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Ashland council approves Normal plan

After several years of hearings and planning and 60 public meetings, Ashland City Council Tuesday approved the Normal Neighborhood Master Plan, which allows developers to apply for annexation and building — and enables the city to build infrastructure, which will be partly paid for by residents of Ashland.

The complex and controversial plan for the 94 acres centered around East Main, Walker and Ashland streets passed on second reading by a 4-1 vote. Councilor Carol Voisin dissented, saying the plan should focus more on infill to achieve density, and she objected to the city “serving as a bank when that ought to be the responsibility of the developer.”

Voisin said it’s risky to proceed when the Oregon Department of Transportation could deny Ashland another railroad crossing, but Mayor John Stromberg said that with an existing crossing, Normal can be modified without that (limitation on the number of crossings in town) coming up.

Councilor Mike Morrison decried the neighborhood as “overplanned,” and it’s “almost as if the city feels it owns the property. We take 25 to 30 percent of the land and say it’s open space and can’t be built on ever.”

Morrison “grudgingly” voted for it but called city regulation tight and strict and noted that the town’s best developments were “pretty much hands off” by the city.

The land is currently outside city limits. Any development there would be under county rules, unless the developer requested annexation to the city. The new ordinances update decades-old rules regarding how any newly annexed property could be developed. Build-out of the property is expected to take decades at current growth rates.