City proposes stream, wetland buffer rules

The Ashland City Council will consider a new ordinance meant to protect streams and wetlands that could affect about 1,800 properties in town.

The council meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

Ashland has more than 20 streams, with only six currently protected by floodplain rules. A draft Water Resources Map identifies 14 significant wetlands and about 30 possible wetlands, according to a city staff report to the council.

The new ordinance would expand stream buffer zones, which now range from 10 to 20 feet based on the size of the stream, to 30 to 50 feet.

In 2001, the City Council identified the protection of streams and wetlands as a goal. The state also requires cities to inventory significant wetlands and riparian corridors. Cities must examine their local ordinances and update them if necessary to protect the wetlands and riparian corridors.

The city of Ashland had the inventory work done from 2003 to 2005.

Wetlands help clean pollutants from water and reduce flooding, while providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Healthy riparian areas — the areas next to streams —reduce floods, improve water quality, provide habitat, reduce erosion and filter out pollutants, according to city staff Many activities would still be allowed within stream buffer areas, including:

  • tree pruning that isn't so severe that it harms the tree's health or ability to provide shade and prevent erosion;
  • removing non-native vegetation with hand-held equipment, including weedeaters and chainsaws;
  • cutting vegetation with hand-held equipment to reduce wildfire risk;
  • using herbicides on noxious or invasive vegetation in accordance with the product label, although alternative methods like mowing and hand removal are strongly recommended;
  • maintaining an existing lawn;
  • establishing lawns, gardens and porous patios and walkways as long they do not cover more than 150 square feet in the buffer zone;
  • building trails with porous surfaces;
  • and replacing or rebuilding a home or building that already intrudes into the buffer zone, or adding stories, as long as the ground area covered does not increase within the buffer zone.

Other activities would be banned, including:

  • removing a native tree that is six inches in diameter at chest height or larger and
  • removing vegetation unless it is non-native, noxious or invasive or poses a wildfire risk.

Many of the rules covering stream buffers would also apply to wetland buffers.

In cases where the stream and wetland rules excessively limit the development or use of a lot, the owner could apply for a Hardship Variance.

If the buffer areas would limit the number of homes that could be built in a development, homes could be built more densely outside the buffer area.

For more information on the proposed rules, visit

In other business Tuesday night, the council is scheduled to decide whether the Ashland Police Department should apply for a U.S. Department of Justice grant that would fund an additional 605 hours of park patrol for each of the next four years.

The council is also scheduled to decide whether to finalize changes to the sign code.

For a complete list of agenda items and details on each item, visit

Prior to the start of the council meeting, the city will host a reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center lobby to honor the Ashland Woodlands & Trails Association.

The association will be presented with the city's annual James M. Ragland Memorial Volunteer Spirit Community Service Award during the regular council meeting.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or

Share This Story