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Housing-parks-dogs: win-win-win

Ashland Parks and Recreation is selling a piece of land to the Housing Authority of Jackson County (HAJC) to build roughly 60 new affordable housing units. APRC plans to use the money from selling the property to purchase another piece of property near the area to be developed into a neighborhood park including a dog park. The plan was approved at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

The lot to be sold is a 2.57-acre parcel at what’s listed as 380 Clay St., but is on Engle Street, just off Clay, east of the Snowberry Brook development and west of YMCA park off Toman Creek Road. The selling price is $1,091,505, which reflects the same price per square foot paid by the city to buy the property.

The plan is to sell the parcel to HAJC along with the adjacent .78-acre property, which will be sold by the city. Together, the combined properties will allow for about 60 affordable housing units to be built, according to Ryan Haynes, HAJC development director. He said if everything goes well and smooth from this point forward, it’s possible that this project would begin after the current HAJC project in Medford is finished.

The soonest construction would begin, granted the rest of the processes go smoothly, could possibly be in the fall of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. But there’s a lot that needs to happen first.

Haynes said a usual project for HAJC is about 40-50 units, so this project would be much larger and more funds are needed.

“One of the constraints is the funding that is available,” Haynes said. “There’s a finite pool every year and it’s a competitive application process, and there are only so many dollars that are available.”

Last year the city and APRC sold the property immediately to the east of the subject parcel to the YMCA for $480,000.

Using the money from selling that property, the money from selling lot 2504, various sundries and current CIP (capital improvement project) funds set aside for a dog park, APRC will purchase a 5.5-acre lot at 0 East Main St., east of Clay Street and north of Abbott Avenue, to develop the neighborhood park.

Potentially, the cost of development could be close to $1 million. However, the park hasn’t been designed yet, so costs are undetermined.

According to APRC Director Michael Black, it depends on the facilities that go into the park, but the plan is to include restrooms, a playground, picnic area, maybe a community garden, grassy fields and some sports courts. The word pickleball was thrown around Council Chambers at the mention of courts.

“We do have the ability to work within the budget and to prioritize,” Black said. “Can we do it for 1 mil? That’s a question for the design. If it comes down to developing in phases, we aren’t above that.”

The proposed lot is a large rectangular lot and much more conducive for a park than the lot that will be sold, Black said.

Additionally, the lot is being sold to APRC through a local Realtor, Noriko Hansen, for a large discount — $1 million as opposed to the appraised value of $1,780,000. The owners decided to donate the $780,000 value as long as the property is developed into a public park.

The lot has 5.3 acres of irrigation rights which will reduce water cost from the parks fund.

Rick Landt, a Parks and Recreation commissioner, spoke during the public forum portion of the discussion and said one of the commission’s goals is to provide a park within a quarter mile of every Ashland neighborhood. Not only does this new park meet that goal, it also provides an opportunity for much needed affordable housing.

Councilor Dennis Slattery said he wished council could approve something like this at every meeting.

“I wish we could do more,” Slattery said. “We need the affordable housing and we need the parks, it’s quality of life and helping people reside in our community.”

Black said the goal is to close on the parcels by Nov. 15. Then APRC can begin the planning process.

Haynes said there is a dire need for affordable housing in Ashland.

“We have a wait list that is actually over three years at our Snowberry Brook development,” Haynes said. “County-wide we have over 5,000 families on our wait list. There simply aren’t enough safe, affordable places for these lower-income families to live today.”

The council unanimously approved the plan.

“It’s a triple win,” Councilor Rick Rosenthal said.

Haynes said the development will help multiple groups of people who are most often overlooked.

“The development is likely to be targeted towards those families and individuals who earn less than 50 percent of the area median income,” Haynes said. “We also intend to provide housing opportunities for homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness, as well as people with developmental and other disabilities.”

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

The city will sell a lot on Engle Street, bordered in blue, for use for affordable housing, and buy a lot on East Main Stree, bordered in red, for use as a public park, including a dog park. (Map by city of Ashland)