If you’ve passed-by the pear orchard on 5th Street near the Chevron station, you’ve undoubtedly noticed hundreds of pear trees have been cut down. In late September, when cutting began, the Review started receiving phone calls and emails from concerned residents, all wondering what was happening.
On October 15, a property manager representing orchard owner Dr. David Young returned a call from the Review to Dr. Young. According to the representative, fruit trees in the 49-acre orchard were distressed, diseased and susceptible to disease and removed on advice from county agricultural professionals. The Review was told that Associated Fruit had leased the orchard at one time and that attempts to re-lease the pear orchard proved fruitless over the last few years. The representative also claimed that it was cost-prohibitive for the owner to care for the trees and that removal expenses would also be considerable. County records indicate that Young has owned the property since 1996.
When questioned about the future of the parcel, the representative noted a local farmer has expressed interest in planting alfalfa and that that growing commercial grapes, hay and other crops may be viable.
The land is zoned EFU – Exclusive Farm Use. The Review received numerous comments from residents postulating that trees were being removed to make a housing and/or commercial development more likely. However, it should be noted that the parcel, once called JK-10 is zoned EFU and that in order to be annexed into Jacksonville’s Urban Growth Boundary, the city must prove a need for such residential and/or commercial use. Four years ago when the city debated if it would enter Jackson County’s Regional Problem Solving process, the same land had been eyed as a possible hotel and Recreational Vehicle conference center.
At this time, it is unlikely the city could prove such a need based on existing buildable land inventory within the city limits. Additionally, when considering what land may be annexed, farm land is the last land to be considered, as per local and state development laws. When asked, Dr. Young’s representative agreed that the likelihood of annexation was decades away if ever.