A land-use hearings officer has upheld the Talent Planning Commission's earlier denial of Pacific Stage Heights, a 39-acre hillside project where a developer sought to build 139 dwellings.
Jackson County Hearings Officer Paul Nolte ruled Monday that Eric Artner Construction failed to show in its application and arguments that a second access to the project was available that would meet city standards. The City Council had required a second access as a condition to annex a parcel of land needed for the project.
"Disappointment would be the mild term we would use when anyone is trying to put together a development program and you run into situations where interpretations of legalities throw up such a huge roadblock," said Michael La Nier of Richard Stevens Associates, which filed the appeal on behalf of Artner.
Neighbors of the project west of Talent Avenue and the railroad tracks at the southern end of town, had opposed the development on a number of issues besides access. They cited overly dense development, impacts on wildlife, adjacent farm uses and distance from the center of town.
"I think (the decision) was warranted," said Rose Marie Davis, a project neighbor whose ranch adjoins the site. "There were many reasons why that project should not have been put forth."
Planning commissioners rejected the development in December because of concerns about access and density. Artner appealed their decision, sending it to a hearings officer under city rules. Artner had 21 days within which to appeal Nolte's ruling to the state's Land Use Board of Appeals.
Nolte ruled that the development had met all city requirements except for the second access proposed at what was once Old Pacific Stage Road.
Artner representatives also argued that they would build the project in phases, and until more than 30 houses were constructed a second access wasn't needed.
"Because the project is so intricately tied to the portion to be annexed, I didn't think that argument flowed very well," said Nolte.
City staff had correctly determined the density allowed on the project, a second major reason for denial cited by the commission and raised by opponents, Nolte said.
"Ultimately it would have been nice if there was agreement on all issues," said Sydnee Dreyer, an attorney who represented Davis and other neighbors. "We are pleased with the decision."
Davis said she would work with the rest of the citizens group that has been concerned about the project if it is appealed to LUBA.
Artner will meet with staff and attorneys in the near future to determine how to proceed, said La Nier. The company could either file an appeal or come back at a later date with a new application. "I think when it gets developed it's going to be a good project and one that will blend with our community," said La Nier, who lives in Talent. "Now is a perfect time to make it work. the time you get something in place, I think the housing market will turn around."
Starting over would take at least several months before the issue could come to the planning commission, said City Planner John Adam.
Denial of 139-house project in Talent upheld