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An artist's rendering of the proposed townhouse at 150 C. St. in Jacksonville. [Submitted photo]

Tall townhouse proposed in downtown Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE — A 17-foot-wide, three-story townhouse proposed for a sliver lot next to Jacksonville’s fire station has neighbors concerned that it would clash with the town’s historic core and violates city codes.

“All of the houses in the neighborhood are lower and smaller and not looming over us,” said April Bower, who lives across the street from the site. “The proposed height is not in keeping with anything else in the neighborhood.”

The project will be considered by the Historic and Architectural Review Commission at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, in Old City Hall, 205 W. Main St. The public can testify at the session or submit written comments.

Veritas Corp., which is owned by Mark DeBoer, wants to build a two-family, 30-foot-tall residence on the 20-by-100-foot lot at 150 E. C St. One wall would be on the property line next to the firehouse. The building’s footprint is 17 by 50 feet.

Lois Cartier, who lives near the site, maintains the structure would not fit in with the area’s historic character and does not meet city criteria.

Among concerns voiced by Cartier in a letter to HARC are that the building would extend more than 12 feet beyond the fire station, obscuring sight at the station's entrance, the proposal violates a “walls of continuity” requirement in city code, construction would threaten the structural integrity of the fire station and prevent future upgrades, and the roof line is unlike anything else in the area.

“I don’t want to see a bunch of three-story townhouses in downtown Jacksonville. That is completely inconsistent with the historical core,” said Cartier. “We don’t want Jacksonville to look like every other town across the country.”

Mass and height of any new building in the historic area should not overwhelm any buildings within 200 feet of the edge of a property in any direction, according to city code. Cartier named four single-story houses built between 1854 and 1861 that are within 200 feet of the townhouse. The fire station is a single-story structure, as well.

Taller, two-story commercial buildings in the same block on California Street have heights approaching 35 feet, including the U.S. Hotel and Jacksonville Inn.

Cartier called for compromise in her letter by reducing the height and eliminating the extension beyond the fire station front.

Bower said she would not oppose the townhouse if its height were reduced.

Cartier has been notifying neighbors and other residents of the situation. She said she plans to testify at the hearing and is urging others to speak up or write letters.

“Whenever I mention this project, more than half the time (people) say, ‘That can’t happen here,’ ” said Cartier.

Bower said she hopes HARC doesn’t table the issue because there are time requirements for a decision. Under Oregon land-use planning law, the city is obligated to make a final decision on the application action within 120 days from its acceptance. Otherwise, the city could be taken to court, where the developer could ask for a writ of mandamus that compels approval of the application.

A Planning Commission review of the project Nov. 8 determined it was compatible with requirements in city codes, but it also found that issues related to mass, height, solar-shadowed area and design compatibility are subject to review by HARC, city planner Ian Foster said.

HARC will be asked to also consider Planning Commission approval of parking and front-yard setback variances to city code. The Planning Commission found that while no on-site parking is required in the historic district, three parking spots proposed for the rear of the lot need to be approved for variance from code.

DeBoer and his agent, Mike Thornton of Jacksonville, did not return calls seeking comment.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwrter@gmail.com.

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