Ashland will give up ski area permit — but with conditions

An Ashland City Council majority voted to relinquish the city's permit for the Mt. Ashland Ski Area, but attached rigorous conditions — including that the Mt. Ashland Association raise millions of dollars before it can proceed with any logging or soil-disturbing construction for a planned expansion.

The decision came Tuesday during a City Council meeting that lasted until almost midnight. Councilors listened to more than 100 people Tuesday and during an Aug. 16 meeting on the permit issue.

It's not immediately clear whether the Mt. Ashland Association board wants the permit badly enough to accept the conditions.

Ski Area General Manager Kim Clark said city staff will draft the new conditions. The Mt. Ashland Association board will then call a special meeting to consider the terms.

The conditions would require the association to raise funds for the first and most significant phase of its expansion plans before beginning any work. Phase I includes logging and construction to build new ski runs, ski lifts and an expanded parking lot. Clark said the cost of Phase I is $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

"One of the worst things that could happen would be they start and can't get funding and they have an incomplete expansion," said City Councilor Mike Morris.

Without added conditions, the Mt. Ashland Association could potentially begin the expansion with much less cash on hand. The association has estimated the cost of logging operations at $300,000.

In planning for the expansion, Clark said the association board felt it should have somewhere between $300,000 and the cost of completing Phase 1 before beginning work.

"The board feels we need a significant sum before we start the expansion," Clark said.

He said he was not at liberty to say how much money has been raised or pledged at this point.

Mt. Ashland Association officials have said they plan to pay for the expansion through fundraising efforts. Association officials wanted the city of Ashland to give up the ski permit — thus allowing the association to apply to become the new permit holder — in part because they believe that will boost their fundraising efforts.

Morris and Councilors David Chapman, Dennis Slattery, Russ Silbiger and Greg Lemhouse voted to give up the permit but with conditions.

Councilor Carol Voisin voted against, saying giving up the permit would further the Mt. Ashland Association's ability to expand the ski area.

— Vickie Aldous

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