Verde Village returns for consideration

With the help of a new provision in Ashland's planning process, Verde Village, a proposed 68-unit subdivision on the 11-acre Ashland Greenhouses site, is making a return appearance to the city's land-use process.

The proposal began at the Ashland Planning Commission last year, but was sidelined while the applicants "revamped their application," according to Community Development Director David Stalheim. During that time, city staff met with the applicants several times "to work through the details of the application," he said.

Because the project requires six different kinds of approval &

ranging from comprehensive plan adjustments, annexation and a land swap with the city, among others &

it will rely on a development agreement, rather than the traditional approaches to approval used in Ashland.

This project is the first time a development agreement, introduced to Ashland by Stalheim, has been used locally.

A development agreement is a contract between the applicants, Greg and Valri Williams, and the city that enables the city to judge the project as a whole rather than each individual approval criteria.

"It will help the city council and the planning commission get a more holistic view of the project," Greg Williams said. "It's an easier way for the decision makers to make a decision."

Under the development agreement, the city council will approve the request for annexation and the land swap. The planning commission will decide about the outline plan, the typical criteria used for a proposed subdivision, and make a recommendation about the development agreement itself.

Half of the land the couple's plan to use for the subdivision is outside of the city limits but still in the urban growth boundary. That half would need to be annexed into the city to be considered for approval. The Williamses also hope to win approval for a land exchange required for the project to be completed as it is now designed. They want to swap 2.5 acres they own along Ashland Creek for 1.3 the city owns that is used as an entrance to the Dog Park. If the land exchange is approved, the entrance to the Dog Park, and the Bear Creek Greenway, would be realigned to follow Ashland Creek.

Williams and his wife Valri recently sold Ashland Greenhouses, but still own the 11 acres the family business operated on for the past 100 years. They plan to turn their land near the Dog Park on the northeast corner of town into what they have described as Ashland's, and possibly Oregon's, first sustainable subdivision.

The streets in the development are designed in such a way to allow all the homes to face south, which allows efficient use of solar panels. adding additional solar panels, which would cost approximately $10,000 for some of the homes, they could generate more energy than they use, Williams said.

The homes will also have water catchment systems and come with solar hot water heaters and a 3-kilowatt solar panel.

"It's going to be the most energy and water efficient development ever built in Oregon," he said at an Ashland Planning Commission meeting last Tuesday night.

Planning commissioner Melanie Mindlin said, "I get that the overall concept is sustainability ... but I want it to be about more than just good intentions. I think there is considerable vagueness as to what will be conditions of approval."

At the Tuesday night meeting, the Williamses reintroduced the project to the planning commission. The commission will deliberate about the project, and its approval criteria at its next regular meeting on August 14, at which time the public will also be able to testify.

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