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Tree removal concerns project's neighbors

ASHLAND ' A 14-cottage development that preserves most of the site's natural features on Hamilton Creek next to Siskiyou Boulevard will stand in contrast to adjoining projects where lots were scraped clean to build townhouses or apartments.

A total of 21 trees, many diseased or unstable cottonwoods, will be removed. Developer Devian Aguirre plans to plant a tree for each one removed. There are 62 trees on the 1.4 acre site.

But some residents of the Ashley Senior Center Apartments next door are concerned that removing the cottonwoods will cut out their afternoon shade.

The new cottages, all less than 1,000 square feet, will be built at 2275 Siskiyou Blvd. Aguirre says the project will introduce the concept of smaller, livable cottage-style homes at a time when the city struggles with a shortage of affordable housing.

We want to encourage a healthy debate about housing and the quality of life, said Aguirre. We can say, 'look at this project.'

Landscape architect Alan Pardee had planned to remove 16 trees. But arborists recommend removing others that posed safety hazards.

We are using a light hand, said Pardee. We could develop 36 units under existing zoning.

Ashland's Tree Commission on Thursday will consider a required tree plan because the project is in a riparian zone. Planning commissioners will consider the project on June 11.

I just don't like the fact of those trees being cut down. I don't know why they should be taken, said Odessa Ehrhart, who has lived in the apartments for three years. She'll lose shade for her apartment when the trees are gone.

Cottonwoods are difficult and tend to be kind of unstable over time, said city Planning Director John McLaughlin. They are usually not considered prime trees to retain.

Apartment resident Heinz Lewin is unhappy about the trees and an agreement between Aguirre and CMB Corp., the apartment owners. The two developments will share a driveway and some parking.

People use the driveway to walk up to the street to catch the bus, said Lewin. (CMB) has never asked the elderly people how they are impacted.

A sidewalk is adjacent to most of the driveway, but winds away from it near a bus stop.

A 7-foot strip of the apartment's driveway had been constructed on Aquirre's land before she bought it. She could have reclaimed the property, but that would have eliminated the sidewalk if CMB built a new driveway. Cottonwoods beside the driveway will be removed to create parking for cottage residents.

A meeting with apartment tenants will be held to explain the project, said Michael Burke, CMB's director of property management.

Apartment residents will be able to walk through the area to Hamilton Creek and a pond beside the creek. About 40 percent of the site is in the flood plain and unavailable for building.

A 150-year-old farmhouse on the property will be moved to another location. An old barn will be taken down and the lumber milled for use in the cottages.

Everything that's unique and beautiful here presents a development challenge, said Aguirre.

Reach Ashland bureau reporter Tony Boom at 482-4651, or e-mail