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City of Talent seeking more feedback on updated urban renewal proposal

Three men walk through a grass field as the Almeda Fire burns in the distance on Sept. 9, 2020.
April Ehrlich
Three men walk through a grass field as the Almeda Fire burns in the distance on Sept. 9, 2020.

Talent presented a new draft of its urban renewal plan to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The goal of the plan is to help the city recover from the 2020 Almeda Fire, which destroyed about half of Talent's housing and businesses.

To fund the plan, property values in the taxing district would be frozen. Property taxes would still go to all the usual agencies. Then, as property values in the district increase, the additional tax money would go to the urban renewal agency. The proposed plan is anticipated to collect over $17 million across 17 years.

That tax money would be used for rebuilding affordable housing, revitalizing commercial areas, and increasing resilience for natural disasters. The urban renewal area is mostly in the burn scar left by the fire.

During Tuesday's meeting, Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan questioned whether the city should wait a year to enact the plan, at a time when more of the city will have been rebuilt and properties can be assessed more accurately.

"Waiting another year or two years or three years to be able to borrow enough money to do that, why is that, what’s the urgency here that you have to get this done and you have to put it in place now?" he said.

Talent City Manager Jordan Rooklyn said the city wants to be able to borrow and spend money sooner.

"The projects we’re hoping to address are not 10-15 year projects we want to get done. These are projects we would love to get done as soon as possible because they are direct recovery from the Almeda Fire," she said.

The plan was last presented to the county board in July, and the city is now seeking more feedback by mid-February. The new plan is less than a quarter of its original scale and focuses solely on Almeda Fire recovery.

The public could have the opportunity to vote on the proposal as soon as May, if it's first approved by the Talent City Council.

Talent will also hold town hall meetings on January 26 and February 9 to help the public understand the urban renewal proposal.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.