Ashland looks at potential land as housing opportunity

ASHLAND, Ore.– A major housing development is being considered for the City of Ashland. If all goes as planned, it would include about 250 homes – some for low income residents.

It’s still in the very early stages and things are bound to change in the process, according to one city planning employee. But it could be just what the city needs to help relieve part of the housing crisis.

“We have somewhat of a housing crisis and so we need to find some solutions to that,” said Ashland City Councilor Dennis Slattery.

On Monday, Ashland City Council held a study session with one of the subjects being the Croman Mill District, an 85-acre property located off of Mistletoe Road. It’s perhaps one of the largest pieces of unused land in the city and could have enormous potential.

“When it redevelops eventually, the intention of the Croman Mill District plan was to allow for light industrial and commercial development. Some mixed-use residential upstairs, commercial downstairs,” said Brandon Goldman, senior planner for the city.

Right now, city planning says changes need to be made to the zoning of light manufacturing, industrial, commercial and mixed use areas to residential before any ground can be broken.

If passed though, the residential area could include cottage housing, subdivisions, single homes and affordable housing.

“We need to balance those kind of things. We have an economy to worry about and we have housing to be concerned about,” said Slattery. “So we’re trying to see where we can strike a fair balance to accomplish a little bit of both in that area.”

According to the Goldman, ideas to develop on the property have been around since 2010 but due to economic and infrastructure problems – nobody is biting.

“That infrastructure costs are probably what has been slowing the development of that property because of new roads, water, sewer, electric systems,” said Goldman.

Getting everything ready before the site can be built on could cost between $4 to $6 million. A figure that could be scaring some developers away.

“It’s sat there since it was put together as far as a piece of property goes, in it’s current form,” said Slattery. “Nobody is going in there and it’s not helping anybody. So maybe if we can get some housing.”

That idea is what could be the solution. According to the planning department, owners of the property are considering housing units to alleviate a bit of the cost of infrastructure.

A proposed number of 250 units was tossed around but much like the project as a whole, it’s still too early to tell.

“The council was receptive to us coming back with a scope of work,” said Goldman. “It’s not a final determination in terms of what will happen out there. I know I’ve received questions afterwards, ‘So there’s a proposal for 250 units?’ And I would have to say that’s not the case.”

The council asked the planning department to draw up an initial analysis of the property and plan to reconvene over the matter again in the early summer. But plans need to be solidified and carefully laid out before anything is made official.

“Interested in putting light manufacturing out there and perhaps with housing nearby and that mix of use could be very beneficial to the community,” said Slattery. “How we marry those two things together has to be thought out very carefully.”

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