Brookings council OKs Lone Ranch extension

Curry Pilot – by Jane Stebbins

The Brookings City Council granted Rio Tinto Borax a 12-year extension on its master plan for the Lone Ranch development north of town, which has been more than a decade in the making — and whose momentum collapsed in the Great Recession.

The city planning commission approved the extension at its last meeting, agreeing with the developer that the Great Recession of 2008, the lack of local economic growth in the recovery since, and Brookings’ slow growth rate combine to make a poor time to break ground on project as large as Lone Ranch.  

The project, originally approved in 2004, is proposed to include 540 single-family homes, 150 townhomes, a 2.4-acre convenience and commercial area and the 10-acre site on which Southwest Oregon Community College has since been built.

“Then the market crashed — big time,” project manager Burton Weast told the city council Monday night. “We decided — don’t hire me to be a futurist — it wouldn’t last long. ‘Go ahead with the marketing plan.’ We’ve been waiting for a recovery, and we can’t finance it. We can’t do it.”

In the interim, the company has spent about $5 million keeping permits active, conducting annual wildlife surveys and installing infrastructure, Weast said.

The master plan is an overriding document that depicts what the developer wants to do with the land. To develop neighborhoods — and then individual buildings — the developer must obtain city approval of detailed development plans.

Without the extension, the master plan would expire in August 2020. The extension does not grant the developer any other changes in the plans and conditions previously approved.

“We have no plans to delay this to 2022,” said Jordan Ramus, attorney for the development. “We just can’t get it done in the time left on the current master plan. We’re here just to make it realistic in the time period available. The only conditions we’d like changed are the economic conditions. We hope they’re coming back.”

Nathan Francis, the land manager for Rio Tinto, the company that has owned U.S. Borax since 1967, said the firm believes there is still value in the project.

“We want to keep the permits relevant, so when the opportunity arises, we’ll be prepared to move,” he said.

The only concerns expressed in the meeting were those of Steve Klein, who is on the board of directors of the Rainbow Rock Service Association, which maintains the water and sewer system to 16 townhomes near the proposed development.

“We’ve never been opposed to the project; we want to be a good neighbor,” Klein said. “That said, we are tasked to make sure our water and sewer is good.”

His board is concerned about the watershed from which it obtains its water, he said.

All the issues, however, have been properly addressed by the developer, said city Planning Manager Donna Colby-Hanks. Borax plans to get its water from the city — the Chetco River — which currently uses less than its half of its water rights.

“This is so simple, so straightforward to me,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog of Borax’s request. “Our code doesn’t put an expiration date on master plans. They run forever.”

Newly appointed Councilor Dennis Triglia noted that Borax officials have been generous to the city and transparent in their dealings.

“But 12 years seems like a long period of time,” he said. “A lot can happen in 12 years. Codes change, there could be a change in community attitude. There might be another market turndown, acts of God, unforeseen environmental impacts.”

Councilor Jake Pieper, however said it the request wasn’t a “crazy exception. It’s part of the process,” he said. “These guys — they smile and seem like they’re nice guys, but they’re here to make money. They’re not going to do this until they can make money.”

Weast said the firm still has no idea when it might return to the city for detailed development plan approvals, but hopes it’ll be sooner than later.

One thought on “Brookings council OKs Lone Ranch extension

  1. YEAH, this is going to work out Really Good for all of us as we really need a few 100 thousand MORE people down here in a territory that can barely maintain 20 thousand plus all the Californian’s coming up here to shop Tax Free!

    But, as they say here: “The master plan is an overriding document” so they have already ‘Made the Deal’ that we now need to ‘ratify’ as they don’t want to Impair the Obligations of a Contract with Rio Tinto (the way they do with us Peons and Slaves every hour of the day)!

    BTW, the Rio Tinto Group is a multi-national Mining Corp. and there’s long been talk of ‘goodies’ up there in those hills so the homes to be built will most likely be for their Management and Upper Echlon Blue Collar workers moved in to run the job, and their imported Day Labor will just make life HELL here for all of us until we Move Out and go somewhere else because neither you, your sort or your children will be welcome here anymore – anymore in their Company Town!

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