The City Council is raising reasonable concerns about a proposal that could add 250 units to the city's housing stock on the former Croman Mill property. But assuming those concerns can be addressed, more housing — especially the affordable variety — is something the city needs, and the property is the largest undeveloped parcel left in the city limits.
Previous plans for the area focused on light industrial zoning in hopes of luring jobs, but nothing has materialized in the past decade. A feasibility study found that infrastructure improvements would be needed, including roads and utilities, to make the area suitable for large-scale employers. The cost of those improvements were too high to make industrial development realistic, city planners say.
The new proposal would focus on housing, because infrastructure costs would be lower. New construction could include cottage housing, subdivisions and small single residence housing, and would be a large enough development that affordable housing would be required as part of the mix.
Some council members expressed concerns about traffic impacts and increased pressure on local schools. Those are legitimate considerations, but developers should be responsible for making necessary improvements. The school district has been losing enrollment in recent years because young families have been priced out of Ashland. A project that would allow more families with children to live in town would be a benefit, not a drawback.
All of this is preliminary, and detailed proposals are still in the works. The city should keep all options open as planning proceeds.