Croman plan could include housing zones

The Ashland City Council has raised questions about a proposal that would allow as many as 250 housing units — including affordable options — on the largest unused parcel of land in the city.

Croman Mill District, a roughly 95-acre lot in the southeast quadrant of Ashland, was proposed as an economic development site in 2008. A feasibility study and an urban renewal study in 2010 identified a number of needed infrastructure improvements such as roads and utilities.

“Some of the initial opportunity for large-scale employers didn’t pan out … because of the infrastructure costs associated with the projects,” Senior Planner Brandon Goldman told the council Monday.

The proposed revision to the plan — which staff hopes would help jump-start development — would add residential to the existing mix of light industrial, commercial and mixed use areas, with 45 percent of the property designated for residential.

The designated property could hold 250 housing units, including cottage housing, subdivisions and small single homes. Residential development on the site would also trigger a requirement that affordable housing units be included, Goldman said.

“(The owners) want to include a bigger portion of housing development to help reduce the infrastructure cost,” Goldman said, adding that the developers would be responsible for improvement costs.

The council raised concerns about the impact additional housing could have on local schools and traffic in the area.

“I’m not so in favor of this; 250 houses are a lot of houses,” Councilor Mike Morris said. “… Traffic is a component that should be adequately addressed.”

Councilor Traci Darrow said she also worries that the additional housing developments could “be impeding” the potential developments of different projects.

The city hasn’t completed the technical analyses that would fully evaluate the needs and issues that could arise from the revision. Staff came to the council Monday for direction, Goldman said.

“I want to reiterate that nothing has been formalized,” Goldman said. “We want to come to the council in the early stage to see where the council wants to go regarding the scope of this work.”

The city would also need to address environmental issues with the state Department of Environmental Quality if the site is designated as residential area. The city has found contaminants from lumber mill production left behind in the past, Goldman said.

Staff also presented an option to expand the district by annexing an additional seven acres immediately adjacent to Siskiyou Boulevard.

The city has been eyeing developing the former Croman lumber mill site since at least 2010, when the council adopted the Croman Mill District and design standards. The district was proposed to include spaces for offices, mixed-use buildings, open spaces and a park.

The project has since faced economic struggles and some community push-back. The city is still in the reclamation process at the site, including taking out log decks that were buried on the site.

Goldman said staff would be able to present a detailed report of the proposed revision, its potential costs, resources and the project’s timeline in “early spring or late summer.”

— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

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