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Talent downsizes its expectations

A decline in projected growth numbers has the city of Talent backing away from adding as much as 109 acres to its Urban Growth Boundary and looking at ways to utilize lands inside city to accommodate housing needs.

Future home buyers may find smaller lots, and more accessory dwelling units might be created as a result of the change, because state land-use law requires the city to look at efficiency measures.

Projections issued mid-year by Portland State University’s Population Research Center has the city growing by 1,609 people in 2039, a decrease of 1,107 from predictions made in 2015. Population is now projected to be 6,452 people.

“Simply put, it means we can’t justify a UGB amendment now,” Community Development Director Zac Moody told City Council Sept. 19. “We continue to grow by being more efficient with the land we have.”

A housing-needs analysis prepared by ECONorthwest last year projected Talent would need to add up to 109 acres to accommodate housing needs by 2039. That had city officials and committees working on studies needed to justify the growth and pondering how to provide affordable housing.

As a result of the new state numbers, 480 fewer housing units would be needed by 2039. The change would allow up to 14 acres to be added to the UGB, but only after the city reviews land efficiency measures and determines buildable land is not available within city limits and current UGB areas, said Moody.

City Manager Sandra Spelliscy said the city wouldn’t entirely rule out an addition and will continue to research the issue.

A community advisory committee has been developing efficiency measures, said Moody. Zoning codes will need to be updated to implement more efficiency, but the city has a grant from Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development to assist with the process. The city will hire a consultant to help with the code changes, which should be implemented by June of 2019, said Moody.

Among potential changes might be downsizing minimum lot size from 7,000 to 6,000 square feet in low-density zones, which could yield more lots from available land already within the city. Minimum lot sizes in medium-density zones might be established at 4,000 square feet, and changes could be made to allow flag lots on larger parcels. Another option would be changing zoning on some commercial land to allow housing.

City Councilor Ken Baker, a builder, said he was unhappy that the city did not appeal the numbers when preliminary figures came out last spring. He said the council was unaware of the estimates. Moody said he did not perceive a need to appeal the ruling and took responsibility for that decision. New projections will be issued in 2022, at which time the city could appeal those preliminary numbers.

“There is a need for smaller houses on smaller lots, but not at the expense of building no larger homes,” said Baker. There is no ability to do larger-scale development on land, and builders will be looking at flag lots and smaller lots, he added.

Before the revised numbers came out, the city intended to bring in land in two areas north of Suncrest and Colver roads that comprised 26 and 18 acres respectively.

“If you do not bring available land to market, the existing land just drives up prices exponentially as long as the housing market stays strong,” said Baker. The city also foregos collecting property taxes if new land is not added, he said.

So far in 2018, 29 housing units have been constructed, Moody reported.

Talent also needs to look at multifamily housing development, said Moody. No such units have been built for more than 10 years, and the most recent attempts ran into problems getting approval from the city Planning Commission.

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

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