Ashland smooths way for green building projects

Planners are considering fee discounts to encourage the use of new technologies

ASHLAND — Green-building projects in Ashland could receive discounts on fees and be approved faster than applications for traditional buildings under an incentive program the city's planning department is creating.

Planners will begin working on the green-building incentives project in late January and may suggest changing some city codes as early as spring, said Bill Molnar, the city's community development director.

"There are certain code provisions that could be changed pretty easily that might make a big difference," Molnar said.

The Ashland City Council has asked the planning department to make the city's building codes friendlier to green projects. One of the council's goals is to create incentives for development that is energy-efficient, environmentally sound and supportive of a multi-modal transportation system.

City planners haven't yet determined what incentives they will suggest, but Molnar said he expects the city will offer some fee discounts, expedited processing and a building code that allows for the installation of new technologies, such as wind-turbine and rainwater-catchment systems.

Planners will first go through the city's existing code to make sure it doesn't exclude green technologies or building practices.

"We'll essentially look and see if in the land-use code we have any impediments for people who want to try new technologies," Molnar said.

The city may decide to amend the code to make energy-saving building easier, Molnar said. Planners could, for example, allow builders to construct roofs with expanded eaves in south- or west-facing areas, to provide more shade, he said.

"Right now we limit, essentially, the length of a home's roof eave that can go into a setback area," he said. "Some communities create more flexibility, especially on west-facing buildings because they allow for shade, especially on hot afternoons."

City planners also will look at green-building incentives that Ashland's Planning Commission developed during the Croman Mill planning process last year, Molnar said.

"We possibly could expand upon what we did for the Croman Mill Plan, where we identified a variety of green-building standards that apply to that area, and consider applying those citywide," he said.

The city will likely allow green projects to move to the front of the line for building applications and permits to expedite those projects, Molnar said.

The city may also offer fee discounts to green projects. A building that incorporates a bioswale to absorb storm-water runoff, for example, might not have to pay as much of the city's storm-water drainage fee, Molnar said.

City planners may include some state-sanctioned green-building standards in Ashland's code when the state releases its standards next summer, he said.

The planning department expects to complete the green-building incentives project by late 2011 or early 2012.

"We're going to see if we can eliminate barriers that are keeping design professionals and developers from doing green projects," Molnar said.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-708-1158 or

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