The Ashland City Council did not approve a proposed Normal Neighborhood Plan during a special meeting Thursday night and instead will refer it to a working group because of numerous unresolved problems with the plan.
During several public hearings before councilors, neighbors in the largely rural area raised concerns that a development plan for 94 acres on Ashland's outskirts could worsen traffic, reduce wildlife habitat and further strain inadequate water, sewer and storm drain systems.
They were especially concerned about a proposal for high density housing on a section of the land.
Also, neighbors said East Main Street as it passes by the area lacks sidewalks, bike lanes and turning lanes. Development would worsen traffic and endanger pedestrians and cyclists.
Although the Ashland Planning Commission unanimously recommended the plan, Commissioner Melanie Mindlin acknowledged it had various problems.
The Planning Commission included a recommendation that East Main Street be improved before development was allowed or as it occurs, but no funding mechanism has been identified for how to pay for those street improvements.
Neighbors also objected to a proposal to allow buildings up to three stories high.
The Normal Neighborhood Plan sought to protect wetlands, open space and creeks by setting aside 28 percent of the land in conservation areas.
The remaining land could accommodate up to 500 homes, with 7 percent of the land used for high density housing.
The working group that will review Normal Neighborhood Plan issues will include three city councilors, two planning commissioners and Community Development Department staff.
Councilors urged the working group, when it is formed, to consider the input that came from residents.
The Normal Neighborhood Plan is named after Normal Avenue, which cuts through the rural acreage currently sprinkled with homes on large lots.
The land is under Jackson County jurisdiction but inside Ashland's Urban Growth Boundary. Future annexations could gradually bring properties within city limits.
The land lies east of Ashland Middle School and is bordered by East Main Street to the north and the railroad tracks to the south. Clay Street marks its eastern-most boundary.