Planners narrowly decide to continue with Croman draft

In a narrow vote, the Planning Commission decided Tuesday to continue developing plans to rezone the Croman Mill plot — instead of scraping major elements of the proposal.

Commissioners voted 5-3 to continue to zone some of the 65-acres located east of Tolman Creek Road for offices.

Commission Vice Chair Michael Dawkins and commissioners Melanie Mindlin and Tom Dimitre said they wanted the privately owned land to be zoned entirely for industrial use.

Commissioner Larry Blake changed his mind halfway through the discussion because other commissioners and city staff members convinced him to move forward with the plan, he said after the meeting.

"I'm relatively new to the community," the three-year Ashland resident said. "I always want to listen to the commission members who have been here longer."

Commissioner Debbie Miller, who has appeared to favor zoning the land strictly for industrial use, was absent from the meeting.

Dawkins, a longtime Ashland resident, grew emotional as he made his case for saving the land for manufacturing and urged the commission to scrap major elements of the current proposal.

"Make no mistake about it, when we do this plan it will, at least for the near future, remove any type of M1 (industrial) employment from Ashland," he said. "I think the whole plan is an irresponsible piece of sprawl."

Other commissioners, however, said they welcomed the chance to have more white-collar employment in Ashland and that there was still space on the land for some manufacturing plants.

"What's wrong with an office park that looks good and provides good jobs for people?" Commission Chair Pam Marsh said. "I want those jobs because I want to be able to see families be able to settle here and live here and buy a house here."

The City Council has already approved preliminary plans for the project and was looking for feedback on details of it — not a discussion on whether to scrap it altogether, said Councilman Eric Navickas, the liaison to the commission.

"The sort of big picture questioning of this plan ... it's really not beneficial as far as the use of your time," he told the commission during the discussion. "To come back with a recommendation that we should throw it out all together isn't going to be beneficial to council at this point."

Still, Marsh said the commission needed to discuss the larger issues because they keep cropping up at meetings.

Some commissioners have argued throughout the Croman Mill planning process that the council has left them in the dark about the plans — or hasn't taken their complaints seriously.

Despite Navickas' comments, Dawkins said he would prefer to delay the planning process rather than push through a proposal he didn't like.

"This is sort of like talking about the war," Dawkins said. "It's like, 'We're so far into this sucker we cant abandon it now,' and I always think this kind of reasoning is kind of illogical."

After the discussion and vote, Blake said he hoped commissioners on both sides of the issue felt as though they had voiced their opinions and could move on.

"I think there were some resentments or strong feelings that hadn't been given a good opportunity to be expressed and that happened tonight," he said.

The commission will continue discussion details of the Croman Mill plan at its Oct. 13 meeting.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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