Official says Croman plan misguided

Michael Dawkins, vice chairman of the Planning Commission, is concerned that rezoning the Croman Mill property will fracture Ashland and leave downtown struggling.

The Ashland native thinks that development should be concentrated closer to downtown and that empty space on the outskirts of town, where the Croman property is located, should be left for gritty manufacturing tasks.

"I think what we've come up with is a Croman plan that detracts from downtown instead of adding to what is already there," he said.

Dawkins is so opposed to the city's plans for the property that he's trying to drum up resistance to them. He's talking to downtown business owners about the possible ill effects of the plans and he's writing a letter to the City Council that explains his position.

Although a few council and commission members are sympathetic to Dawkins' concerns, they might not vote against the plans, which are popular with a majority in both groups, he said.

"The Croman plan, as far as I can see, is just going to go on through because everybody's put all this time and effort into it," he said at last week's Planning Commission meeting, "but I am going to strongly oppose it and I am going to try to have some kind of dialogue about: Is this really where we want our town to go?

"I think the Croman plan pushes us further away from the goal rather than bringing us closer to it," he said.

City officials have drawn up the plans, which call for rezoning the Croman plot, located east of Tolman Creek Road. The plans would allow offices, shops, low-key manufacturing plants, condos and a park to be built on the 65-acre, privately owned property.

Dawkins said he fears that a new large-scale development on the Croman property would draw more attention away from downtown, leaving the city spread out and more suburban-like.

He's also worried that constructing offices on the property will create more white-collar jobs, when he thinks the city really needs more blue-collar jobs in order to be sustainable.

"This is the last piece of property in the city that we can do anything that would be noisy, dirty, that sort of thing," he said.

Also, because the Croman property is close to an Interstate 5 onramp, Dawkins thinks that the majority of people who would work in the new offices would commute to Ashland from outlying cities, further hemorrhaging the city, he said.

The Planning Commission is in the process of reviewing the plans. If the commission approves them, they will go to the City Council next.

Plexis Healthcare Systems Inc., a medical software company, has shown interest in building its headquarters on the land, according to city officials.

The Croman property owners are please with the city's proposed zoning changes, said Mike Montero, whose company, Montero & Associates, represents the owners.

"Frankly we salute it and we support it," he said at last week's Planning Commission meeting. "We're really quite pleased with what the city has come up with."

Montero said he doesn't think that the plans will result in the splintering of Ashland. Rather, he thinks they will improve the local economy by allowing growing businesses to expand and stay in the city.

"We really think this layout sets up well for that," he said.

At the meeting, Dawkins grew heated as he shared his views on the Croman plans. Later, he explained that he's upset that he's the only one who seems to be vocally challenging the city's plans to rezone the property.

"I don't really cherish the role of being the point man on this, but no one else seems to be really willing to take it up and I do feel very strongly about it," he said.

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

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