Ashland, OR. May 14, 2021 – In response to two separate petitions filed by Rogue Advocates, a public-interest land use watchdog, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) has reversed an annexation approval by the City of Ashland and remanded a zone change approval by Jackson County. On May 12, LUBA agreed with Rogue Advocates that the City of Ashland did not follow their municipal code in approving the Grand Terrace annexation just north of the city limits on Highway 99. The next day, LUBA again ruled in favor of Rogue Advocates when they remanded a Jackson County zone change approval near Jacksonville.
LUBA determined that Ashland granted an illegal “exception” to requirements for new annexations. In their May 12 opinion, LUBA stated, “(W)e agree with petitioner that the city council’s interpretation is inconsistent with the express language of [the code]…. We conclude that… the city’s decision is prohibited as a matter of law.”
Robert Kendrick, developer of the Grand Terrace project, had proposed nearly 200 apartment units in 14 separate buildings along a busy stretch of highway. It was estimated that the development would generate approximately 1,800 daily vehicular trips without any provisions for crossing the highway. Ashland’s municipal code requires that newly-annexed areas provide safe and accessible facilities for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. The City of Ashland’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission held lengthy discussions about numerous safety-related issues concerning pedestrians and cyclists that remained unaddressed.
In the case of the Jackson County zone change, LUBA stated, “It is difficult if not impossible to understand what findings the board of commissioners relied upon to support the decision.” This zone change would have doubled the density of rural-residential properties near Jacksonville by decreasing the minimum lot size from 5-acres to 2.5 acres. LUBA’s decision supported Rogue Advocates’ argument that the County’s approval was illegal. Jimmy MacLeod, Rogue Advocates’ President said, “This zone change could have set a disastrous precedent potentially impacting over 30,000 acres and leading to increased unsustainable development in rural areas across all of Jackson County.”
MacLeod continued, “What these two LUBA decisions show is that our local governments are not meeting their most basic level of responsibility in reviewing development proposals. Rogue Advocates recognizes that land use only works when the public holds the government accountable. When necessary, we litigate to protect rural and urban lands from short-sighted development.”
Rogue Advocates is a public-interest land use watchdog dedicated to cultivating livable and sustainable communities in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley region. To learn more visit www.rogueadvocates.org or contact Jimmy MacLeod at 541-846-1083.