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John Fregonese left a valuable legacy

The death of former Ashland Community Development Director John Fregonese in June was a tragedy for the planning profession. His passing was a loss of a giant in the field.

John Fregonese was a gifted visionary, educator and leader in land-use planning, particularly regarding traditional downtown areas. He had an ability to educate decision-makers in the complexity and subtlety of “how to try to do it right.” His vision was clear: create a city where people could walk and bicycle so they would not be so dependent on automobiles — or consider making people out of vehicles comfortable first and then worry about accommodating the vehicles.

John Fregonese’s legacy includes:

  • Planning for pedestrians and bicyclists first.
  • Ashland’s accessory dwelling ordinance.
  • Site design guidelines to add interest and pedestrian access in all projects.
  • Landscaping requirements in all new projects and major remodels.
  • Parking for normal, not maximum possible need.
  • Credit for on-street parking.
  • Maximum as well as minimum setbacks to ensure parking lots in front of buildings would not detract from the appearance of buildings from streets.
  • Density transfer in flood plain areas.
  • Rock walls along steep driveway and street cuts for erosion control.
  • Riparian setbacks.
  • Ashland’s Comprehensive Plan.
  • The Ashland Downtown Plan of 1990.
  • The renovation of the Community Center
  • Block grant funds for loans for small renovations during the early 1980s recession.
  • Bicycle lanes and pathways.
  • Maximum “footprint” size of buildings.

John’s talents became so well known that he went from Ashland, a city of 17,000 in the early 1990s, to become the growth management director of the 1.2 million population Portland metropolitan area. After that ,John became a national and international planning consultant.

John’s last involvement with the city of Ashland was to help formulate the master plan for the transit triangle bordering Siskyou Boulevard, Tolman Creek Road and Highway 66, aka Ashland Street.

As usual he brought excitement, vision and practicality to the project.

John was an avid bicyclist. As a tribute to John’s memory and to his family it seems fitting to name the bicycle path that runs through Ashland and parallels our now operating railroad the John Fregonese Bikeway.

John was also a passionate defender of the need to maintain government in traditional downtown areas and not move city governments to suburban sprawl complexes where city government hides from citizens. Thus, it would also be appropriate to have a memorial for John in a new downtown City Hall building.

There are many who miss John Fregonese.

Brent Thompson was an Ashland planning commissioner from 1985-1994.

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