Jacksonville left out of shaping Rogue Valley's growth

By Tony Boom

for the Tidings

Jacksonville is out of a nine-year-old process designed to shape growth in the Rogue Valley for the next 50 years after the city refused to sign a participants agreement.

Bear Creek Regional Problem Solving representatives from other cities and jurisdictions determined at a Policy Committee meeting Tuesday in Central Point that since Jacksonville had not signed the document, it could no longer participate.

Jacksonville and the cities of Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Medford, Phoenix and Talent agreed in July 2008 that all cities needed to sign the agreement before the next step, a round of comprehensive plan amendments to incorporate changes proposed in a draft plan.

"We wish the city had stayed," said Michael Cavallaro, director of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, which coordinates the process. He said the city would be welcome to rejoin after the amendment process is completed.

Jacksonville Mayor Bruce Garrett characterized the action as being "kicked out." The City Council held an executive session after its regular meeting Tuesday to discuss appeal possibilities, he said.

Nine years have been spent on RPS, which strives to envision growth in Jackson County over the coming half century. The proposal would provide enough new land to double the valley's current population on one-third of the area it takes to support current residents. Among its goals has been preservation of community identity and agricultural land.

"(Jacksonville) chose not to follow the rules that the RPS Policy Committee developed and voted on," said Kate Jackson, Ashland City Council member and chairwoman of the committee.

The Jacksonville council in January reaffirmed its December decision that the appropriate time to sign a participants agreement was after public hearings linked to the draft plan.

"The Policy Committee encouraged Jacksonville to reconsider and asked them if there are amendments to the participants agreement that would make them happy," said Jackson. "There were things presented, and they said, 'No, that doesn't meet our needs.' You've got mature adults discussing the situation and deciding to disagree on the answer."

Among options presented to Jacksonville was the choice to be a supporting signatory rather than an implementing signatory. Several committee members urged Jacksonville to stay with the process during meetings that were held in December and February.

"Our whole issue is that we don't want to sign the agreement as a supporting signatory until it goes to the public hearings and there's adequate findings to support the plan," said Councilwoman Linda Meyers, Jacksonville's representative to the committee. "The participants agreement obligates you to that plan ... but you don't know how that's going to turn out."

The participants agreement relates to the plan, and therefore is a land-use action requiring public hearings under state law, according to Meyers.

"About eight or nine local and state attorneys as well as (the Department of Land Conservation and Development) have said the process is appropriate," said Cavallaro. "The jurisdictions remaining in the process feel they are justified in moving ahead."

City councils in the other jurisdictions all have approved the agreement. Representatives of those cities expressed reluctance to take an amended agreement back to their councils for another vote. They offered no motions Tuesday when asked if they had changes, Cavallaro said.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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