ASHLAND — The city is likely to waive some planning fees for people who have to rebuild their homes after the devastating Oak Knoll fire.
The Aug. 24 fire destroyed 11 homes in the Oak Knoll Drive neighborhood and damaged three others.
People who need to remove the charred remnants of their homes can come to the Ashland Community Development Department and get a demolition permit for free, said Bill Molnar, director.
The destroyed homes averaged about 1,400 to 1,500 square feet. Normally a building permit to construct a new home of that size would cost about $12,000, he said.
About $8,000 of that permit fee goes to pay system development charges, which are fees charged on new development that puts additional loads on infrastructure. Because the infrastructure impact of the destroyed homes already existed, the rebuilt homes will not be charged those fees, Molnar said.
A person's insurance company should pick up the remaining $4,000 in fees.
However, some people may have been underinsured and their insurance companies may not cover the fees. That situation could especially affect owners of older homes if owners didn't increase their coverage as homes increased in value in Ashland's housing market, Molnar said.
For those people, city officials will review each situation and could waive the remaining fees, Molnar and City Administrator Martha Bennett told Ashland City Council members during a meeting Tuesday.
Molnar said as people rebuild, they should consider noncombustible roofing material.
Ashland Fire & Rescue Forest Resource Specialist Chris Chambers said a disaster like the Oak Knoll fire could occur anywhere in Ashland.
He urged all residents to take steps to reduce flammable material around their homes, and to craft plans for communicating with their relatives and friends in case of disaster.
"We had people calling from all over the country," Chambers said of the frantic calls city officials fielded from distant relatives and friends who were worried about Ashland residents.
Bennett said people should be aware of what is covered by their home insurance policy, and where that policy and other important documents are.
"Could you grab vital documents in 30 seconds?" she asked.
The Oak Knoll fire — allegedly started by a homeless man — began in dry grass and spread through grass and highly combustible blackberry bushes on land under Jackson County jurisdiction, before jumping to homes along Oak Knoll Drive that were just inside the city limits.
Bennett said the city of Ashland and county need to work on a plan to give the city authority to deal with overgrown vegetation on county land that borders the city limits.
City officials are working on being able to broadcast emergency reports on the city website at www.ashland.or.us, Bennett said.
Not all residents can get radio signals from AM 1700, which broadcasts information about city emergencies.
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.