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No welcome mat yet for Garden Cottages

The first cottage housing project since the city tweaked zoning rules last year received an unenthusiastic response from neighbors to the proposed site at a Planning Commission meeting Tuesday. Seven nearby residents expressed concerns about safety and density regarding KDA Homes’ proposed development called The Garden Cottages.

The 12-unit development has been proposed for 476 N. Laurel St., an L-shaped lot at the intersection of Laurel Street and Mountain View Drive. Each cottage would be no more than 800 square feet. Some cottages are attached to each other and some have more space between them, but they’re all clustered around a single, open green space with 12 off-street, covered parking spaces.

Many neighbors expressed concerns that the site design is too minimal and that a fire truck would not have access to some of the units in the case of an emergency. Other neighbors were concerned that street parking on both sides of the street would turn Mountain View Drive into a queuing lane, which could be dangerous in the case of a wildfire evacuation.

Robert Lane, one of these neighbors, said there are approximately 45 existing homes that depend on Mountain View Drive as one of two escape routes in an emergency. He described one of the routes, Parkside Drive to Orange Street, that creates a bottleneck due to parked cars. His fear is that the only other option would also turn into a bottleneck. He said he would support the project if there is a reduction in units or a widening of the street to accommodate the additional parking.

“While such queuing lanes were thought appropriate in the past, in light of the recent wildfires in communities such as Paradise, Redding and Santa Rosa the bottlenecks could prove life-threatening in an emergency situation,” Lane said in a written statement to the commission.

Representatives from KDA Homes described the development as sustainable and efficient. They proposed solar panels on the cottages and covered parking area with the intention that the development meet Net Zero standards, meaning it would produce as much or more energy than it consumes. They also intend that the cottages qualify as Earth Advantage Platinum certified, which is a “conservation home certification program intended to produce high-performance sustainable homes,” according to the commission packet.

They intend to plant a pollinator garden in the open green space and retain a lifelong housing certification to allow residents to age in place, a local program through the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

Each unit would have bike parking under its covered alcove, and a centralized bike parking barn would be provided.

An on-site storm-water detention facility capable of accommodating a 25-year storm event would be installed, as well, according to the commission packet.

Caleb Doyle was one of two people who expressed gratitude toward the project. He said there are not many affordable housing options for young people in Ashland.

“I am very inspired by the innovative design features which take into consideration our environment, local bee population, affordability, our aging population and our city’s need for smaller housing,” Doyle said. “From someone that is in their 20s and preparing themselves to jump into the housing market, I do not see many housing opportunities or projects, especially in the Ashland area, with an entry price point like the Garden Cottage development.”

Casey McEnroe, fifth-grader at Willow Wind, said he often rides his bike along those streets with friends and that there’s a lot of biker/pedestrian traffic from kids in the area.

“There should not be any hedges or walls at the end of the driveway so that it provides clearance for drivers coming out to see the street and for people coming up on the street to see the drivers,” McEnroe said. “There are tons of kids there.”

He also said he likes the idea of a garden and doesn’t want to see a bunch of cement where there is currently a “pretty barn.” Part of the plan includes demolishing several abandoned buildings on the property in disrepair, including an old red barn.

The property makes an L shape, with a very thin sliver reaching the full lot length of Mountain View Drive. Mark Knox, KDA founding partner, said they plan to install a sidewalk and planting strip along the developer’s frontage and the neighboring frontage to “create a complete link of pedestrian refuge.”

Atudents walking to Helman Elementary School often walk on the road in this area.

Commissioners asked questions of staff and the applicant during the presentation, but didn’t comment on whether they were leaning toward or against project approval. The record will remain open until Jan. 15. The public may rebut any added evidence until Jan. 22, and the applicant may rebut until Jan. 29. A decision should be made at the Feb. 12 Planning Commission meeting.

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

An artist’s conception of the type of proposed cottages. Image by Lindemann Design