Plans for development coming into focus — slowly
By Craig Breon for Ashland.news
An update on cleanup and redevelopment plans for the 61-acre Croman Mill site on the city’s southern end was given to the Ashland City Council at its business meeting Tuesday evening. The site is so important to the city’s future planning that the council has asked for quarterly updates as planning proceeds.
The sheer size of the mill site gives the developers and the city a palette of choices on issues such as the future mix of uses, densities, height of structures, and the interconnections for cars, transit, and pedestrians both within the site and between the site and adjacent development.
Croman Mill will likely be listed as one of Ashland’s future Climate Friendly Areas, part of a state plan for urban areas to provide land for more dense, mixed-use housing and business projects designed to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and associated greenhouse gases.
The original actions creating the Croman Mill District, dating from 2010 and 2011, envisioned a large area of primarily industrial development, situated close to the freeway and largely separate from housing. Mike Weinstock, representing Townmakers LLC, the current Croman Mill developers, cited big box shopping or corporate centers as planned-for uses back in 2010.
In the last decade, however, trends both local and regional increasingly call for mixed-use development at higher densities within existing urban areas and incorporating a mix of housing types and price points, as opposed to more traditional single-family homes and blocky apartments.
One of the key facts emerging Tuesday was the proposed division of the land, providing roughly one-third for commercial and light industrial uses while allocated two-thirds to residential uses. Some of the property could serve both purposes, with apartments above shops or residential units intentionally designed as live/work spaces.
If the project proceeds as planned, Ashland residents would first notice new development along Siskiyou Boulevard, which Townmakers refer to as Phases 1 and 2. It is typical for developers of large parcels to use profits from the first phases of development to help fund the future phases, lessening the amounts needed for up-front costs.
One potentially controversial element of the project is the possible establishment of an urban renewal district, which would use taxpayer funding to help provide some of the infrastructure on the site or facilitate affordable housing elements. Such funding mechanisms will likely come after preliminary site designs, which Townmakers will submit to city staff this week, along with suggested Municipal Code amendments, annexation documents, and results of a traffic study.
The timetable for the project remains unclear. The proposal to phase development would likely allow Townmakers to adjust the project over time, based on market demands, within approved parameters. Additionally, development of some areas cannot proceed without needed cleanup of toxics on the site.
As previously reported, cleanup on the former mill site will focus on soils from former wood treatment and burning areas, which left behind toxics such as dioxins and furans. From sampling done to date, two possible methods of disposal have emerged: either hauling the contaminated soils to a traditional landfill or to a landfill capable of incinerating the toxins. Total soil to be removed is approximately 1,200 cubic yards, or about 100 standard dump truck loads.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) — rather than the city of Ashland — has final approval of cleanup plans. Brandon Goldman, Ashland’s Community Development Director, could not give a solid timeline for how the cleanup process will proceed, but said that more details should be available by spring of 2024.
Weinstock, speaking for Townmakers, described the remediation requirements as “manageable” and “nothing scary,” reassuring those, including council members, who would like to see this development process flow expeditiously.
Email Ashland resident, consultant and former environmental law instructor Craig Breon at email@example.com.