The Nov. 12 Shady Cove Planning Commission Public Hearing was to be a hearing on amending the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance to allow for the creation of holding zones and a discussion on amendments to the Street Ordinance. However, like a game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, all topics lead to one in Shady Cove’s own version, “Six Degrees of Water”.
The evening began with the hearing. Recall back to previous Planning Commission and City Council meetings regarding the “McBee Annexation”. Though that particular annexation became a moot point in the end, it brought up the subsequent issue of the city adding a special holding zone for properties to be annexed.
To recap: currently if property is to be annexed in to the City from the Urban Growth Boundary, potential developers (either multi or single dwellings) must complete a series of tests and tasks before being granted the appropriate zoning and being able to begin construction. A holding zone is a “good faith gesture”. In effect the land in question is part of the City, but nothing can be done with it until a series of conditions are met. If the conditions aren’t met – or aren’t met to the City’s satisfaction – the holding zone remains in limbo for an indefinite amount of time.
The idea behind the holding zone is to encourage folks to build. With no middle step between paying potentially large sums of money to meet zoning conditions and receiving a zone, folks might think twice before investing in Shady Cove. A holding zone is the city’s way of saying “We really like you, but aren’t willing to totally commit to you…yet.” It’s the promise ring that precedes the engagement ring.
The task of explaining this to the commissioners fell to City Planner Dick Converse. In addition to explaining the theory behind the zone, Converse also presented the commissioners with research he’d done on Medford’s holding zones and verification that legally the consideration and creation of holding zones meets with city and state regulations. He also clarified that the night’s discussion/vote was not the final say on whether or not holding zones would become reality; city council was merely seeking a recommendation one way or the other and will the definitive vote on the issue.
Questions and concerns brought up by commissioners included (answers were provided by Converse): Does the County OK this? Yes. If we create a holding zone, do we have to use it? No, it’s “another tool in the tool box”, an option only. Would the City benefit? There would be a minor tax benefit. What’s the cost? Minimal, would include filing fees for annexation.
The six degrees separating land from water were connected when the hearing moved to the Public Comment section. This being a legislative matter, there were really no “proponent” nor “opponent” categories, so this section became a time for citizens to simply bring up questions/concerns.
Bud Rees was the first to speak; he also presented a hand out to all the commissioners. He presented “talking points” for consideration. He clarified he wasn’t for or against the idea, just wanted to give the commission things to think about. Thoughts included: a holding zone could open the door for the commission to make lists of conditions that were too extensive and would keep holding zones in limbo and asked the commission to consider what these zones would really do for the City.
Jane Hagan was next to speak and water was on her mind. Her concern was that property would be annexed without studies on the effect eventual development would have on the city’s water supply (or lack thereof). Even if water issues precluded immediate development the holding zone would remain indefinitely and any future development would affect the water supply. She stated: “The gatekeeper for our water is the annexation system,” and felt a holding zone would be a proverbial chink in said gatekeeper’s armor.
The water related issues seemed to weigh on the commissioners’ collective minds. Though Commissioners Lalah Davis and Donna Barrett felt comfortable making a decision immediately, Commissioners Jack Stout and Thad Gala felt they wanted more time to ponder the matter independently and it seemed the decision would be delayed to the next meeting.
It was then Interim City Administrator Dale Shaddox stepped in. He noted that land not annexed via holding, or any other type of zone, was under the county’s control. The county could allow construction and water would be impacted without the city having a say at all. Therefore, he felt it was undoubtedly in the city’s best interest to go forward with the holding zone option.
That said a motion was made and seconded to recommend to city council that the holding zone option be added to the current Ordinance; motion passed 4/0 (Chair Erin Elder was absent).
By Christy Pitto
Of the Independent