A “sale pending” sign swings in front of a 1909 wooden farm house sitting behind a vast lawn with a wide porch near the corner of East Main Street and South Mountain Drive in Ashland.
Its sale depends on what happens when a local builder goes before the Planning Commission on Tuesday to propose 28 new units, mostly townhouses, on the nearly 1.8-acre project site at 1068 East Main St. Mark Knox says they will keep the old farm house and sell it separately. “We’ll move it 50 feet up on the property. Actually they’ll roll it onto a new foundation.”
Knox describes the home and its notable front lawn as an “iconic street-scape.” His plan would remove the back part of the house but keep the front section. “I value old houses, they add a lot.”
Knox’ proposal passed through the city Tree Commission, allowing the removal of 12 of the 28 trees on the lot to accommodate the new townhouses, two of which will be rental apartments. “It was 14, but we were able to plan around two more large trees,” he said.
The proposal calls for the townhouses, which Knox describes as workforce housing, to be built behind the current old house and on the side lot next to it with an entrance off of Mountain. There would not be any on street parking. The townhouses would have garages. “The units will be at the low end of the market,” he said.
The proposal calls for 19 three-bedroom units and nine one-bedroom townhouses. “This is meant to be family housing. We’ll have a playground and garden beds,” says Knox.
While he is not sure exactly what the homes would sell for, he is expecting it to fall below the median of $417,000 in Ashland. “They’re attached housing. I can’t see them going anywhere near that.”
Knox said they decided to propose this based on keeping the old farm house and its private yards while adding more family housing. “The (city) council has talked about the importance of more housing.”
Planning Commissioners were at the property Monday afternoon for a site visit and to ask the developer questions. None would comment, saying it’s important to wait until the public is present at the commission hearing to share any thoughts.
However, a concerned citizen, Willow Denon, attended the walk through and shared her thoughts. “I’m concerned about traffic and growth and I’m concerned about the loss of fruit bearing trees. If we should be in a place where we couldn’t get food in or out of Ashland they would sustain life for us.” Denon has studied the trees in Ashland and worries about losing them, especially in the event of the next Cascadia Subduction Earthquake expected to hit the region sometime in the century or two. Most of the fruit bearing trees on the property are walnut and almond trees.
Denon, who arrived in Ashland in 1970 and has been monitoring growth ever since, did agree that if the land must be developed, then this is a decent plan. “If this is going to happen then I do think Mark (Knox) is compassionate,” she said, applauding his plan to keep the current street appeal for part of the parcel. “If it’s going to happen, I’d prefer it be this one.”
Developers will wait to see if the plan is approved by planners. If so, they plan to close on the property and begin work quickly, according to Knox. The asking price is $1.5 million.
The Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, in the Council Chambers at 1175 East Main St.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.