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Public can ask about Billings golf plan Wednesday

The &

36;10 million course would be built on land just outside Ashland

ASHLAND ' Citizens concerned about a proposal to use public assets to help build and maintain a private 18-hole golf course north of Ashland can ask questions ' and get answers ' at an open house Wednesday.

As many as 100 people are expected to show up for the informational meeting to consider the proposed Billings Ranch Golf Course, said Raul Woerner, a Jackson County planner. Sponsored by the Bear Creek Greenway Committee, the meeting will be from — to 6 p.m. at the Ashland Public Library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

The goal of the meeting is to gauge the level of public support ' or criticism ' for the proposed &

36;10 million, 6,800-yard course situated on 170 acres of pasture land outside Ashland.

This open house is really about getting some information from the public, said Woerner.

Representatives for the county, the city of Ashland and local rancher John Billings are expected to attend. Critics of the plan said they'll also be there.

— I'm calling everybody I know, said Ra Wollenburg, who lives near the proposed course. There are a lot of issues on the table.

Indeed, several issues are at stake in continuing discussions about the course. Golf course developer Mike Peru, who represents Billings, has asked Jackson County officials to take the first steps toward amending local land-use regulations to accommodate his construction.

Peru wants county officials to lease 9.2 acres of environmentally sensitive public land adjacent to Bear Creek and the Bear Creek Greenway to allow him to complete a championship golf course. He would also like to build a bridge across Bear Creek to access the property, a use that is now prohibited by the Bear Creek Greenway Plan.

In return, Peru has proposed benefits that could range from path repair and maintenance to an upfront cash payment and a share of future golf course revenues.

Aided by a &

36;15,000 grant from Peru to pay for staff time, county officials recently told planners to begin studying the issue.

In addition, Peru has proposed a water-swap deal with the city of Ashland that would use the city's treated sewage effluent to irrigate the golf course. In exchange, city officials would receive access to Billings' rights to water from Ashland Creek and the Talent Irrigation District. The water from the creek and TID could avoid costly Department of Environmental Quality mandates to cool effluent released into Bear Creek.

Officials from Jackson County and the city of Ashland have made no decisions about either proposal.

There's still a lot of information that needs to get out to the public, said Ashland Public Works Director Paula Brown.

For instance, she emphasized that the quality of the treated effluent now under consideration is vastly improved from that involved in a similar proposal several years ago.

Citizens objected to spraying effluent treated to a Level 2 standard on Ashland hillsides. However, with the addition of improved treatment systems, the effluent is now discharged at a Level 4 standard, the highest level.

That is unrestricted use, said Brown. Level 2 has rules and rules and rules.

For information about the open house, call Woerner at 774-6918.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail