Walkable communities, other steps toward reducing climate pollution on the table Feb. 22
By Stephen Floyd, Ashland.news
The Ashland City Council will receive an update on Climate Friendly & Equitable Communities during a special business meeting Wednesday, Feb. 22, as local and state administrators consider related land use proposals.
Updates may include the potential creation of focus groups among area residents, as well as public feedback from a regional forum held Feb. 2 for residents in Ashland, Talent and Medford.
City leaders have until Dec. 31 to identify and study potential Climate-Friendly Areas (CFA), and until the end of 2024 to adopt specific CFAs. These adopted areas will then be incorporated into the city’s Transportation System Plan by 2029, as well as other long-range land use standards.
The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) adopted new rules in 2022 requiring development of CFAs in regions with more than 50,000 residents. This was part of broader efforts to reach a goal by the Oregon legislature to reduce climate pollution by 75 percent in 2050.
Vehicle transportation has been identified as a significant source of climate pollution, and the goal of CFAs is to create walkable communities which do not require the use of vehicles for most everyday activities. During the Feb. 2 forum, DLCD Planner Evan Manvel said an ideal CFA will be a mix of residential, retail and office spaces that allow residents to grab lunch, head to work, drop off their laundry or share a cup of coffee without having to leave their own neighborhood.
“They’re walkable areas where you can meet more than one of your needs at a time,” he said.
Reducing vehicle use could also bring down expenses in a household, said Manvel. He said some families spend as much as 20 percent of their income on transportation, and a well-designed CFA could significantly reduce this expense.
CFAs require mixed-use, high-density development and Manvel said cities are encouraged to look at sites that are already well-suited for this such as downtown cores. He also said cities can develop multiple CFAs and do not have to concentrate climate-friendly development in one area.
The new rules also discourage the use of required parking in zoning laws, as this encourages vehicle use and reduces developable land in an area. While parking spaces are not banned, cities are encouraged to weigh parking requirements against the benefits of CFA-specific developments.
Electric vehicle charging stations are also encouraged within a CFA, and any new housing or mixed-use development with at least five units would be required to have the electrical capacity for a charging station to be installed at some point in the future.
Manvel added these regulations can still be adjusted as the program rolls out. DLCD values public feedback, he said, particularly at the local level since it will be local officials who enact these changes, and input from residents will be used to shape the rules going forward.
“The program is not set in stone,” he said. “It’s a living program.”
Planning officials in Ashland, Talent and Medford are making plans for a second public forum. Once finalized, details will be published on their respective city websites.
The council business meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, in the Council Chamber at 1175 E. Main St., Ashland. Proceedings are cablecast live on Channel 9 (or 180), streamed online at rvtv.sou.edu, and posted online at bit.ly/coavideos the day after the meeting.
To see the city staff report prepared for the meeting regarding the Climate Friendly & Equitable Communities program, click here.
Feb. 19 update: Changes made to reflect that the Feb. 22 meeting will now be a special called business meeting, not a study session.