The Ashland Planning Commission unanimously approved plans for the 19,375 square foot addition to the Ashland High School Tuesday evening.




Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture in Medford proposed demolishing the existing auxiliary gym building and music suite, renovating the main gym and reconfiguring the parking area east of the existing gym building. The firm also requested a variance to the city's ordinance requiring a 10-foot sideyard setback so it could construct a ramp, stairs and a raised pedestrian plaza as part of a new entrance on Mountain Avenue.




Commissioner Pam Marsh was concerned about safety issues the new entrance might create and asked that a condition be imposed requiring the school to address the safety issue in the future. The commission agreed to add the condition.




Community Development Director Bill Molnar said he was very excited about the project and that it exemplifies how much the community stands behind it.




"I think it will be a great asset for many years to come," said Molnar.




The project, budgeted at $9 million, is part of a $46.8 million bond package approved by Ashland voters in November 2006.




After the meeting, Ashland School Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said she was happy with how quickly the final project got through the planning commission process.




"I think having an evidentiary hearing last month really helped to address any concerns the commission had," she said. "Now we can move onto the building permit process."




Strawberry Lane Subdivision




The commission also held a public hearing on Robert and Laura McLellan's request for a six-lot, five-unit subdivision located at 500 Strawberry Lane.




The McLellans, who live on and own the 4.62-acre property, are proposing their land be divided into six lots. One lot will include their current home, four would accommodate four homes and the remaining lot would be reserved as a common open space.




The land, zoned residential, is situated on the corner of Strawberry Lane and Hitt Road. The area south of the property is zoned woodland residential and consists of two lots. One is privately owned; the other is city-owned and contains the Ashland water tank.




Mark Knox, an urban development planner in Ashland, helped develop the concept for the McLellans and spoke to the commission Tuesday.




He said the subdivision is a positive example of hillside development.




"From the beginning we asked 'How can we improve on what we saw from the Strawberry Meadows subdivision'," said Knox. "I think we went above and beyond what the existing codes require."




He said the heights of the buildings would be kept low so they blend into the environment and wouldn't be seen by the rest of the community. He's proposing 25- to 30-foot setbacks when only 5-foot setbacks are required in that zone. Of the 72 trees over six inches in diameter, the plan requests 13 tree removal permits.




Knox also pointed out that 360 Strawberry Lane has a 15-foot retaining wall that disturbed a lot of land. "We don't want that to happen with this area. We want to disturb it as little as possible."




Catherine and Lou Dimino live directly across from the proposed lot one in the development plan and voiced several concerns.




During Knox's presentation, he said overall the planned coverage, which includes buildings and driveways, would only be at 20 percent. Lots one and two both have 26 percent coverage, lot three has 28 percent and lots four and five both have 20 percent coverage. The sixth tract, an open common area, wouldn't have any coverage and would balance out the percentages, he said.




Catherine Dimino said the subdivision should have to follow the 20 percent restriction in the city's ordinance.




Commissioner Dave Dotterrer also questioned whether the percentages could be spread out between the lots.




Molnar said, "It's an option to take into account the entire site. About 80 to 85 percent of the projects in town do look at 20 percent per lot; but we do have an option to apply it to the entire site."




Catherine was also concerned about the size of the building envelope on lot one.




"It's too restrictive, which reduces the design options," she said. "If I have to look out my window at a house, I at least want it to be a nice looking house."




Knox said the dimensions of the envelope are 50 feet, by 110 feet by 30 feet.




"Those are significant dimensions that would allow for many design options," he said.




The commission voted to keep the record open and allow written testimony until March 19 and will continue deliberations at its next regular meeting on April 8.




Reach reporter at 482-3456 x226.