The Ashland Planning Commission unanimously granted preliminary approval of an application for a cluster subdivision of 23 homes, including four affordable units, on East Nevada Street in the North Mountain neighborhood.

The proposed 20-lot subdivision, filed by Medford resident David Young, would provide a mix of housing types, including townhouses, single family homes with garages and detached units, each with an option to add an accessory unit. The application now heads to the City Council for approval.

The application requests a zone change, from a rural residential zone to a multi family zone, and a comprehensive plan amendment to remove the single family residential reserve designation — an amendment that requires the City Council’s vote, Planning Commission Chair Roger Pearce said.

Staff supported the zone change and comprehensive plan amendment request from the application at the meeting. Under Ashland's ordinance, the proposed project would have to dedicate some of the units to affordable housing — something for which Ashland has a “serious need,” Senior Planner Derek Severson said.

The Planning Commission approved recommending the application at its Tuesday meeting, after adding the stipulation that the four low income units would be ready for occupancy before 50 percent of the market rated subdivision would.

The proposed subdivision, located at 475 E. Nevada Street, will sit on a nearly two-acre property consisting of three tax lots belonging to Young and a city-owned lot.

The commission included the requirement on the affordable housing units amid concerns that as they are a less desirable choice for developers and because the property owner and applicant will not be developing the lots.

Each lot will be sold separately and the city’s lot — which will be dedicated to the affordable units — may be transferred to a non-profit, affordable housing developer. But the applicant can’t guarantee when or whether the low income housing would be built, commissioners noted.

The applicant told the commission that Habitat for Humanity Rogue Valley has expressed interest in tackling the low income projects. A letter from the organization was attached in the application’s packet.

A representative of Habitat for Humanity also spoke at the meeting, saying the organization is “anxious” to build the units, but noting it would take the nonprofit several years to raise funds and complete other tasks.

After numerous questions directed to the applicant and staff, the commission agreed to add the condition that requires the affordable units to be completed before more than 50 percent of the market rated units be occupied.

Several commissioners also asked if the applicant would be willing to add more affordable housing in the subdivision. A similar request was made and approved in December to boost the total of low income units in the 1068 E. Main Street townhouse project from 29 to 33 units.

Project consultant Amy Gunter said it would be challenging as the project has already maxed out its potential parking options at 63 spaces.

Residents of the surrounding area of the proposed project also expressed concern about parking, saying it’s already a challenge to park now.

“(The street) is quite narrow,” resident Jarryl Stein said. “(Increasing density) doesn’t sound like a possibility in this land to do that.”

Resident Andrea Napoli urged the Planning Commission to add a bike lane to East Nevada Street. Gunter said the traffic flow does not warrant that, but the applicant would agree to support a local improvement district if the now-dead Nevada Street bridge project, connecting East Nevada and Bear Creek, is revived in the future.

The commission also approved the proposed outline plan and site design review with several adjustment to keep the application in compliance with the city’s codes. Two exceptions to not add in bike lane on East Nevada Street and to extend the sidewalk west of the intersection of Camelot Drive and East Nevada Street were also granted. The applicant may use a bond for some street improvements, the commission agreed.

 — Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.