The Planning Commission was divided over extending building permit timelines on Tuesday, with some commissioners calling the extension a subsidy for developers and others saying it was an appropriate response to the recession.
The Planning Commission was divided Tuesday over extending building permit timelines, with some commissioners calling the extension a subsidy for developers and others saying it was an appropriate response to the recession.
The city already offers one 18-month extension on projects, giving developers a 30-month timeline total.
The commission was not scheduled to vote on the matter, but commisioners' comments will be passed on to the City Council next month, when it considers adding 18 months to the existing timeline.
And with two commissioners firmly on both sides of the issue — and three undecided — a firm vote would have been tough to come by.
Commission Vice-Chair Michael Dawkins and Commissioner Debbie Miller voiced opposition to the extension, while Commission Chairwoman Pam Marsh and Comissioner Dave Dotterrer spoke in favor of it.
Miller said she thought the city was being generous by granting the original 18-month extensions.
"I would say that 30 months seems like quite enough," she said.
Dawkins said he felt that changing the city's rules now would be catering to large-scale developers, who assumed risk when they began their projects.
"It's like, who determines when down is down?" he said. "All development is basically speculative and it's all just part of the game or what happens."
However, Commissioner Marsh said she felt the economic times called for some leniency in city policy.
"I think these are extraordinary times," she said. "I think it's very clear that local development has taken a huge hit."
Dotterrer said he didn't agree with the idea that the extension would unfairly aid developers.
"I don't buy in to the argument that this is a subsidy," he said.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, two Ashland residents said they were opposed to the extensions because they felt they would subsidize large-scale developers and not help out the average homebuilder.
The City Council will take a look at the extension next month, but could direct the commission to craft some kind of compromise ordinance, said Bill Molnar, the city's Community Development Director.
Jokes flew when Molnar announced that crafting an ordinance to allow an extra extension could take weeks.
"The way things get done in this town, by the time we get done, we'll be in the next recession," Dotterrer said.
Fan warehouse approved
The commission quickly approved a request from Ron Rezek, owner of The Modern Fan Co., to build a 17,650-square-foot warehouse and manufacturing space at 615 Washington St.
The commission voted 7-0 to require the builders to adhere to a number of requirements that take into account a wetland space on the property and other features.
The commission also approved a proposal to annex the lot into the city. That request must also be approved by the City Council.
The project architect, Bruce Abeloe, with Abeloe & Associates in Medford, said he was pleased with the commission's response to the plans.
"I have to say this is the first time I've been to Ashland where I've actually agreed to everything, for the most part," he said.
The Modern Fan Co. offices are adjacent to the south Ashland lot. The company is expected to begin construction sometime next year, Abeloe said.
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.