Multiple appeals have stalled project for years, but developer says ‘I will be back’
By Morgan Rothborne, Ashland.news
A large housing project planned for Ashland was apparently scrapped by its developer Tuesday night after years of delays and appeals.
Developer Robert Kendrick used his comment period during the City Council meeting to make a terse announcement that he would be “withdrawing” his application for the Grand Terrace development at 511 Highway 99 North.
“On information from my attorney tonight — with respect to staff — I’m having to withdraw the application,” Kendrick said. “I don’t do this lightly. … I first applied in 2014, took me five years to even get the application in. With this information here, I have to withdraw, but I will be back.”
Grand Terrace’s plans included 10 buildings with a total of 230 apartments, but the 16.86 acre lot for the development needed to be annexed into the city of Ashland, according to meeting materials. The city approved the annexation and several requested code exemptions in December 2022. Nonprofit group Rogue Advocates then appealed the decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).
Tuesday’s agenda item was a first reading of recommendations and findings of the Ashland Planning Commission’s review of LUBA’s decision, which recommended changes to the size of the apartments and the parking for the development, according to meeting materials.
Rogue Advocates has appealed the city of Ashland’s approval of the Grand Terrace Development multiple times over the years, Kendrick said. He argued that, while the nonprofit’s stated mission is to protect farms and waterways, it has used its opposition to the Grand Terrace development for fundraising, he said. Kendrick stated his development was intended to be good for “the community and the planet’s health,” by including designs to support pedestrians, bicycles and mass transit while offering small, affordable units.
Controlled burn contract approved
In other council business, Wildfire Division Chief Chambers requested approval for a four-year contract with Grayback forestry for prescriptive burning not to exceed $700,000. The big price tag is intended to accommodate possible fluctuations in costs for individual burn days, he said.
On any given burn day, varying conditions can mean different levels of staff are needed to safely burn. With a large spending cap, Chambers will be able to work with Grayback over the next four years without continually returning to council to ask for more funds and grant funding will continually be sought to cover the costs of the contract, he said.
The contract will include new burn projects to take place in the watershed around Lithia Park, he said.
“We just never know where that one fire is going to start, and the prescribed burn in the right spot might make it the catastrophe that didn’t happen,” Chambers said.
The council unanimously approved the contract.
The council also heard a presentation from the Department of Environmental Quality on its tentative acceptance of a clean-up plan for the Railyard site. The plan would prepare the site for mixed-use residential and commercial development by excavating 8.7 acres of contaminated soil and consolidating it on a 3-acre section of the property under a “clean soil cap.”
Council was informed DEQ will make the ultimate decision and the public comment period has been extended to Oct. 31. Councilor Eric Hansen offered a motion to express the city’s support for the proposed plan, which passed unanimously.
Interim Human Resources Director Molly Taylor presented the results of a survey of Ashland city staff. The city’s employee turnover rate has dropped from its 2021 high of 15% to 8%. Positive responses focused on a belief the city is headed in the right direction. Negative comments included an comment that City Council creates new initiatives without understanding the resulting workload. Some respondents pointed to the new shelter at 2200 Ashland St. as an example.
Email Ashland.news reporter Morgan Rothborne at firstname.lastname@example.org.