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Croman Mill site in 2009. Photo by Sean Jeter

Croman Mill sat empty too long

The largest unused property in Ashland is being eyed for development, but it remains to be seen whether the property will be used entirely for much-needed housing or contain a commercial element, as well.

At a Planning Commission meeting Jan. 22, the discussion delved into the details of what would have to happen to allow for residential housing and/or mixed use on portions of a 95-acre parcel of the Croman Mill District, located in the southeast quadrant of Ashland.

There’s a lot that would need to happen to make it work, such as:

Infrastructure improvements to add more streets for access and to extend city utilities;

A review of the housing-needs analysis to determine what zoning type would best benefit the change;

A review of the commercial land needs to determine whether mixed-use would be appropriate;

An annexation of about seven acres in the southern portion of the property into city limits;

Changes to the current zoning.

A mix of cottages, small single-family lots and affordable housing has been proposed for the site. Roughly 250 houses could be built on the proposed 65-acre portion of the lot.

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman said there’s a chance the land isn’t needed for commercial use and could solely be used for housing.

He said it was assumed the property was needed for a 20-year supply of commercial land, but 12 years into that proposal that need hasn’t materialized. An update to that analysis will be necessary, he said.

Staff have outlined key components to revising the Croman Mill District Plan, such as the need to process the application for annexation and to identify locations for the affordable housing.

Planning commissioners Michael Dawkins and Haywood Norton said they were concerned that there haven’t been studies on residential housing, only workforce studies, because the property was originally intended to suit employment needs rather than provide housing.

“What I’m hearing now is here comes the memorandum of understanding without any studies conducted yet,” Norton said. “I’m not seeing a cart before the horse. I’m not even seeing a horse right now.”

Commissioner Lynn Thompson said she thought some rather expensive improvements were discussed during the last conversation.

Planning Manager Maria Harris said there were potential expensive improvements, such as a parking structure, the extension of the central bike path and a central park, but it all depends on the final design.

The revenue brought in from the developments would most likely cover the cost of the construction of a full central boulevard and maybe some additional neighborhood streets.

“The opportunity to provide residential housing would provide the property owners the appropriate funding to generate revenue for the road installation,” Goldman said.

If the project moves forward, staff anticipates preparing a scope of work for the council to review by late spring or early summer, according to a staff report.

Ashland City Council is scheduled to review the update to the project Tuesday, Feb. 19.

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

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