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My View, April 2014 – by Whitman Parker

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View of JK-1 from 5th Street - March 2014

View of JK-1 from 5th Street – March 2014

Looking Ahead…Planning for Growth and Going “Big”

On March 18, the City Council formally voted to move Jacksonville’s city offices to the Historic Courthouse. Although I still believe that city offices are not the highest and best use of the building, I’m now on-board and look forward to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

In my view, NOW is the time to look ahead and plan a far more important project—expanding Jacksonville’s urban growth boundary and our economic, housing and population base. This is a question our city leaders must revisit today and one the next mayor and city council must address. Now is time to go back to the days when the city “went big” and took on more than one major development project at a time. Doing so will require our Mayor, Administrator and Councilors, to look outside their comfort zones and make BIG decisions. Although important, the Courthouse project will do nothing to increase Jacksonville’s tax base—government entities don’t pay property taxes, they spend them! From a budget standpoint, the move could have unintended consequences, eating-up more resources for unforeseen building maintenance and renovation costs. Although the council

View of JK-1 from Oregon Street - March 2014

View of JK-1 from Oregon Street – March 2014

discussed seismic retrofits, electrical and plumbing upgrades, the addition of an ADA-approved

elevator and bathrooms, space planning and other topics, there’s just no guarantee costs won’t escalate, leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Jacksonville is in a conundrum since expanding its population base includes a chance of tipping the quality of life balance that makes living here so pleasant. However, without new development (housing & commercial) and new property taxes, budgetary pressure will mount as costs for city services outstrip our relatively “stagnant” property tax base. With more and more “outsiders” moving here and demanding more from city services and staff, saying “no” or “stay away” is not an option…Jacksonville has been discovered and money talks. There will be more higher-income retirees moving here from more “sophisticated” areas. Ironically, these “escapees” are from areas with higher levels of community services, paid for by huge populations they are escaping to begin with. And, while demanding higher-cost services from police, fire and public works, higher property values from new housing developments they desire will actually add more revenue to city coffers in the long run. On the housing front, Jacksonville should encourage more housing styles to be built, including single family and multi-family townhomes and condominiums that have mass appeal.

Jacksonville also needs to expand economic opportunities to attract more live/work residents – I’m speaking of a light commercial district that won’t compete with, but will enhance the downtown core area. Such an area could accommodate a full-scale brewery, commercial/retail bakery, wine crush pad/production facility, multiple commercial kitchens, a chocolatier, graphic art design/architectural studios, a cooking school, professional office space, a charter school, medical offices, a larger fitness/health club and other uses.

In 2012, Good Bean owner Michael Kell was forced to move his roasting operation (and 5 full-time jobs) out of Jacksonville because there was no commercial space to expand his booming coffee and bean roasting business. Paul Murdoch of Gary West Meats now faces a similar dilemma, having outgrown his production facility that produces world-class jerky and artisan food products. In March, Herb Quady moved his new wine production business to the SOS Pear Station on Stewart Avenue in Medford because no facility was available in Jacksonville. On the housing front, Windermere Realtor Sally Bell has sold 21 of 26 lots/homes in the Vineyard View subdivision. With home/lot construction prices in the $400,000-$600,000 range, this type of development is exactly what’s in demand. Bell noted she could easily sell another 26-50 lots at this time if available. As a city, we should be alarmed when businesses move away or are unable to meet a current market demand and should be working years in advance to attract and maintain business here in-town…it’s good for our local economy and quality of life.

A new development area could also be the site of a new fire station, community swimming pool and dog park. It would be connected to the downtown core by a bicycle and walking path, keeping automobile use to a minimum. This area would also serve as a transportation route, helping move larger trucks off Highway 238. At some point, a serious and tough decision needs to be made on the “B” word… the bypass…by visionary and brave city leaders! Trucks rumbling through the core create air pollution, noise and vibrations that degrade our historic brick buildings. Other than losing brick buildings in an earthquake, truck traffic is the major threat to our “National Historic Landmark” status. Lose the “Landmark” and our residential property values will plunge.

