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Commission approves permit for NatureWise’s new office

Ashland-based natural supplement company NatureWise might move again soon.

The company, founded by a Bay Area native who settled in Ashland in 2003, grossed over $18 million in sales in 2017. Its products, ranging from nutrition supplements to probiotics to “vitality drinks,” are being sold at a number of locations along the West Coast, including the Ashland Food Co-Op.

The company moved back to Ashland in December 2017 from Medford and currently resides at 184 Clear Creek Drive. It also leases spaces at 149 Clear Creek Drive and 108 East Hersey St., while keeping its manufacturering in California and Washington, according to its website.

The new location, at 11,296 square foot, has yet to be built, as the city of Ashland Planning Commission just approved the site review permit of the two-story building Tuesday night.

The 5,648 square-foot ground floor will be designated for NatureWise’s corporate offices. The second-story will feature seven residential units— three studio apartments that are smaller than 500 square feet and four two-bedroom units, according to the application.

The development, at 469 Russell St., is across the street from the construction of two mixed-use buildings that will feature four temporary-stay executive apartments. That project was approved in March 2017 and is set to open for occupancy in May.

Both properties fall under an employment zone with a residential overlay within the Falcon Heights Subdivision, east of the Union Pacific railroad property.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” said Mark Knox, the proposal’s developer.

Knox said his team has worked through several concerns — fencing, trash enclosure, parking — with neighboring residents.

City planning staff recommended the commission approve the proposal with several conditions, saying the project “is another positive example of Ashland’s land use planning efforts.”

“The proposed buildings are oriented to the street, enhance a shared open space area located between (two lots) and create a positive outdoor plaza space for the benefit of the employees and residences of the building,” the staff report reads, adding that the residential units are a “positive contribution” to Ashland’s housing market.

The commission unanimously approved the permit. It received no opposition to the project at the meeting.

Commissioner Melanie Mindlin disclosed that NatureWise is a “major donor” to her organization, Ashland-base Permaculture Institute of North American. She took part in voting, after vowing her conflict of interest wouldn’t result in a biased decision.

The commission raised some concerns of potential smell and noise stemmed the location of the trash enclosure on the property. The applicant proposed it to be located in the back of the building — 22 feet away from the residential units, next to the parking lots and adjacent to a backyard of a neighboring residential.

“The (Recology) truck will be there no matter where we put it,” Mindlin said at the meeting. “It’s a non-issue for me.”

Knox said the applicant could move it elsewhere or try to mitigate potential smell with landscaping.

Laz Ayala, the project’s developer, also said because the trash enclosure is proposed to be at a higher altitude than the adjacent residential unit, the smell shouldn’t have much of an impact.

The commission ended up approving the proposed option with additional landscaping to mitigate the potential impact.

The applicant will also be responsible for restoring and maintaining landscaping in the surrounding area.

—Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.