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We can't turn back the clock

Fighting a reasonable building won't restore Ashland's small-town feel

Oh, to turn back the clock in Ashland: To make housing affordable. To preserve history. To recapture the town's once laid-back charm.

We sympathize completely with a group calling itself Citizens for Responsible Government that wants Ashland to be a small town again.

And yet we don't support its effort to kill a mixed-use, multistory development proposed at the back of the Ashland Springs Hotel.

The group last month appealed the plan, saying it will help take Ashland in a big-city direction few want it to go. The City Council will consider the proposal Jan. 20.

Ashland's leaders face a complex tangle of issues as they try to steer the city in a direction that will preserve livability. As it has grown over the past couple of decades, Ashland has become expensive and exclusionary. It has lost much of what drew residents years ago. No wonder some are clamoring for a return to the old days.

And yet there's no reason to believe rejecting buildings like the one proposed near the hotel is part of the answer.

— The structure proposed by Ed and Tanya Bemis between the hotel and Hargadine Street is a commercial building in a commercial district. At three stories above the ground, it will be dwarfed in height by the nine-story hotel, which will largely hide it from view.

It will add to the area's parking, and it will incorporate housing. That will increase Ashland's density, a plus according to Oregon land-use goals.

Part of what irks Citizens for a Responsible Government is that the proposal was filed just days before a city ordinance was to take effect limiting building sizes to 45,000 square feet. The new building, partly underground, would be 82,000 square feet in all.

The mistake here is the belief that the project's size spells trouble for Ashland.

This is a case of a big building that fits: It is in an appropriate place, at a reasonable size, and it will complement the area around it rather than harming it.

The council ought to let the project through.

Pay now or later

If Ballot Measure 30 passes on Feb. 3, private pay patients in nursing homes will continue to pay an additional fee of about &

36;8 a month.

But patients and their families shouldn't complain, because the payment will actually save them money. Here's why:

The federal government provides matching funds to states for Medicaid beds in nursing homes, but because of budget cuts, Oregon did not have enough state funds to qualify for the federal match. The &

36;8 monthly fee will bring in an estimated &

36;12.5 million over two years and be matched with &

36;58 million in federal funds.

Why will this save money for those paying the fee? Because if the federal funding is lost, nursing homes across the state will lose a lot of revenue ' about 75 percent of all nursing homes beds in Oregon are Medicaid beds. Because they will still need to keep those beds, nursing home operators estimated, they would need to raise rates by &

36;20 a month for private pay patients to offset the lost funding.

The plan still must get a waiver from the federal government and there's no guarantee that will happen. But if it does and Measure 30 passes, those paying the bills in nursing homes would come out far ahead.