The Ashland City Council unanimously approved an annexation and zoning change that will pave the way for Caldera Brewing Co. to build a 28,000-square-foot manufacturing, warehouse, storage and administrative office building with a tasting room.

The Ashland City Council unanimously approved an annexation and zoning change that will pave the way for Caldera Brewing Co. to build a 28,000-square-foot manufacturing, warehouse, storage and administrative office building with a tasting room.

The Tuesday vote means that 3.72 acres of land at the end of Clover Lane, near Exit 14, will be added to the city. Land that was zoned for residential use can be used for Caldera's expansion.

Caldera, a homegrown Ashland business launched in the 1990s, has a 6,000-square-foot brewery on Clover Lane and the downtown Caldera Tap House on Water Street.

Owner Jim Mills said 10 people work at the current brewery and another 10 work at the downtown tap house.

With the business expansion, he hopes to add 15 to 18 more employees in the near future, with even more jobs possible later.

Mills said he plans to branch out from beer into distilled spirits and non-alcoholic soda.

A Medford-based developer said he tried to persuade Mills to expand in another city, but Mills is committed to staying in Ashland.

Ashland resident Drew Baily, Southern Oregon representative for the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, said Caldera is an important part of the area's growing beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverage industry.

"I believe this business is a great model for economic development in the city of Ashland," Baily said.

City councilors said they supported Caldera's expansion because it will provide jobs and contribute to economic growth, and Mills has made efforts to work with neighbors concerned about noise and other potential impacts.

Councilors approved the annexation, with the condition that terms from a letter of agreement between Mills and neighbors be included in construction plans.

The new development has the potential to reduce fire danger in the area beyond where Clover Lane currently dead-ends. A field there with weeds and litter was charred in August by a fast-moving fire, likely started by a homeless man, that destroyed 11 homes in the nearby Oak Knoll Drive neighborhood.

Jackson County weed abatement standards are more lax than Ashland standards, which are meant to reduce grass fires.

The end of Clover Lane has been gated off with a chain across the road, impeding access for emergency vehicles. That slowed down firefighters who stopped the spread of the Oak Knoll fire to a string of businesses — including the Holiday Inn Express — along the lane.

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