The city bought the 846-acre Imperatrice Ranch property in 1996 for $950,287 with a plan to spray treated sewage effluent on its hillsides, but later abandoned that plan.

The Ashland City Council will consider whether to seek ideas and bids from people interested in using part of a large block of city-owned land that sits north of town on the other side of Interstate 5.

The council meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

The city bought the 846-acre Imperatrice Ranch property in 1996 for $950,287 with a plan to spray treated sewage effluent on its hillsides, but later abandoned that plan.

The site could still serve as an effluent spray area in the future because the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is tightening standards for sewage effluent that Ashland has long emptied into a local creek near the Dog Park.

The city is in the midst of creating an effluent master plan that will help the city determine whether to spray effluent on the ranch land.

In the meantime, city staff are recommending that the City Council seek proposals for using 265 acres of the 846-acre property. The user could sign a short-term lease with the city for two or three years, with an option to extend the lease for another few years.

Only the lower portion of the property would be available for leasing because the top portion contains sensitive native plants and wildlife areas, city staff said. So far, the city has earned about $1,000 a month by leasing the land to a cattle rancher.

The property is zoned for Exclusive Farm Use, which restricts options for the land.

Ideas for the property that have been floated by the public include an eco-friendly village, a solar panel farm, a windmill farm, agricultural farming and food processing.

In other business Tuesday night, the council could postpone a public hearing about proposed plans to guide the redevelopment of the former Croman Mill site east of Tolman Creek Road. City staff members are recommending that the public hearing be delayed until April 6 to allow more time to work on transportation issues.

The council is also scheduled to consider whether to grant developers more time to begin construction on projects that have been delayed by the economic recession.

For a complete list of agenda items and for details on each item, visit http://ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=12643.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.