A Herculean effort to chart the growth of local cities for the next 50 years has finally paid off for Jackson County.

A Herculean effort to chart the growth of local cities for the next 50 years has finally paid off for Jackson County.

The seven-member Land Conservation and Development Commission on Thursday approved the Regional Problem Solving plan, giving Jackson County the distinction of being the only county in the state to survive a sometimes withering process.

"There is no doubt about it — this region is shining right now," said Michael Cavallaro, executive director of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

For more than 10 years, six cities, the county, the state, 1000 Friends of Oregon and others have strategized, debated and battled over the RPS plan that tries to balance a doubling of the population with the preservation of farmland.

The RPS process is intended to provide better coordination between cities regarding growth, while preserving buffers between cities. It originally involved seven cities and the county, but Jacksonville dropped out of the effort during one fractious period.

As a result of the extensive planning, Jackson County will now be eligible for more state and federal dollars for transportation and other projects.

Road projects such as a proposed overpass at South Stage Road at Interstate 5 and the widening of Foothill Road on Medford's northeast side could move forward from the back burner.

Cavallaro, whose organization shepherded the RPS process for most of the last decade before handing it over to the county, said environmental groups and the cities collaborated on the process.

He said that 20 years ago, Jackson County had a reputation for bucking state rules and regulations.

"Southern Oregon was the bad boy in planning," he said. "Our reputation was dreadful in Salem. Now, anybody who looks at us couldn't be anything but impressed at what we've accomplished."

Cavallaro said he anticipates the kind of planning that went into the RPS process will attract the attention of businesses who want to move here because they have a more definite idea of how the area is going to grow.

For instance, as part of RPS, Medford and Phoenix have targeted an area south of the Rogue Valley Manor that could become a commercial and light industrial hub.

Jimmy MacLeod. executive director at Rogue Advocates, a local environmental activist group, said, "As far as I am aware, 1000 Friends of Oregon is not appealing, and we're not intending to appeal."

MacLeod said the RPS process isn't a perfect solution for protecting farmland, but the agreement does offer provisions to protect industries such as packing plants that depend on agriculture.

"We're happy with that," he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.