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Ashland hopes to buy property of missing former NASCAR driver

The city of Ashland is planning to acquire a 21-acre property just outside city limits that was the home of missing former NASCAR racer Harold Hardesty and use if for a variety of purposes, including wetlands where discharged wastewater can cool before entering Bear Creek.

The two tax lots on Bear Creek at 1291 Oak St. are adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Hardesty, 87, walked away from his home and disappeared in 2017. The Sheriff’s Office in April suspended what had been a periodic search for Hardesty’s remains, saying evidence, including his declining health, efforts to acquire a firearm and a security video apparently showing him carrying one when he left his residence for the last time, pointed to suicide. His estate listed the property for sale at $1.5 million.

Hardesty is a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, operated a race track in Medford and raced in 16 NASCAR Grand National races in the 1950s.

According to the staff report, the city negotiated a purchase price of $1.2 million with the Hardesty Trust.

The city’s plan at this point includes a site for fire department training, equipment storage, riparian improvements and potential public parking. The home site would be retained.

Money for the purchase would come from the wastewater fund ($720,000), street fund, water fund and general fund.

Staff has identified a 6-acre parcel to replace its current debris yard on B Street, which has been appraised at $1.8 million to $1.92 million as of January 2018, according to staff report. Staff proposes that the council sell the lot on B Street and use proceeds from that sale to reimburse the funds

The Hardesty parcel also housed a gas station for a number of years. According to a staff report, the city reviewed an environmental evaluation that was conducted by prior owners and found “no significant concerns.”

According to the latest offer in March, the seller expects the sale to move forward before June 30. The council is expected to vote on the potential purchase at its business meeting Tuesday.

Tuesday’s business meeting agenda also includes:

City administrator recruitment process: The council will vote on a process and selection criteria for choosing the next city administrator. Staff reported that the deadline to apply was extended until May 11 due to a low number of applicants. The council and the mayor are asked to help the recruiter to narrow down the semi-finalists of 15 to 25 applicants to a short-list to invite to Ashland. The current proposed timeline has interviews taking place between June 13 to 15, including panel interviews with the City Council, staff and citizen representatives.

Public hearing on a development proposal: The council will continue a land use public hearing on a subdivision proposal at 475 East Nevada St. The applicant has requested a number of exceptions on the affordable housing requirement at its first hearing, prompting the council to ask for additional affordable units. Since then, the applicant has withdrawn its request on several proposals, as it ended its intention to partner with Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity. Staff recommends the council approve the new proposal, as well as a requirement to build three additional small units.

Harold Hardesty stands outside his restored 1940 gas station in Ashland in this file photo. The city hopes to buy the property from his estate.{ } Mail Tribune file photo