Four Croman concepts offered
Crandall Arambula, an urban planning firm in Portland, presented their four concepts for the Croman Mill site to the Ashland City Council and Planning Commission Thursday evening.
Mayor John Morrison, Councilor Russ Silbiger and Commissioner Dave Dotterrer did not attend.
The same plans, labeled Option A, B, C and D, were presented Wednesday night, where planning firm representatives pointed out the similarities and differences between all four options.
According to George Crandall, Option A would create low-density housing units and produce the fewest jobs. Options B and C were referred to as light industrial areas with a neighborhood center. B would include 270 housing units and produce jobs for 1,277 people, while C would include 250 housing units and create 1,427 new employees. Option D, referred to as an office campus with several 10-acre parcels and 250 housing units, could produce 3,200 new employees.
Options B, C and D all include open, green areas, a change in Tolman Creek Road's orientation, bike and trail systems, a three- to five-lane roadway through the site and a future commuter rail. All four plans set aside a 10-acre parcel for Plexis Healthcare Systems, which the planners have been working very closely with.
Crandall said Plexis hopes to relocate to the area within three years.
"It's very generous for a company to wait for three years," he said.
Don Arambula added, "Plexis believes that if it moves into the office campus, then it will be a catalyst for other businesses to follow."
Crandall also pointed out office campus businesses typically produce family wage jobs, while light industrial companies generally produce lower paying jobs.
The planning representatives then opened it up for questions and comments from the city councilors and planning commissioners.
Commissioner Tom Dimitre said he wondered where 3,200 new employees were going to live.
"Ashland doesn't have that many empty houses," he said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to create workforce and affordable housing and I don't see that in your plans."
Crandall said he didn't think the shortage of affordable housing could be solved with the Croman Mill area plans.
"But we urge you to look at other opportunities throughout Ashland," he said. "The Pearl District in Portland is a great example of how affordable housing can be mixed into other areas. One in five housing units in that district is affordable and no one can tell the difference."
The Crandall Arambula plans indicate that the Oregon Department of Transportation's current facility would move. Councilor Alice Hardesty pointed out that land would become public lands, which could offer affordable housing.
Several city officials said they were concerned with the lack of diversity of Option D.
"We'd still like to see light industrial jobs move into Ashland," said Hardesty.
Arambula said there are opportunities in other parts of Ashland, such as the area north of the railroad tracks that could be used for light industrial businesses.
Crandall said many office campus businesses don't like to mix with light industrial businesses.
"They don't want to have to look at storage facilities or metal roofs," he said.
Councilor Kate Jackson agreed that Ashland had other areas where light industrial businesses could locate.
"And I like the idea of knowledge workers moving into the area. I think it would be a good fit and something that Ashland could accommodate," she said.
Councilor Eric Navickas said cottage industries are prevalent in Ashland.
"What you're presenting here are large-scale, software companies. I'd like to see more diversity in your plans," he said.
One audience member agreed, saying small-scale mixed uses fits more in with the Ashland way of life rather than the large-scale business campus depicted in Option D.
Crandall said, "You could go that route. But you'll get very little density and little investment back if you go with cottage industries."
Planning Commission Chair John Stromberg said he's familiar with business campuses, and that each has its own cafeteria, running track and fitness center.
"I'd like it if we could transform Option D so that the businesses shared these facilities with each other and the community," he said. "Ashland should be demonstrating how this kind of development can be a good sustainability model for others."
A man in the audience said he'd also like to see the businesses grouped around and sharing a large common green area that could also be used by the community.
The Croman Mill site is currently zoned M-1 industrial. Councilor Cate Hartzell said she was reluctant to give up the last remaining M-1 zoning in Ashland.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar said, "The question is, if we lose this M-1 designation, do we need to replace it somewhere else? But we're already seeing the E-1 zoning taking on that M-1 designation."
Mark Dirienzo, an audience member who owns M-1 land, said it didn't make sense to keep that zoning. He said every time a perspective buyer looks at his land, they always say they can get cheaper, flatter land in Central Point.
"I just don't think Ashland is marketable as M-1," he said.
Crandall Arambula representatives will return to Portland and make revisions and present the final plan in April. City officials will then address whether to accept the plan and rezone the area.
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