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Don't fight common sense

I write in response to your editorial entitled “Don’t fight progress” published in the Tidings January 16. The editorial refers to KDA Homes’ current proposal to build 12 very small cottages (each not over 800 square feet) on the lot at 476 Laurel St. in Ashland (at the intersection of Laurel Street and Mountain View Drive). This proposal is currently being considered by the Ashland Planning Commission.

You have said to those of us who oppose the proposal in its current form, “Don’t fight progress.” Here’s the thing. Many of us in Ashland don’t consider KDA’s proposal very progressive at all. It may “seem” progressive, with touted pollinator gardens and some green space (and no one in the neighborhood is against these things.) It may “seem” progressive since people are mistakenly assuming this proposal is about affordable housing. But look beyond the solar panels and assumptions to see what is lacking.

KDA’s proposal includes no plans for garages or driveways and includes only 12 on-site parking spaces. It is only common sense that 12 houses will bring more than 12 cars, not to mention a need for parking spaces for guests, workers, etc. The existing homes in the neighborhood have driveways and garages that provide personal parking spaces — this prevents overcrowded on-street parking and a normal flow of traffic. By omitting garages and driveways and only providing 12 on-site parking places, KDA’s plan will cause increased on-street parking on the small street of Mountain View Drive to the point of it being maxed out on both sides becoming a “queuing” lane such as the one at A Street. (And prohibiting parking on one side of Mountain View Drive solves nothing except to cause cars to park around the corners, increasing traffic there.)

Research shows that excessive traffic leads to traffic delays, travel time unreliability, increased noise pollution as well as deterioration of air quality. The first two consequences are absolutely unacceptable and life-threatening in light of a wildfire evacuation. The latter two dangerously affect the health of the neighborhood. Additionally, a Mountain View Drive bottleneck will daily seriously impede pedestrian-crossing opportunities for the children who use that street walking to and from Helman Elementary School.

People are assuming that KDA’s proposal for 476 Laurel Str. will add affordable housing to Ashland. Let us be clear. It will not.

KDA’s project is not about affordable housing. Even the developers have said so. It is simply a profit-making development plan. Each “cottage” is currently estimated to sell for around $300,000 or “whatever the market value is at the time.”

The editorial also said the development would allow “younger people to enter the housing market in Ashland and allow them to live in the city where they work.” Sounds great! Unfortunately the more likely scenario is that richer people from out of town will buy the units, rent them out at high prices to the younger people, and increase the rental problem we have in Ashland.

The Laurel Street neighborhood has made it clear that it is not against development, cottages, or green amenities (though I very much hope any new development will not resemble KDA’s last project built next to the high school.) What it is against is a plan that leaves the neighborhood with a permanent traffic and parking nightmare.

What I say is don’t fight common sense. Take the time to look at what all the results will be. I simply ask the Planning Commission to keep the promise of the cottage ordinance and ensure a development’s compatibility with the established neighborhood. I simply ask that our neighborhood be allowed to retain the existing flow of traffic and available amount of on-street parking spaces. These are things that protect the safety and livability of all neighborhoods in Ashland.

Patricia Potter lives in Ashland.

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