As growth comes to Ashland, let’s go up – not out

Where should the city of Ashland grow?

Growth is inevitable, but it should be up and not out.

Protecting the city’s heart entails protecting its unique downtown. It means protecting the excellence in the school system. It means protecting the surrounding environment.

As new development and growth alter the city, protecting these qualities is as important anything local government and residents can do.

For future editorials on this topic, the Tidings will use the following four goals, until convinced otherwise, to guide us in this ongoing debate.

First, the economic vitality of the downtown needs support. Too many small-business owners struggle to scratch out a living, teetering between narrow profit margins and rising overhead. The local business owner deserves high priority in the future of Ashland. Infill projects that improve the downtown and enhance the community are an important part of the overall picture. Giving tax credits or similar mechanisms of support to those who renovate existing buildings or start new businesses that provide quality jobs should be explored.

Second, Ashland has a paucity of attractive living options downtown. Projects that will allow more people to become a part of the local economy, drive less, and build a greater sense of community should be encouraged. Building up around the city core is far more desirable than building sprawling subdivisions on rural landscapes.

Third, our city boundaries and rural spaces should be protected against sprawl. Our forests, watershed, riparian areas and natural landscape are valuable natural resources that deserve protection.

Fourth, the ongoing need for affordable housing will take a dedicated and creative plan. Our schools, economy and livability depend on keeping families from moving out of the city. Targeting property to build homes on par with surrounding areas, specifically to keep younger families, needs to be part of the plan, somehow. It’s tricky, but worth it.

The bottom line is that changing height restrictrions is preferable to changing footprint restrictions. Investing in ongoing downtown revitalization trumps altering the urban growth boundary. Taller buildings downtown are better than more buildings on the outlying areas.

Whatever growth Ashland has in its future should be up, rather than out.

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