Plans to tune up the appearance of some spots in downtown Ashland got the green light from the Ashland City Council on Tuesday, but will need further planning and review before final approval. The council also decided what kinds of things it would like to know about what's on the minds of constituents.

The ad hoc Downtown Improvement and Beautification Committee, appointed in March to make recommendations on how to best spend funds collected by the Transient Occupancy Tax, came up with a half-dozen projects, includings improved landscaping of the parking lot on Lithia Way and Pioneer Street, a new planter box on the corner of Winburn Way and North Main Street and partial paver replacement on the Plaza.

Councilor Pam Marsh praised the council for their ideas.

"These projects encourage the development of places where we gather," she said. "These are the nooks and crannies of our community that we, and our visitors, remember."

The next step is for staff to bring design and implementation plans to the council for final approval. Marsh suggested that council get involved as early as possible in the process. 

"We want to make sure that we're all moving along together," Marsh said. 

Councilor Greg Lemhouse hopes that the committee will be able to reconvene in the future.

"This definitely isn't the end," he said. "We're always looking to improve our city."

 Questions for citizens

The council also determined questions to be included in a biannual citizen satisfaction survey. 

The survey is conducted by the National Research Center and the International City/County Management Association. In addition to the questions included in all surveys, the city is allowed three locally generated questions with one allowed to be open-ended. 

The Parks and Recreation Commission proposed a question asking citizens what types of programs they would like to see offered by the Parks and Recreation Department. The council unanimously accepted that question. 

Lemhouse also wanted questions about economic development and city hall to be included. "I would really want more community input on these subjects," he said. The rest of the council agreed.

The proposed economic development question asks how the city should focus its efforts in that area, either through building upon the tourist-based economy, attracting high-tech businesses, attracting industrial development, easing the growth and development of businesses in Ashland or workforce development. 

City hall has run out room for growth and is seismically vulnerable. A proposed question would ask if residents would rather the city address its needs while keeping city hall in downtown or allow it to move elsewhere in the city, possibly near 1175 E. Main St. to be closer to the Police Department, Municipal Court and City Council meeting chambers. 

"I had looked at meeting minutes from the last time city hall was proposed to move away from downtown," City Administrator Dave Kanner said. "It was controversial then, but I wanted to gauge the response and see if feelings had changed."

The National Research Center will determine the final wording of the questions will be written. The survey will be conducted in the fall with questionnaires mailed to 1,200 households. Results will be reported in January.

The council also approved a resolution to set the application fee for medical marijuana dispensaries. The resolution included an $80 application fee, $65 for building inspection and $28 for a zoning review. Adjustments can be made in the future as needed.

The next meeting of the city council is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Email reporter Ian Hand at or call him at 253-722-4071. Follow him on Twitter at