New theater headquarters OK'd

After half a dozen residents spoke out against the proposed median on Ashland Street, the Planning Commission decided to disallow the median, citing safety concerns, but approved the Coming Attractions Theatres development at its Wednesday night meeting.

The commission couldn't find any middle ground between facts from engineers and anecdotal evidence from residents regarding the median, which was proposed to stretch from Clay to Faith streets, eliminating left turns from Clay Street onto Ashland Street and forcing residents to do a U-turn at Faith Street to head the opposite direction.

The project has driven the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, now housed in the building planned for reconstruction, to start looking for a new home.

The commission voted 8-0 to have a little faith in the residents' testimonies and to base their decision on "gut feeling," as Commission Chair John Stromberg put it. Commissioner Tom Dimitre arrived late to the meeting and was not included in the vote.

"We're caught between a rock and a hard place," Stromberg said at the meeting. "If we're going to make this one (intersection) safe, we're going to make this (other) one potentially more dangerous."

The commissioners felt that while eliminating left turns from Clay Street might improve safety, having people do U-turns at Faith Street would create a more hazardous problem than already exists.

At the commission's October meeting, the median had been proposed just for Clay Street, but at Wednesday's meeting, an engineer hired by the city announced that he thought the best solution would be to extend the median to Faith Street.

The engineer, Marc Butorac, said there was "an acute safety issue" and liability concern at the Clay and Ashland streets intersection, that he felt the median was "a necessary treatment."

The Oregon Department of Transportation also said the median should be installed and could still be required because ODOT is not subject to Planning Commission decisions.

Greg Jones, who lives on Clay Street, was one of the people who spoke against the median at the meeting.

"I'm absolutely not opposed to this development," he said. "But by putting U-turns there, we will be making one of the worst intersections in this town worse. That intersection's an accident waiting to happen."

According to Evan Archerd, who owns and is developing a property across the street from the Coming Attractions Theatres lot, there have been two deaths because of car crashes at the Faith Street intersection and none at the Clay Street intersection.

The approved Coming Attractions Theatres project will convert a one-story house on Ashland Street to a three-story office building, which will serve as the company's headquarters.

Condos on Siskiyou

The commission also began hearing testimony on the proposed construction of 13 condos at 2300 Siskiyou Blvd. near Bellview Avenue.

The condo plans, submitted by Ashland builder Steve Asher, call for demolishing the existing house on the property and constructing five buildings around the perimeter of the lot.

Asher said he wanted to build a sustainable development and instead of installing standard city sidewalks, he hoped to repair the existing black asphalt path and plant more trees around the path.

A small group of nearby residents attended the meeting to speak against the project, because they feel the area is too crowded already and that standard sidewalks should be installed, according to Carol Sunahara, who lives on Bellview and spoke at the meeting.

The commission ran out of time to vote on the matter and will take up the issue again at its Dec. 9 meeting, along with a proposal to create a new lot on Vista Street near Glenview Drive, where a home could eventually be built.

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