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Jacksonville faces a growing dilemma

Development proposals would require city to expand its urban growth boundary

To expand or not to expand — that is the question for Jacksonville City Council as it considers how to address a developer’s request to add acreage to the city’s Urban Growth Boundary, a prelude to annexation.

Stage Pass Property, LLC has submitted an application to have a UGB addition of 37 acres that borders South Stage Road under a simplified process. Another developer has met with city planners and might file for a 30-acre UGB addition on the north side of town.

City Council voted April 15 to have staff schedule a public meeting to present the scope of the UGB amendment evaluation in a public meeting. Councilors held a study session in March and planning staff advised them they could decide whether to move ahead with the process or it could determine that the city does not need additional buildable land.

“We are in the education and exploration stages. It’s a slow process. We just cannot move ahead on a subject as important as this without being well-versed on the pros and cons,” said Mayor Donna Bowen. “We will have work sessions where experts will be brought in.”

UGB amendments should be city-led, said Ryan Nolan, a planner with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, who works for the city under contract on UGB issues. The city would decide whether more land is needed and which method, simplified or traditional, to use if it determines there is a need.

Jacksonville has an average growth rate of 1.6%, which would yield a population of 4,148 in 20 years and 3,772 in 14 years. The council will need to consider assessments of housing needs and determine whether additional studies are needed before a UGB amendment could take place.

“You decide which route to go, which property,” said Nolan. “There’s only one decision. Should the city proceed to a review of the UGB? Do we feel there is evidence that suggests we move forward?”

Stage Pass representative Craig Stone and Associates’ application calls for use of the simplified method that requires less detail work and would speed up the process. A traditional UGB process was estimated at the study session to take from six to 10 years.

The land is located adjacent to the eastern city limits. The site is part of a much larger area that has approval from Jackson County for a total of 27 residences situated on two to five-acre parcels. That land is zoned for rural use and would remain under county jurisdiction.

The proposed development would have 22.3 acres of buildable land. The project envisions a mix of medium- and high-density housing and commercial spaces, said Raul Woerner with Craig Stone and Associates.

Medium density is defined as 8 to 16 housing units per acre, while high-density is 16 or more per acre. Studies have shown a lack of land in Jacksonville for medium- and high-density projects. Stage Pass would have 12 acres for medium-density development and 3.5 acres for high-density development. There could be a mix of apartments, townhouses, cottages and condominiums.

Woerner said the project would address a need for housing for what is termed “the missing middle,” households which are frequently priced out of municipalities. Jacksonville has some of the highest housing prices in Jackson County.

“I don’t want to live in the Jacksonville county club. I want a community with some diversity,” said Councilor Mike McClain during the study session. He said the city needs to consider affordable housing.

Another seven acres would be used for commercial development on the Stage Pass land. “The property owner envisions a viticulture incubator for new start-up wineries,” said Woerner.

Dave Freel and Associates may file a UGB application for the 30-acre parcel that abuts Royal Mobile Estates and runs to North Oregon Street. A pre-application meeting was held with Planning Department officials.

The Stage Pass property is zoned for rural use, and such land is viewed by the state as more desirable for UGB inclusion than land that is zoned for forest or farm use. The 30-acre site north of town is zoned Exclusive Farm Use.

A date for a public meeting has not been set. City Planning Director Ian Foster said the council is eager to include the public in the process after recent changes to the city’s policies that emphasize public participation, but council study will come first.

“They are really still in the early stages of determining whether (UGB amendment) is necessary. They want a scope of work,” said Foster.

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