ashland.news
June 13, 2024

Ashland close to designating Climate Friendly Areas for development

A map detailing proposed "Climate-Friendly Communities" in Ashland, including the Downtown Core (green) along Main Street and Lithia Way, the railroad property (yellow) along Clear Creek Drive, the “Transit Triangle” (blue) along Highway 99/Ashland Street between Indiana Street and Tolman Creek Road and along Highway 66 between Indiana Street and I-5, and the Croman Mill site (red) along Mistletoe Road. City of Ashland image
September 15, 2023

Council to consider plan Tuesday to cluster development to reduce need for cars

By Craig Breon for Ashland.news

The Ashland City Council will consider adopting a formal study of potential Climate Friendly Areas (CFAs) for development at its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 19. If approved, the study will be forwarded to Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) in accordance with Oregon’s new rules under the Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities program, which are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future development by creating areas of more dense housing, commercial uses and green spaces, linked together to minimize the need for cars.

Ashland areas under consideration for CFAs include the Croman Mill District, the Railroad Property, the Transit Triangle, and the downtown. While the downtown might not change much, the other three areas would encompass the vast majority of development in Ashland for the next two decades. Thousands of residential units would be built, accommodating at least 30% of all housing in Ashland by 2041.

Similar studies from Oregon’s major urban areas are due to DLCD by Dec. 31, after which these areas must adopt new maps and development standards for CFAs by Dec. 31, 2024. Those areas are Albany, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene/Springfield, Grants Pass, Medford/Ashland, Portland Metro, and Salem/Keizer.

This tight timeline results from a 2020 directive from then-Governor Kate Brown, responding to Oregon’s failure to stay on-track for state-mandated greenhouse gas emission reductions. Reducing overall vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is crucial to meeting those reduction goals. For Oregon, roughly 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector.

Aspects of the proposed CFAs might seem daunting at first, when just considering state guidelines — for example, buildings of more than 50 feet in height, zero parking requirements, and densities of up to 79 dwelling units per acre. According to city planning staff, at “full potential developability,” the Croman Mill site alone could accommodate 5,142 dwelling units.

The reality will be considerably less impactful. Ashland planning staff expects that developers, “will likely work within the framework and scale familiar in Southern Oregon.”

If the potential CFAs were to develop at a more reasonable 15 dwelling units per acre, for example, Ashland could still meet the requirements of the Climate Friendly Communities program.

The City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the Council Chamber at 1175 East Main St. Proceedings are cablecast live on Channel 9 (or 180), streamed online at rvtv.sou.edu (RVTV Prime), and posted online at bit.ly/coavideos the day after the meeting.

Ashland’s homepage for the Climate Friendly Communities program resides at ashland.or.us/climatefriendly. Ashland planning staff is currently updating the site, and the CFA study should be posted upon approval by the City Council.

For comparison’s sake, Eagle Point’s CFA study can be seen at oregon.gov/lcd/CL/Documents/EaglePointCFAStudy.pdf.

Email Ashland resident, lawyer and former environmental law instructor Craig Breon at ckbtravel@earthlink.net.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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