The Ashland Planning Commission Tuesday approved a major expansion of Caldera Brewing Co., allowing annexation of almost four acres into the city — and construction of a 28,000 square foot metal building off the south interchange.

The Ashland Planning Commission Tuesday approved a major expansion of Caldera Brewing Co., allowing annexation of almost 4 acres into the city — and construction of a 28,000-square-foot metal building off the south interchange.

A few neighbors in the Oak Knoll neighborhood complained of possible noise, fumes, rodents, idling trucks and backup beepers, but commissioners voiced approval of Caldera's positive business growth and voted unanimously for the project, which will go before the City Council in four to six weeks.

As shown in drawings, the 45-foot-tall building presented a rather industrial look, which planners asked be made more aesthetic, but land use planner Mark Knox, representing Caldera owner Jim Mills, said, "It's a metal building in a manufacturing business, trying to employ people and make it financially."

Knox said Caldera's approach was to build it in a "presentable, affordable way."

The large, new structure would house brewing operations and a tasting room. It has a large parking area, which planners discussed reducing. They also made sure it would have minimal traffic impact onto Highway 66, and would not have idling trucks after business hours.

The building would go on a triangular bare lot next to the freeway, off the end of Clover Lane, which is the street going right off Highway 66 immediately after you pass over Interstate 5. It would be relatively close to Oak Knoll Drive, which was hit by a devastating wildfire that destroyed 11 homes in August.

Applicants held neighborhood meetings to hear concerns before the meeting, however, one, Linda Hood of Oak Knoll Drive, said everything, even conversations are audible and visible from her back deck.

"I'd lose all sense of privacy and be unable to sell my house," she said. "I'm very upset about how it would affect me."

She also warned of potential runoff from the large paved area, but Knox said it would have minimal impact on the intermittent creek nearby and would have bio-swales. The project would require removal of 17 trees — and the city Tree Commission has yet to get a quorum to pass judgment on the proposal.

Neighbor Richard Tripoli said he felt the project would reduce wildfire danger, although it would present him with "a great big metal wall to look at from my yard."

In his rebuttal, Mills said the building would have a cooler, so trucks wouldn't be outside idling to cool beer — and in 15 years of operating Caldera in Ashland, "I haven't had a single complaint about any smell or rodents."

The three lots to be annexed would be zoned from rural residential to employment.