Rural land spotted for growth
Rural land spotted for growth
August 02, 2011 By Damian Mann
By 2060, the combined population of Medford and Central Point is projected to top 200,000 under a proposal that targets rural land for future growth around Jackson County's six largest cities.
The population forecast is part of an occasionally rancorous effort known as Regional Problem Solving that is heading into the final stages of approval after more than 10 years of public hearings, debates and conflicts that occasionally have threatened to derail it.
How Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, Central Point and Eagle Point will grow in the next 50 years
Current population: 140,000
- Projected population in 2060: 280,000
- Jackson County's six largest cities have a combined 29,850 acres within their boundaries and within urban growth areas.
- The proposal would add an additional 8,536 acres to the cities for future growth.
City-by-city breakdown of projected growth
Current Projected %increase
Eagle Point 8,702 26,907 209 percent
Central Point 17,652 40,255 128 percent
Medford 78,780 161,0141 104 percent
Phoenix 5,339 15,924 198 percent
Talent 6,561 11,409 74 percent
Ashland 22,117 24,918 13 percent
To see maps showing where cities are proposing to grow, go to www.co.jackson.or.us/files/ag_
If Jackson County succeeds in finalizing the proposal, it will be the first of any county in the state to sign off on a Regional Problem Solving plan. Other counties have failed to come to similar agreements because of difficulties in getting cities to work together.
In Jackson County, Jacksonville opted out of the process several years ago.
Key dates leading up to finalizing the proposal before it is sent to the state for adoption are coming up.
The Jackson County Planning Commission will send its recommendation to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners at 1 p.m., Aug. 11, at the Jackson County Courthouse auditorium, 10 South Oakdale Ave.
The commissioners will hold the first of eight public hearings on RPS at 1 p.m., Sept. 8, followed by other hearings at the same time and location Sept. 14, Sept. 21, Sept. 28, Oct. 5, Oct. 12, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26.
After commissioners approve the proposal, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development reviews it.
Don Greene, chairman of the county planning commission, said residents need to pay attention to the planning process because it will have profound impact on county development.
For instance, a farm next to a housing development might be turned into a residential development in the future. The framework for that change in land use is being devised now, said Greene.
"We are really locking this in for 50 years, and there will not be much change from this," he said.
Devising a regional plan will help with long-range projects such as mass transit, bicycle paths, walking trails and even the density of housing in an area, said Greene.
"Now planning is developer-driven, but this will be more city-driven," he said.
The need for a regional plan is the outgrowth of the shift in Jackson County from a rural area to one that is more metropolitan, said Greene.
"We've grown up," he said. "Long-range planning is the way of the future for us."
One of the big advantages cities have in a regional planning effort is greater justification under state land-use laws for adding more acreage once cities need to expand.
Every city that is part of Jackson County's proposal — Eagle Point, Central Point, Medford, Phoenix, Talent and Ashland — plans to add land to accommodate a doubling of its population by 2060. Ashland is the only community that won't add acreage, preferring to increase density.
Both Central Point and Eagle Point eventually will surpass Ashland's population, knocking the county's southernmost city from the second-largest to fourth-largest city.
Central Point will grow by 128 percent, from 17,652 residents to 40,255. Eagle Point will grow by 209 percent, from 8,702 to 26,907.
Ashland will only increase by 13 percent from 22,117 to 24,918.
All six cities now have 29,850 acres within their boundaries and within urban-growth areas. Under RPS, the cities would gain an additional 8,536 acres in reserves for future growth.
Jimmy MacLeod, executive director of the land-use advocacy group, Rogue Advocates, said the proposal in his estimation only meets minimum standards for ensuring the types of densities needed to make mass transit viable in the county.
"I wouldn't say they've done some cutting edge-type plan here," he said.
Also, he's concerned that some 1,200 acres of the best farmland in the valley, primarily around Central Point, would be gobbled up.
MacLeod said he thinks the 50-year planning horizon is a little too far into the future. Global warming, changes in transportation planning and other factors could have strong effects on development in the future that might require even greater densities, he said.
MacLeod said he will reserve any further comment on the plan until after the county planning commission has sent its recommendation to the commissioners.
Even Greene thinks there are deficiencies in the proposal, which is the result of years of compromise and public debate.
"I personally believe Ashland could have taken more growth," he said.
He said less farmland around Central Point would have been earmarked for future development if Ashland could have absorbed more of the area's population growth.
Also, he said, preservation of farmland and questions about the future of irrigation rights have not been fully addressed in the proposal.
Greene said the regional effort has been important for the county as it prepares for its future, but he said it is not a perfect effort.
"I think there is still strong disagreement," he said.