Clay Street land swap clears hurdle

The Ashland Housing Commission voted unanimously to recommend swapping three half-acre lots on Strawberry Lane for five acres of Clay Street property to be used for affordable housing.

Many people who attended the meeting spoke out against the swap, but cited a different land swap that involves park lands, which the Housing Commission has no authority over.

Several members of the newly formed Friends of Westwood Park said they oppose the city's plan to swap two acres of what they refer to as "Westwood Park," currently an unnamed and unmarked 10-acre city park off Westwood Street, with five acres on Clay Street for a neighborhood park and expansion of the city-owned YMCA soccer field.

The Ashland Parks Commission will make a recommendation on the park land for park land swap, and the housing commission's recommendation is only on the housing land for housing land swap.

The Parks Commission held a public meeting in April and continued the meeting for June 23.

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman, the city's former affordable housing director, explained the two-part process to the commission and the public, stating that the housing commission will make its recommendation for the housing acquisition and the parks commission will make its recommendation on the parks acquisition. Goldman went on to say that the city council will then take both recommendations into consideration when it holds its public hearing in July.

Goldman highlighted the need for affordable housing in Ashland, pointing out that the average home price in Ashland in 1989 was $112,000, compared to 2007, that puts the average price at $438,000.

"But the wages here have not significantly increased," he said.

Brandon said adding the approximately five acres to an already city-approved subdivision on Clay Street, known as Willowbrook Subdivision, would increase the number of affordable housing units from 17 to 45, plus an additional 15 workforce units.

Ed Archer with the Ashland Community Land Trust said the Clay Street site for affordable housing was unique for several reasons.

He said it's rare in Ashland to find such a large area that's flat and zoned for multi-family housing. Archer also said that city services, except for streets, were already in and that the site was within walking or biking distance of stores, the YMCA, restaurants, parks and schools.

Commissioner Aaron Benjamin told Darren Borgias, a representative of Friends of Westwood Park who opposes the two-acre park land swap, that he was a very eloquent speaker.

"But this is one of the best sites for affordable housing that's come before us in a long time," he said. "It would serve the entire community. I hope you'll be thinking along those lines."

Reach reporter at 482-3456 x226 or .

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