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Ashland housing project gets go-ahead

The Ashland Planning Commission this week approved a new 29-unit development on the southwest corner of East Main Street and South Mountain Avenue.

The commission spent several hours asking questions and looking at plans Tuesday night before approving the project presented by Ashland developer Mark Knox, who asked the commission to consider the need for new living spaces below Ashland's median cost of $417,000.

“This is workforce housing," he said. "These are our most affordable units, and they are small and sustainable.”

The development, at 1068 E. Main St., will occupy a nearly two-acre lot behind a 1909 farm house. Knox decided to leave the house to preserve the street view. The house will be rolled onto a new foundation closer to the sidewalk, but it will still be back far enough to preserve its appearance as an old house on a large lawn. The house will be sold separately from the townhouses as a single-family property.

The development will have three-bedroom units and one-bedroom townhouses. Two apartments will also be in the mix.

Planning Commission members had questions about the back units, which will be nearest to the Ashland High School football field, with some suggesting the 6-foot space between the football field and the development would not be wide enough. Knox said that because it would be the backside of the units and the bottom would be garages, he did not think more space was needed.

“If we have to (expand the setback), it will kill the project,” he said. “We’re building livable housing,” he added, saying that a wider setback would force him to shrink other parts of the development or remove the back row of houses, which are the one-bedroom, less-expensive units, which would increase the prices of the units.

The commission agreed with his proposed setback, noting that, considering the school has roughly 12 feet of space on its side, the development met the requirement.

Some people who attended the meeting expressed concerns about saving trees.

“I really appreciate his efforts to preserve trees and the history of the area,” said resident Dara Crockett. “I also support efforts to preserve trees along Mountain Avenue."

The project calls for creating an entrance from Mountain Avenue, where there are two large trees. Knox said they could preserve the largest and healthiest tree by creating a cut-out for it in the sidewalk. The Tree Commission approved the removal of 12 of the 28 trees on the lot, but Knox said they’ve been able to get that number down to 10.

“Also, we’re not just cutting down trees," Knox added. "We’re also planting 32 smaller trees on the property.”

“The first thing will be to roll the house onto the new foundation,” said Knox. After that, crews will begin preparing the property for the rest of the development.

— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.