said Councilor Jason Clark, who supported continuation. “That is a very strong value that I have.”

Studies have shown a lack of land available for housing in Talent over the next 20 years, while at the same time there is a surplus of commercial land. Rebuilding is also underway to replace some of the 789 residential units lost in last year’s Almeda fire.

“I think that it’s unfortunate that they were already asking us to do something that no one can do, which is to agree to something that isn’t even written yet,” Archerd said when contacted by the Mail Tribune. “I don’t know at this point what we are going to do.”

Councilors did not set a date for a new hearing on the items. That could allow time for development of affordable housing criteria, which the city currently lacks. Talent officials have talked about implementing affordable housing for a half-dozen years, but there are no specific criteria yet

City Attorney Lori Cooper told the council it would be up to the applicant to agree to provide affordable housing since there is no requirement in city codes. Councilor Eleanor Ponomareff asked Archerd whether he would consider including an affordable unit.

“I don’t have enough information at this point to have an opinion. There is no affordable housing code section in Talent to reference, there is no section to give us on idea of what affordability means,” Archerd responded. “I’m not at all opposed to affordable housing, but it’s got to be done with clear and well-defined criteria.”

Most affordable housing is put into lager project, said Archerd, who has experience with such developments in Ashland, where there is a flushed-out code.

Usually nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity or ACCESS work with developers on affordable housing, said Amy Gunter who is working on the project. Those agencies have experience with securing state and federal assistance often needed to make such inclusion financially feasible for the developer.

City Council first held a public hearing on the proposal April 21. The meeting was continued to May 5, where the council again voted to continue the hearings to September. Because the amendments are not an application for development approval, state land use rules that usually require a decision within 120 days of an application do not apply.

A 2017 Housing Needs Analysis study found that Talent has land capacity for 630 new houses, but will need to have 1,272 additional dwelling units over the next 20 years. Another study found that there would be a surplus of 44 acres of commercial land between 2016-2036 given projected growth.

The two-acre site lies adjacent to Wagner Creek and west of the Cummins Battery plant. It was created when the entire Cummins parcel, formerly a Walmart, was split into three parcels. About half of the parcel is in a flood plain, which limits the number of units that can be developed. Access would come from Mountain View Estates Drive on the east side of the acreage. Townhouses are envisioned to allow for individual ownership.

“It’s a parcel that lends itself well to something smaller. It’s quite lovely back there with Wagner Creek,” said Archerd. “It doesn’t lend itself to a commercial building.”

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