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Tidings file photoA dozen structures, mostly homes in the Oak Knoll neighborhood, were destroyed in a 2010 fire in Ashland. That area is outside the current wildfire hazard zone, which the city may soon expand.

Expanded wildfire hazard area gets Planning Commission OK

An ordinance that would expand a wildfire hazard zone to include the entire city of Ashland came one step closer to adoption Tuesday after the Ashland Planning Commission unanimously recommended its approval.

The amended proposal will be discussed by the City Council at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, in the Council Chamber at 1175 E. Main St.

The proposal would require new structures to meet improved fire safety requirements. Building owners would have to clear dead or dying vegetation within five feet and tree canopies within 10 feet. The ordinance also would prohibit planting of certain flammable plants, such as juniper and blackberry bushes.

Although commissioners voted unanimously to move the proposal forward to the City Council, some said they thought the amendments were excessive.

Michael Dawkins, president of the Ashland Garden Club, said he’s glad he no longer relies on landscaping for a living because it would be difficult with the passing of these amendments.

“I understand exactly where the fire department is coming from. It’s their job to be overprotective of us,” Dawkins said. “But, I think the plant list is over the top; however, because it’s all tied in with the entire city of Ashland being a wildfire zone, I agree with that.”

Commissioner Troy Brown Jr. agreed that the ordinance is strict and said there’s really no way for the city to be able to fully supervise every new fence, roof and plant that is brought into town.

“Because it’s such an old community and most of the buildings are already here … I think if you try to read it to the letter of the law, five feet away from the building is a little ridiculous,” Brown said. “But I also think there are ways to work those things out.”

He said he appreciates that the restrictions would affect only new construction and includes plans to negotiate with and educate others about the hazards of the older structures.

“I think this is a good start. It’s not the begin-all and it’s not the end-all, but we need something to help us move forward,” Brown said.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

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