An agricultural family with deep roots in the Rogue Valley is dreaming of an even greener future for a piece of land bordering Ashland Creek.
For more than 100 years, the family of Greg and Valri Williams have raised and sold plants through the Ashland Greenhouses on West Nevada Street at the north end of Ashland. The couple recently sold the business to a horticulture teacher, and the greenhouses are slowly being dismantled and moved. In their place, Greg and Valri hope to plant a green community that will be a model of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability for future generations.
The land, 11 acres with views of Grizzly Peak and Mount Ashland, would be home to Verde Village, a neighborhood of roughly 68 “zero-energy” homes that would tread softly on the earth.
The project has been on the drawing board for nearly two years, and the couple still requires a number of approvals from city and county officials. The owners are proposing to swap 2.5 acres of land along Ashland Creek to the city for a 1.5-acre piece they would use as part of a storm water management area. And they are planning to donate $400,000 worth of land and infrastructure to the non-profit Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation for 15 affordable housing units.
If the details can be worked out, Verde Village would be the most comprehensive “green” housing project in the region, and one of the most comprehensive in the nation.
All of the homes would feature photovoltaic cells and solar water heaters. They would be built using the latest insulating materials, sustainably harvested wood, non-toxic paints and finishes, energy-efficient appliances, and geothermal heating and cooling. Storm water runoff from the streets and sidewalks would be channeled through bioswales before passing through treatment wetlands and recharging groundwater.
The houses, a mixture of 900-square-foot to 1,200-square-foot cottages, a few duplexes, and larger 1,600- to 2,500-square-foot homes, would be oriented to the sun, allowing maximum exposure for the solar systems.
Several green housing developments have sprouted in the Rogue Valley in recent months, including Earth Advantage projects in Shady Cove, Talent and Grants Pass. All of those projects feature energy-efficient houses, green construction methods and sustainable materials. But none go as far as, Verde Village, which would be the first residential housing project in the region built according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.
While the green features will be out of the ordinary, the couple hopes the selling prices will not be. “Our goal is to have them sell for the normal market value, which in Ashland is around $250 per square foot,” Greg says. “We want to show that a builder can do a project like this, make a decent profit, and still build an energy-efficient house that is affordable.”
Because the land is located inside the urban growth boundary, and zoning is in place for residential development, the couple could have sold the land to a conventional developer and walked away with a tidy profit, without going through the lengthy process required to erect a cutting-edge project like Verde Village.
But the couple says they want to do something special.
“At the end of the day, we want to know we’ve done the right thing and built something we can be proud of,” Greg says.