Jacksonville City Council hears subdivision appeal

JACKSONVILLE — Developers of a proposed subdivision in the southern hills of the city that is opposed by neighbors will appeal to the City Council tonight to overturn the Planning Commission's denial of the project.

The appeal will be heard at 7 p.m. in Old City Hall, Main and Oregon streets.

Planning commissioners on March 18 unanimously rejected an application by Owings Properties LLC to construct Andrew's Place, with 16 units on 8.8 acres at 1055 S. Third St., after a public hearing. The project is described as upscale, single-family housing. Twelve of the houses would be larger than 2,000 square feet.

"There's lots of significant issues with the deviations (requested) and the number of deviations," said Planning Commissioner Roger Thom. "With some of the deviations, it seems like they were trying to accommodate the neighbors."

But the application didn't meet development criteria, he said.

Planned-unit development standards that allow variations from subdivision rules were used in the application. Those standards could allow the 16 homes to be built on 2.9 acres at the bottom of the site, which is located in hilly terrain.

"They are trying to put all the units at the bottom of the hill, the only place they can put (them)," said city planner Daryl Witmore. Neighboring homes, he noted, are on half-acre lots.

"The PUD conditions allow a lot of flexibility," said Ashland attorney Chris Hearn, who filed the appeal. "Mike Thornton, the engineer, was trying to create from an engineering and design standpoint a project that would combine the PUD requirements with the property."

One possibility under the PUD provisions is clustering homes in one area of a parcel to allow for open space and trails elsewhere, said Hearn. The process also calls for a diversity of housing and architectural look, but the commission seemed more concerned because the project wasn't like surrounding property, he added.

Project neighbors Greg Billingsly and Candice Nicholson both said at the March hearing that Andrew's Place is not compatible with the surrounding area.

Heard disagrees. "The deviations are pretty broad. They allow (changes to) setbacks, roads, buffering, size of houses and lot, and lot dimensions," he said. "I think the council could say we are a different group of people and we look at this in a different sort of way."

A staff report on the appeal recommends that the council uphold the Planning Commission decision.

"Some of the biggest issues are setbacks and the deviations they have requested that would put the setbacks different than the rest of the neighborhood," said Witmore.

Council options include upholding or overturning the commission decision, modifying it, or remanding it in back to the commission for further deliberation. Witmore has recommended against a remand because the project has an April 28 decision deadline.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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