In my view, I’m speaking about a mixed-use area—one that meets the needs of Jacksonville over the next 25-50 years and one that meets state-mandated growth goals for a population of 4200 by 2040. At some point, the city will be forced to expand its urban boundary…this will be mandated by the state sooner or later. The city needs to revisit the topic now and start talking about a 30 acre piece of land known as JK-1, located on the outskirts of town, bordered on the north by Oregon Street and by Highway 238 on the south. Other than during state-mandated updates to our Comprehensive Plan, expansion has not been addressed recently. JK-1 has been the city’s top choice for an Urban Growth Boundary addition since 2003 and seemed a shoe-in for annexation until getting caught-up in the City/County political drama surrounding the Regional Problem Solving effort back in 2010. Now 10-years delayed, JK-1 needs to be the city’s top priority. Failure to bring this parcel into the city will thwart economic and housing development, leading to higher city taxes/fees and an eventual decline in Jacksonville’s regional status. In my view, it’s time for economic development to be topic #1 in our Small Town with Big Atmosphere.

Posted March 25, 2014

 

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My View, March 2014 – by Whitman Parker

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Dirk Siedlecki receiving the award from Mayor Paul Becker

Dirk Siedlecki receiving the award from Mayor Paul Becker on February 18, 2014

Dirk Siedlecki Named “2013 Jacksonville Person of the Year”

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve talked about the incredible volunteers making Jacksonville a wonderful place to live. At the Review, I’m fond of saying, “the ‘V’ in Jacksonville is for “volunteer!”

On February 18, I was thrilled when Mayor Paul Becker presented Dirk Siedlecki with the 2013 “Person of the Year” award. This is the first-ever mayoral award of its kind and one I hope future mayors will present. It’s a privilege knowing and working with Dirk, an incredibly active person who serves on the Jacksonville Cemetery Commission, State Cemetery Commission and Friends of Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery board. He’s a key player in the Boosters Club and helps produce the “Meet the Pioneers” and “History Saturday” programs. His enthusiasm is invigorating, his energy is seemingly limitless. Above all, Dirk is a role model to many, including me.

Commenting on the award, Mayor Becker said, “The idea came to me several months ago… I decided to more or less proceed with choosing Dirk as the first recipient. Not surprisingly, everyone with whom I spoke was in agreement… everyone knows about Dirk’s contributions and truly admires him for all he does.”

The mayor added, “Through sheer will and dedication, Dirk has developed a regional reputation and appreciation for the historical significance associated with the Jacksonville Cemetery. Jacksonville may not have historical figures like Annie Oakley or Buffalo Bill, but it has grown as a major tourist attraction, coming in right behind the Britt Music Festival… all through the efforts of Dirk.”

Congratulations Dirk Siedlecki on this well-deserved award and thanks for everything you do for Our Small Town with Big Atmosphere!

Posted February 26, 2014

 

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My View, February 2014 – by Whitman Parker

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Whit-unpluggedWelcome to the Year of the Horse! As we’ve been doing for nearly six years now, this issue of the Review is packed with news and information on what’s happening in our little corner of the world. And although everyone I know is tired of the fog and cold weather, our lives are sunny and warm when it comes to living in a delightful community offering so much.

As we kick-off Jacksonville’s Chinese New Year Celebration, I’d like to thank Jeresa Hren for making our incredible cover possible. Jeresa has been close friends with Yeh Fei Pai, a world-famous artist from Taiwan, since their days together at National Cheng-Chi University, in Taipei, Taiwan. When we discussed the concept for this month’s cover back in October, Jeresa, a long-time board member of SOCCA (Southern Oregon Chinese Cultural Association) liked the idea and asked Yeh Fei Pai to paint a never-before-seen piece of art… for our cover! We are grateful to both of them for this very special honor and encourage you to watch Yeh Fei Pai paint in-person during this year’s celebration. You’ll find a complete event calendar inside, including Yeh Fei Pai’s art demonstrations on page 35.

Speaking of the arts, Porscha Shiller of South Stage Cellars and our friends at Britt Festivals have another fantastic Rising Stars Music Competition planned for this year. On Saturday afternoons in February, South Stage Cellars will be THE place to be to listen to the best local musicians…all vying for this year’s title and a chance to perform live on the Britt Stage! Please see the full Rising Stars schedule on the back page of this issue (and on our online Local Events Calendar) and a full-length article about Rising Stars on page 6. The Review would like to thank our friends Graham Farran and Gayle Pobuda at Expert Properties for generously giving up their spot on the back cover of this issue for the Rising Stars calendar. Please see the Expert Properties ad on page 3.

Finally, looking ahead, the 2014 political landscape promises to be interesting with many challenges and opportunities facing our community. Some of the issues we’ll be following include the removal of Jacksonville’s aging dam in the Forest Park, the proposed redevelopment of the Courthouse property for city offices, the possible construction of a community center complex, the May 2014 County-wide library tax levy and other important matters impacting our Small Town with Big Atmosphere!

Posted January 27, 2014