Ashland city officials are working on a plan for the last large piece of undeveloped land inside the city's urban growth boundary. Residents are alarmed for a variety of reasons, but they shouldn't be surprised. This is exactly what city leaders set in motion when they decided not to expand Ashland's growth boundary.
With that decision, they deliberately chose to concentrate future growth, increasing density inside the existing boundary while preserving open land outside. That increased density is one of the complaints raised by residents of the area.
The property in question lies in southeast Ashland around Normal Avenue, north of the railroad tracks and south of East Main Street, bounded by Clay Street on the east and the city limit on the west.
The initial neighborhood plan calls for 500 housing units across 94 acres, including multi-story apartment buildings. City officials and the Portland-based planning firm they hired held public forums late last year to collect public opinions, and a great deal more public involvement will take place before the plan is finished.
City planners anticipate changes will result from what they expect to be a more intensive process.
Involving the public in development questions is appropriate, but residents should not expect to be able to stop this growth entirely. One resident of the area said he and his neighbors are "rather pleased with the situation as it is."
That's nice, but it's not reality.
Jackson County's population is projected to double in the next 50 years. Cities and the county government spent a decade in the Regional Problem Solving process to determine where that growth should occur.
Most of the cities mapped out where their urban growth boundaries would expand to accommodate that increased population — but not Ashland, where leaders decided to concentrate development inside the existing urban growth boundary.
The proposed development plan is a direct result of that approach. Residents should participate and help shape that plan, but they should realize that increased density is a choice their city has already made.