The city of Ashland is cautiously exploring whether to allow the transfer of Measure 49 development rights from land out in Jackson County to more urban areas.




Building homes close to or in Ashland could limit sprawl and protect farmland, rural views and wildlife habitat. But it could also spur more growth and mar the town's small-town charm.




Earlier this week, the Ashland City Council directed City Attorney Richard Appicello to explore negotiating an agreement with Jackson County to allow landowners with Measure 49 claims to transfer housing development rights from rural land to urban areas.




But councilors also said they want to hold a study session to explore the ramifications of transfers.




"A study session will help us understand if our regulations are in jeopardy or if it's a good idea," Councilor Alice Hardesty said, voting with the majority to explore the concept.




Councilor Eric Navickas, who was the only person voting against looking into the option, said allowing more development than city land-use rules now allow could have a negative impact on neighbors affected by that growth.




"I can relate to the desire to protect agricultural land around the city, but I'm skeptical," he said. "We could see some really bad impacts from this."




Back in 2004, Oregon voters passed Measure 37, which allowed property owners to develop their land under the rules in effect when they bought the land. If cities or counties wanted to stop that development, they would have to pay for the lost value of the land.




After governments were swamped with claims, voters passed Measure 49 in 2007. The reform measure allows up to three new homes on some property with Measure 37 claims, and up to 10 homes for other property.




Measure 49 also allows cities and counties to form agreements so that property owners could voluntarily transfer their development rights from rural to urban land. Property owners could sell their transferable development rights as well.




Appicello said the proposal for Jackson County and the city of Ashland to form an agreement to allow some county development to occur in or near the city is still in its infancy. He said the city would have to designate "receptor zones" where the development would occur.




"I can't even speculate where around town that might be," he said.




Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.