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April 26, 2006 By Robert Plain Ashland Daily Tidings Participants listen to a presentation on downtown planning by the consulting firm of Crandall Arambula, Tuesday at the Ashland Springs Hotel as part of

George Crandall and Don Arambula, downtown planning experts from Portland, pitched the merit of creating another downtown plan in many presentations throughout the day at the Ashland Springs Hotel on Tuesday.

At the fourth meeting of the day, John Gaffey, a long-time civic affairs activist, summed up the consultants&

reason for being in Ashland, and why the city desires a new downtown plan.

&

They are offering themselves as referees for the issues we haven&

t been able to settle ourselves,&

he said. &

They are here because the planning commission, the planning staff and city council can&

t do its jobs.&

John Fisher-Smith made this same point in a more gentle manner. He spoke of the planning stalemate in Ashland that prevented the Northlight and Bemis projects, the two most recent and controversial downtown developments, from coming to fruition.

&

It was such a tragedy,&

he said. &

I just wish you guys would have been around here then. In Ashland right now, developers don&

t have a clue what the community wants. I would like a developer to know what Ashland wants.&

Answers in questions

Crandall and Arambula answered questions from all angles of the Ashland political spectrum, from why a new plan should address a post-fossil fuel economy to why it should address aggressive panhandling on the Plaza.

But, Gaffey said learning the details of what this new plan would consist of would require hiring the consultants. Crandall and Arambula estimated the plan would cost between $300,000 and $500,000, including ordinance revision and staff time.

&

The gentlemen are here to sell us their services,&

he said. &

They are not going to tell us tonight. We need to buy their services for that. If they told us, we wouldn&

t want them.&

Though the meetings were designed to give information and answer questions, many residents used the opportunity to tout their agendas, though often in the form of questions about a downtown plan.

Matt Frey, a longtime business owner who as of late has been outspoken about Plaza politics, asked what a downtown plan could do to affect &

the general uncivility of the Plaza.&

Ron Roth, a local restaurateur, asked what a new downtown plan would do to delivery truck traffic on East Main Street and the plaza. &

It&

s a very important part of our downtown,&

he said. &

Trucks are a part of it.&

Colin Swales, a long-time proponent of downtown planning, noted that with all the city staff, planning commission and city council time that is spent on downtown planning issues, a quarter of a million dollars for a plan could be a bargain. &

When you weigh out some of those costs against the cost of a downtown plan it balances out,&

he said.

Funding

The question that everyone had in common was how would a downtown plan be funded. In light of the city council&

s decision not to make it a priority in the next fiscal year, the downtown committee has asked the private sector to help fund the plan.

The consultants spoke of previous work in other communities that were funded with public and private money. George Crandall said both are needed.

— — City councilor Kate Jackson takes notes during — a public meeting Tuesday night at the Ashland Springs Hotel.

&

You want the development community lined up behind you and ready to go as soon as it is finished,&

he said.

But, for a better chance at success, &

The public sector should really step up and fund a good portion of it.&

Earlier in the day, Crandall and Arambula met privately with local developers, Paul Nicholson, Executive Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Richard Moeschl, representing the local arts community and Colin Swales and Bill Street, representing neighbors of the downtown area.

Today, they meet with downtown business owners, construction and development professionals and, at 7 p.m. there will be a wrap-up meeting for the entire community. All meetings are open to public and are being held at the Ashland Springs Hotel Ballroom.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 226 or bplain@dailytidings.com.

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