Commissioners blast Talent’s urban renewal plan – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Talent City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed urban renewal plan at the Talent Community Center. [Mail Tribune/file photo]

The City of Phoenix, Fire District No. 5 also opposes the plan

The Talent City Council is trying to capitalize on the devastating Almeda fire with a proposed urban renewal plan that doesn’t take negative impacts into account, according to Jackson County commissioners.

Commissioners this week sent a letter to the city of Talent opposing the plan. City councilors will review the input they received during a special meeting Tuesday to keep, change or reject the recommendations.

Talent City Council will hold a public hearing on the plan on Wednesday. The council is expected to decide whether to adopt the plan during a meeting on August 24.

The commissioners’ letter states that the proposed urban renewal plan is “merely an attempt to capitalize on the greatest tragedy to ever befall our county by the city of Talent at the expense, and without thought, of the others entities and people also affected by the Almeda fire”.

The September 2020 Almeda fire destroyed about 2,300 homes and hundreds of commercial buildings, according to the city of Phoenix, which also sent a letter opposing the urban renewal plan.

The plan would “freeze” property tax revenue for taxing jurisdictions beginning in January 2021, when large swaths of Talent and Phoenix were still burning. As the areas are redeveloped, the growth in property tax revenue plus the increases would go into Talent’s urban renewal coffers instead of other taxing entities like Jackson County.

Urban renewal is generally used for blighted and blighted areas that harm economic values ​​and tax revenues. Blight can cause crime and public health hazards, creating a public interest in rehabilitating and redeveloping an area.

Over the 30-year life of the proposed plan, the city of Talent itself would lose $17 million in property tax revenue and Jackson County Fire District No. 5 would lose $17 million. Jackson County would lose a smaller amount, as would other jurisdictions, such as Jackson County Library Services and the Rogue Valley Transportation District.

For 30 years, the taxing districts will only receive property tax revenue that would be similar to if the devalued burned areas were never rebuilt.

“The proposed plan would have the effect of ‘locking in’ these revenue losses to the various public entities,” the commissioners said in their letter.

The city of Talent is already under financial strain and has trouble providing basic services, even without diverting tax revenue to urban renewal projects, Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan said.

“The primary purpose of local government is to protect the public health and safety of its citizens, and they are compromising that in their city. With their city budget, they no longer have the ability to provide adequate police services.” Jordan said during meetings with commissioners earlier this week.

Talent is considering merging police services with the city of Ashland to save money.

Diverting money to urban renewal could hurt the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and especially the talented police department, prompting more calls for help from the Phoenix Police Department, Oregon State Police and the sheriff’s office, the city of Phoenix said.

According to the district, the diversion of urban renewal funds would cause Fire District No. 5 cut fire protection services or seek increases in taxes or fees to cover shortfalls.

The fire district serves Talent, Phoenix and rural areas outside of Ashland and Medford.

Over the life of the urban renewal plan, $75 million in property tax money would be diverted from other services to urban renewal projects in Talent, according to the fire district.

County Commissioner Colleen Roberts said the Talent City Council should not adopt the plan, especially with the area already being redeveloped.

“The decision would create a devastating financial crisis of its own,” he said.

The Phoenix-Talent school district would see the biggest loss at $22 million, but that money would be replenished by the state, according to a list of impacts listed by Fire District 5.

The state matches funding for school districts. With money diverted to Talent Urban Renewal, all school districts in the state would receive less money, according to the letter from county commissioners.

Commissioners said with robust rebuilding already underway in Talent and more outside financial aid on the way, there is no need for urban renewal projects.

Recent estimates show that the vast majority of the city will be rebuilt by 2024 without urban renewal. For people and properties not on track to be rebuilt, the Rogue Valley will receive $200 million in federal grants for new housing, in addition to commercial and public improvements, commissioners said.

Commissioners and the city of Phoenix said many of Talent’s proposed urban renewal goals will be covered by other funding sources and other agencies.

Goals include building more affordable housing; recruitment of companies; hazard reduction; improving transport and infrastructure, including walking and cycling routes; involve the community through the arts and other projects; and cover the administrative costs of implementing an urban renewal program.

Groups like Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development are already working on retaining and recruiting businesses for the Rogue Valley. The Oregon Department of Transportation is working on a Highway 99 corridor improvement project that includes Talent, and Jackson County is leading efforts to plan for the future of the Bear Creek Greenway, the commissioner said of Jackson County, Dave Dotterrer.

“There are other organizations that already do all these things,” Dotterrer said.

He questioned whether Talent’s small city staff could handle the workload of major urban renewal projects when the city is already struggling to provide basic services.

Talent City manager Jordan Rooklyn has expressed concern about the damage to city services and staff if money is diverted to urban renewal.

The board of Jackson County Library Services, which operates 15 library branches throughout the county, said the Talent location is one of the busiest branches. The board said in a letter that an urban renewal district would reduce the library’s operating budget while requiring increased services to serve a growing population.

If the Talent City Council adopts an urban renewal plan, JCLS asked that money be included for the Talent library building and services.

The JCLS board said the urban renewal district has the potential to accelerate recovery and increase the value of burned land beyond what it was before the Almeda fire, especially for the business corridor.

But board members said they had concerns about the extent of residential property included in the boundaries of the proposed urban renewal district, especially since many areas are being redeveloped with the help of state and federal grants.

The city of Phoenix said the Talent Urban Renewal District would hurt the various entities that stepped up to offer help after the fire, from Jackson County government to the transportation district to the Rogue Valley Sewer Service .

The partnerships enabled a highly complex cleanup in a relatively short period of time, helped fire survivors and laid the groundwork for the partners to win state and federal funding for recovery, the city of Phoenix said.

For information on how to attend Tuesday’s special meeting to review the plan recommendations online or by phone, see

For information on how to attend the public hearing on the plan at 6:45pm on Wednesday in person, online or by phone, see City councilors will attend online, but an in-person viewing room will be set up at the Talent Community Center, located at 104 E. Main St. behind the Town Hall of Talent. Doors open at 6:30 p.m

For information on how to attend the 5.30pm meeting on Wednesday 24 August, for the council’s decision on the plan, see The meeting can be accessed online or by phone.

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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