City officials say an inventory of vacant and partially vacant property in town shows that Ashland has enough land within its urban growth boundary to accommodate new homes and businesses for at least two more decades.

City officials say an inventory of vacant and partially vacant property in town shows that Ashland has enough land within its urban growth boundary to accommodate new homes and businesses for at least two more decades.

Ashland has enough land to house 5,791 more people, while the population is projected to grow only by 3,256 people by 2030, according to the city of Ashland's new 2011 Buildable Lands Inventory. City staff members compiled the inventory.

The 2010 census put Ashland's population at 21,460 people.

City officials expect the town to grow by 0.75 percent each year and hit a population of about 24,716 in 2030.

It's not clear yet whether Ashland has enough land for different types of housing, such as apartment buildings and single-family homes. City staff members likely will finish an analysis this year that will show the need for different types of homes.

As for land for new and expanding businesses, a 2007 study said Ashland would need 123.4 acres to accommodate development through 2027.

The new land inventory shows Ashland has 199 acres available for business growth.

For housing and business development combined, Ashland has 373.6 acres available for construction within its city limits, plus another 252.2 acres between the city limits and the wider urban growth boundary, for a total of 625.8 acres.

Cities establish urban growth boundaries outside their city limits to show where future growth will occur.

Jackson County and cities in the county recently approved a Regional Problem Solving initiative in which cities identified how much new land they would need to take in within the next 20 years. Ashland was the only city that said it would not need to expand its current boundaries.

In tallying land that is available for future construction, city staff members counted vacant land and partially vacant land where more buildings could fit. The property owners are not necessarily interested in developing the land identified, but the sites are large enough to accommodate additional building.

The land identified didn't include park land, the airport, parking lots, land in floodplains or acreage with slopes that are steeper than 35 degrees.

Ashland has done buildable-land inventories before, but this time city staff created a new system in which the 2011 inventory can be easily updated as building permits are issued, or if the Ashland City Council makes zoning changes that affect development.

"Now we can update it on a more frequent basis," said Ashland Senior Planner Brandon Goldman.

The inventory will help city officials make plans for water and transportation infrastructure projects. Parks department officials can use it to help make decisions about locations for new parks.

The inventory also will help Ashland Fire & Rescue find vacant land, which can sometimes become overgrown with flammable weeds, especially if the owners don't live in town.

The fire department is in charge of city efforts to get landowners to keep their property mowed during the summer fire season.

The inventory can be used as a tool for economic development as well. Businesses that want to move to Ashland or expand their existing operations can see where vacant land is located.

Ashland has large chunks of vacant land near Highway 99 as it comes into town from Talent, north of the railroad tracks that border A Street, along rural sections of East Main Street near Walker Avenue, and around Exit 14. Numerous smaller parcels of vacant land are scattered throughout town.

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