County gives thumbs up to Ashland rest area, but with conditions

Jackson County commissioners today embraced a proposal to build a welcome center just outside of Ashland, but added conditions to a project that has raised the ire of nearby residents.

In a unanimous vote, the Board of Commissioners decided the Oregon Department of Transportation will need to get approval from the Ashland City Council to hook into the city's sewer and water systems.

Commissioner Dave Gilmour expressed the most reservations about the 18-acre project, estimated by ODOT to cost between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. It will serve travelers heading north on Interstate 5 near milepost 12.

"We have to look seriously whether we have adequate sewer and water for this facility," he said.

In January, the Ashland City Council voted against a motion that the city send comments to the county Board of Commissioners asking it to deny exceptions to state land-use rules needed for the project to move forward.

Allen Baker, one of about 35 residents who showed up at the board meeting to oppose the project, said, "I think we're disappointed, but not particularly surprised."

He said residents intend to continue their opposition, taking the matter to the Ashland City Council or to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

The money needed to build the project also hasn't been secured yet, Baker noted.

In addition to restrooms and landscaping, the rest stop would include a $2 million lodge-style welcome center funded separately through Travel Oregon and the Oregon Travel Information Council.

— Damian Mann

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