Talent slows urban renewal momentum – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

The Talent Council will refine its plan and take it to the voters

A controversial urban renewal neighborhood plan in Talent has been delayed to refine it, and the Talent Council will ask for a popular vote.

On Wednesday evening, councilors approved a resolution calling for further development of the plan, delaying implementation that would have affected other district tax budgets and calling for a May 2023 vote.

On Tuesday evening, councilors met to consider input from other taxing districts, such as Jackson County Fire District 5. After deliberations, councilors decided to draft the resolution instead of holding a public hearing and the first reading of an ordinance Wednesday that would have established the new 30-year district will take effect on September 21.

Implementation of the plan would have resulted in tax losses of nearly $17 million each over the district’s 30-year life for Fire District 5 and the city of Talent. Jackson County would have lost $10.6 million over the period, and other districts, including the library system and the Rogue Valley Transportation District, would have suffered smaller losses.

“What a whirlwind. What a challenge. We’re encouraged that the city is taking more time,” said Vicki Purslow, Fire District 5 Board Chair. “I hope they do a careful review and really look at all the materials we sent them.”

A report prepared by Cascadia Partners at the request of the fire district raised issues with 35 areas of the plan, Purslow said. He said he would like to see details on projects, with timelines and costs, rather than the broad concepts presented in the plan.

“I want to give credit to the public. There were over 500 people who spoke out against the plan,” Purslow said. “Without that, I’m not sure we’d be where we are today.”

“Thank you for delaying this decision. It looks like it needs more public input and more thought from the agencies involved,” Talent resident Ryan Mallory said Wednesday. “I think we found that the citizens of Talent, the citizens of this county, need to be considered on a decision that would affect Fire District 5.”

“I’m pleased to see a specific line that highlights our intent to work with regional partners,” said Councilwoman Ana Byers, referring to the resolution. In late June, Byers urged the Talent Urban Renewal Agency board not to move the plan to the council, which began a 45-day consultation period with other agencies. He asked for more time to refine and consider the affected districts. City Council members also serve as the agency’s board of directors.

Three of the districts and the city of Phoenix asked the City Council not to implement the plan. There was also a large volume of public comments received by the council, most of which criticized the proposal for its potential impact on city and emergency services.

The agency had touted the plan as a way to rebuild the city after the Almeda fire in 2020. City Manager Jordan Rooklyn said the city lost 690 residences, 47 percent of them prefabricated houses and 64 commercial structures. To date, 44 commercial lots and 212 manufactured homes are still vacant. Expectations are that 75 percent of the residences will be rebuilt next year, Rooklyn said.

“The comment is to delay the start of the tax base freeze. That affects district budgets,” Rooklyn said. Increased revenue from improvements made after a tax base freeze in the 212-acre district would go toward urban renewal. The original proposal called for a freeze date of Jan. 1, 2021. Many of the properties were devalued after the fire’s destruction, reducing tax revenue for the districts.

At an earlier meeting, Rooklyn estimated that delaying the freeze date to Jan. 1, 2022, would restore municipal tax revenues to levels close to where they had been before the Almeda fire.

The district tax value as of Jan. 1, 2022, should be available from the assessor’s office in October, Rooklyn said. Those numbers are needed to calculate what the fiscal impacts and funding the district would have to work with as it refines the plan.

Once a plan is developed, the agency’s board would send it to the council and begin another 45-day consultation period with affected taxing districts. The council would then hold a public hearing and possibly approve a plan to send to voters. If approved by voters then, it would go into effect in mid-May 2023.

“I really appreciated yesterday and tonight,” Jerry Hauck, president of the Oak Valley Homeowners Association, said Wednesday. “A lot of people felt that the speed of the process was too fast and that not enough information was being shared.”

Oak Valley lost 77 residences, but now more than 40 are being rebuilt, Hauck said. He said a new plan could consider leaving the area out of the new urban renewal district because of the extent of the reclamation.

Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gamil.com.

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