Neighbors complain about Ashland school's new gym

The new 28-foot-tall building, which neighbors have compared to a prison compound or a cruise ship, blocks mountain views of the surrounding homes, and residents say it doesn't fit with the Helman Street neighborhood or vision of Ashland.

"I am extremely disappointed because in my view Ashland is a place that prides itself in being beautiful and maintaining a good community spirit," said Patricia Potter, who lives across the field from the gym.

Neighbors who live just beyond the 200-foot notification radius said they feel they were purposely left in the dark so the project would be approved faster. Susan Vaughn, who also lives across the field, was not notified, but the boundary where the city is required to notify neighbors of possible construction fell just at her fence line.

"There is no ordinance for view protection, but what is legal and what is right are two different things," she said.

The city's Planning Commission approved building plans in December 2007, after determining they met all city requirements, including a 35-foot height limit in single-family residential zones, where Helman is located.

"The role of the city is to look at the criteria," said Adam Hanks, permit center manager with the city. "If it's things like 'It blocks my view,' that's not a criteria. That's not something that we can require the applicant to modify purely to help another property's view, because it's hugely subjective," he said.

Architects designed the gym to have a lower elevation by cutting seven feet into the hillside, according to blueprints, and more landscaping, painting and screening to break up the texture of the building are planned around the building once construction is finished.

— Ashland Daily Tidings

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