The city of Ashland is drafting a neighborhood plan for the largest chunk of developable land remaining inside its urban growth boundary, but some residents aren't satisfied with initial proposals.
Comprising 26 property owners, the sparsely developed, 94-acre area centers around Normal Avenue north of the railroad tracks in southeast Ashland. It is bordered by East Main Street to the north, Clay Street to the east, the railroad tracks to the south and city limits to the west.
Initial plans call for about 500 housing units across the properties, including multistory apartment buildings in the northeast corner, which developers expressed an interest in building during early 2011, said Brandon Goldman, a senior planner for the city.
The plan also calls for extending Normal Avenue to East Main Street and building a small network of streets to accommodate the new neighborhood.
"Right now we're trying to flesh out a general design for the area," Goldman said. "In the last six months we've been taking a preliminary concept plan and refining it further based on the feedback we've received. ... Once this consulting process is completed, there is still plenty of work to accomplish before anything is developed."
The city has been working with Portland-based planning firm Parametrix to draft a framework, which Goldman hopes will be finished by July.
Last year, the city received a $70,000 Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program grant and contributed $12,000 in matching funds and staff work to carry out the consulting process.
Parametrix and the city held public forums near the end of 2012 to collect feedback. Goldman said the city will arrange for a traffic impact analysis to be completed following the consulting process.
"That will be the beginning of more intensive public review ... we fully anticipate changes will come after that point," Goldman said.
Howard Miller, 76, who has lived inside the project area in the 100 block of Normal Avenue for more than 25 years, said he is most concerned about the housing density proposed for the neighborhood.
"I am not a proponent of what is going on right now," Miller said. "It just doesn't jive with what the area currently is about ... we're rather pleased with the situation as is."
Nancy Boyer, who has lived just outside the project area on the 400 block of Normal Avenue for more than 20 years, said she is concerned with how much traffic the project would generate.
"We are primarily concerned with the traffic and congestion increasing," said Boyer, who also wants planners to preserve adequate habitat for wildlife within the project area.
"I can sit on my front porch and the owls hoot at me. When I walk I see red-tailed hawks, red foxes, quail ... I love having that outside my door," she said.
Goldman said wetlands, natural areas and open spaces are being taken into consideration.
Bryce Anderson, 67, who lives on the 2000 block of Clear Creek Drive and is a board member for the Meadow Brook Park Estates Homeowners Association, said he and the association are opposed to the Normal Avenue neighborhood plan as it currently stands.
Anderson said homeowners associations for nearby Chautauqua Trace and Ashland Meadows expressed to his board that they, too, are opposed to the current neighborhood plan.
"We understand that this property is going to be developed, they are entitled to do a development, but they're not entitled to do whatever type of development they want," Anderson said. "They are just jamming in housing units cheek by jowl.
"Dense housing should be within convenient walking distance of the city center, and this, of course, is in the far corner of the city," he said.
In 2011, developers expressed an interest in building an apartment complex across Clear Creek Drive from Anderson's home on two parcels currently owned by the Calvary Baptist Church of Oregon Inc.
According to a church representative who spoke during a Feb. 26 Ashland Planning Commission study session, the church is still interested in selling the property and relocating the church.
The Calvary Baptist Church of Oregon Inc., based in Vancouver, Wash., did not return phone messages left Monday.
"Nothing should be considered on those parcels until the rest of the project is being developed," Anderson said. "We are determined to fight this thing tooth and nail because it will just ruin the quality of life in this neighborhood if it goes forward the way it is."
Goldman said the next opportunity for the public to see the project's development up close will be during a Planning Commission study session at 7 p.m. May 28 at 1175 E. Main St.
"The goal here is for the neighborhood to have a clear expectation of what future development would look like, and to give private property owners a pretty clear framework and guideline for what the city is looking for," Goldman said.
"There is an interest in developing the property there ... we want to achieve a singular vision for the area."
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Talent. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.