By BRIAN BULLOCK
A 661-acre hillside in the area of Lone Ranch may soon undergo a transformation if the City of Brookings approves U.S. Borax's application for annexation.
The company is seeking to build homes, commercial developments, a golf course and most likely a resort hotel on the site, according to Burton Weast, president of Western Advocates and spokesman for U.S. Borax on the Lone Ranch project.
Weast said the current plans are similar in scope to what was proposed approximately 12 years ago.
"It will be mixed use," said Weast, who grew up in Brookings and whose local knowledge has helped the project reach this point.
"That's required. We have to be consistent with the master plan. We have to offer neighborhood commercial development. (Land Conservation and Development Commission) doesn't want somebody who lives in a community like this driving all the way to town just to get gas or a gallon of milk."
The company is in the process of taking the last three steps before development can start. Weast said they would be submitting an application for annexation of the Lone Ranch acreage in the next couple of weeks.
"We're looking forward to seeing their final plans and seeing how their development fits into those final plans," said Brookings City Manager Leroy Blodgett.
Weast said if the annexation is approved, a master plan would have to be submitted and approved.
Also, any specific construction projects on the property also must be compatible with the master plan and must be approved before any construction would start. He said he thinks it will be a couple of years before any ground is broken.
The Lone Ranch property consists of approximately 661 acres, much of which cannot be developed because of severe topography, Weast said.
"Where we are today is U.S. Borax has been working the last year and a half to develop the master plan," he said. "We are going to submit a plan for annexation to the city. Then we submit the master plan which shows where everything is. But the first step is annexation."
Weast said he doesn't anticipate any roadblocks from here on out. Much of the way toward development has been cleared following a recent Supreme Court decision allowing establishment of the Brookings Urban Growth Boundary. During the litigation, Weast said the project received a lot of local support.
"Through thick and thin there has been strong community support. Speaking with some authority, having grown up in the area, there has always been a desire for a nice, class tourist resort," said Weast.
Along with the resort and golf course, the project will feature a variety of housing from townhomes to luxury homes. To serve the community, a small commercial service and retail area will be developed, Weast said.
The company is also constructing its own water system, and working with Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) on a new campus.
"There is a lot of concern about the Chetco River during low flow," Weast said. "The public facility plan has a water system. That water system would become available to the city. That's one of the reasons the city has been anxious to work with us on this."
The city is interested in the project because it would mean an extra water source without the cost of running the lines.
"All of that cost," Blodgett said of the sewer and water lines from the city to the Lone Ranch project, "will be born by the developer."
Weast said because there are no upstream users on the Lone Ranch water source, it would be a valuable resource to both the development and the city when it needs additional water.
A SWOCC campus will also be located on a 10- to 15-acre parcel on the property. Weast said the Lone Ranch property is a natural location for the school because it will be able to serve students from Brookings and Gold Beach from that location.
"We are negotiating with Southwestern Oregon Community College," he said. "We are working with the college to make that happen. No agreement has been signed. We have a handshake agreement with the college."
He added that U.S. Borax, which donated much of the land for Samuel Boardman State Park in 1960, cannot donate the land to the college until it is annexed into the city.
Weast said there will be plenty of opportunity to get more information on the development once plans are solidified.
"One of the things we're going to do is a presentation with the League of Women Voters," Weast said. "When a project has been in the works this long, there's an incredible amount of speculation. We're kind of excited about informing people about the project."