A new approach to developing the former Croman Mill property in Ashland makes sense for that city, despite concerns raised by City Council members.
The 95-acre property lies east of Tolman Creek Road at the south end of Ashland. Previous plans for the area focused on light industrial zoning in hopes of luring jobs, but nothing has materialized in the past decade.
A feasibility study found that infrastructure improvements would be needed, including roads and utilities, to make the area suitable for large-scale employers. The cost of those improvements were too high to make industrial development realistic, city planners say. Another reason industrial employers have not been clamoring to build there could be the fact that their workers would have to look elsewhere for housing.
The latest proposal could add up to 250 housing units, with a mix of cottage housing and subdivisions. The number of units would trigger requirements that affordable housing also be included.
Ashland desperately needs more housing, especially units that might be affordable for people who work in the city but cannot afford to live there.
Council members raised questions about increased traffic and pressure on the school system. The Ashland School District has seen enrollment declines specifically because families with school-age children are priced out of the local housing market. More housing means more property tax revenue for the school district and the city, and systems development charges to help with infrastructure costs. Besides, developers should be expected to help pay for street improvements.
Ashland made a conscious decision not to expand its boundaries, which has contributed to escalating housing prices. The Croman site is the largest piece of undeveloped property left in the city. Housing should be at the top of the list of potential uses.