Council to look at tourism, parking issues

The Ashland City Council's meeting on Tuesday is jam-packed with agenda items related to boosting tourism, easing parking problems, providing affordable housing and streamlining land-use rules.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials will be on hand to answer councilors' questions about the Siskiyou Visitor Information Center proposed for just south of Exit 14 along the northbound lanes of Interstate 5.

A rest area higher on the Siskiyou Pass was closed in 1996 after a fatal accident caused by the collision of a semi-truck with a smaller vehicle.

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce, ODOT and state tourism officials have been working since then for a new rest area and center that would provide information to visitors about events, activities, lodging and other amenities.

Some residents have raised concerns about noise, light and traffic impacting neighborhoods near the proposed center.

The City Council is not being asked to make a decision about the center. All land use issues are being handled by Jackson County Planning, which has scheduled a public hearing for 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28 in Medford.

City officials advised people to provide input at that hearing, rather than at the City Council meeting.

Park-and-ride facility

In other business Tuesday night, councilors will consider whether to approve an agreement with Jackson County and the Rogue Valley Transit District to create a park-and-ride lot using federal funds.

Southern Oregon University students and faculty, Ashland Community Hospital workers and others could park at the lot and ride RVTD buses into Ashland, which has limited parking.

The parking lot would be built near the intersection of Valley View Road and Highway 99, on the Talent side of the building that once housed Mr. C's Market.

However, property owner Dr. Gerry Lehrburger has concerns about the purchase of his land for that use.

He has envisioned other uses for the property, such as a farmers' market.

Solar system

On another agenda item, the City Council will decide whether to approve a new solar system at a net cost of $305,000.

Individuals and business owners could voluntarily buy a share of the solar output for $825 a panel and receive a minimum yearly electric bill credit that would total at least $348 to $425 over 20 years, Electric Department Director Dick Wanderscheid said in a memo to the council.

The project allows people to support solar power who have shaded homes or businesses, or who cannot afford full solar systems.

In the worst case scenario, if no one bought shares in the solar system, everyone's electric bill would be increased at a rate of 21 cents per month for a $100 bill in order to cover the cost of building the solar system, Wanderscheid said.

Locally produced power will reduce the amount of high-priced electricity the city has to buy from the Bonneville Power Administration after 2011, he said.

Other items

A variety of other items fill the agenda, including selecting the Ashland Community Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity or the Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation to build five units of affordable housing on city-owned land on Clay Street.

The council will consider whether to extend the application period for the Public Works Director recruitment to Feb. 29 to encourage a larger pool of candidates. As of the deadline on Jan. 28, 18 people had applied.

If time allows, the council is scheduled to continue its discussions on proposed changes meant to streamline the land-use planning process. Councilor Eric Navickas has raised concerns about a proposal to require people who want to speak about a development that has been appealed to first submit their comments in writing.

For a complete agenda and detailed information on each item, visit /Page.asp?NavID=10792.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or

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