Our View: The plan's the thing
Opposition to the Normal Neighborhood Plan is not surprising, given many Ashlanders' resistance to allowing the city to grow, but it is disappointing. Ashland will grow; that is inevitable. The question is whether that growth will be carefully planned or unplanned. We vote for the former.
The City Council will hold the first reading of the Normal Neighborhood Plan tonight. A few observations:
No property owner has asked to annex any of the property covered by the plan. So there is no actual development to discuss, just a master plan for development expected to happen slowly over 30 to 50 years.
Developers, not city residents, would foot most of the bill for infrastructure.
Critics say "the broader population of Ashland" was unaware of the plan until recently — perhaps because they don't live in the neighborhood. Property owners in the area were represented on the working group that drafted the plan; the group held nine public meetings following three public hearings starting more than year ago.
Opponents object to the density of the plan: 450 units housing nearly 1,000 people. They say the city's traditional emphasis on infill rather than "sprawl" should continue.
Planned, high-density development is the opposite of sprawl. The "traditional" strategy of resisting expanding the city limits has created the highest housing prices in this part of the state. Elementary schools have closed because young families cannot afford to live here.
Continuing that approach will mean an increasingly exclusive community that belies its own rhetoric of inclusion.