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City to consider buffer zones for wetlands, streams

The City Council will consider whether to adopt new rules to help protect land around streams and wetlands.

The council meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

If adopted, a new ordinance would create buffer zones of up to 50 feet on either side of streams and up to 50 feet from the edge of wetlands.

Existing lawns could be maintained in the buffer zones, but existing lawns could not be expanded and new ones could not be planted.

In order to protect nesting birds, property owners would not be allowed to remove blackberry plants in the zones from May 1 through July 31.

They could use power equipment that weighs more than 100 pounds — such as riding lawnmowers — during the drier months of May through October to minimize soil disturbance, but would have to lay down plywood or some other material to distribute the equipment's weight.

Existing buildings within buffer areas could be expanded outside the areas and could also be rebuilt if the building area inside the buffer doesn't change.

Landowners could cut or thin vegetation to reduce fire risk as long as the work was the minimum necessary to alleviate fire hazards.

In the upland half of stream buffer zones, people could build new wire fences that don't obstruct flood waters and collect debris, as well as new porous patios — but not decks.

Construction of wire fences would be allowed throughout wetland buffer zones.

If the buffer rules make it difficult or impossible to develop a lot, buffers could be reduced by up to 50 percent through a land use process.

People who want to build inside buffers would have to show they lessened impacts through measures such as multi-story construction, minimal paved areas and buffer zone restoration.

The full text of the 34-page proposed ordinance on stream and wetland buffers is available at http://www.ashland.or.us/Files/Water_Resources_ORD%20Attachments.pdf.

Public safety levy

Also on Tuesday night, the council will consider whether to appoint a citizen task force that would make a recommendation about whether the city should put a public safety levy on the November 2010 ballot.

The amount of the levy would have to be determined, as well as what public safety facilities it would fund. Options include replacing Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street and expanding the Ashland Police Department building on East Main Street.

Other items on the agenda include:

  • considering whether to delay adoption of a city-wide nudity ban until Dec. 15 to allow more time for consideration of legal language for the ordinance;
  • hearing a presentation about the 2009 Tree of the Year;
  • considering whether to authorize the mayor to sign a World Mayors and Local Governments Climate Protection Agreement Signature Form that calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions;
  • considering whether to direct the mayor to sign a letter of support for the Siskiyou Regional Railroad Authority to seek funding to reopen a rail line that runs from northern California to just south of Ashland;
  • and deciding whether to approve a $28,425 contract for engineering work on a planned street extension to reach a proposed Brammo Motorsport facility.

For a complete list of agenda items and for details on each item, visit http://www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=12357.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.