State mandate intended to encourage walkable neighborhoods with daily necessities available within 15 minutes of home
By Stephen Floyd, Ashland.news
What if there were fewer barriers for local developers who want to build housing that could significantly reduce residents’ need to drive to meet daily needs? Ashland planners are proposing four different sites throughout the city as prospective neighborhoods that could fit the bill.
Officials from three Rogue Valley cities — Ashland, Talent and Medford — will discuss their ideas at an upcoming public meeting set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13, at the Talent Community Center, 104 E. Main St.
The public is welcome to attend and provide feedback. Refreshments and children’s activities will be available. Spanish-language translation services may be arranged ahead of time.
The meeting will include a presentation on proposed areas for “traditional, more walkable development types,” according to a meeting announcement. Such developments would provide more housing and transportation choices for area residents and be in line with Oregon’s carbon footprint reduction goals. Residents living in such “climate-friendly” areas would be able to meet most of their daily needs — as they relate to work and access to businesses and services — without driving.
Each city will discuss the areas they believe are best-suited as Climate-Friendly Communities and seek public input. Ashland is proposing the Croman Mill site along Mistletoe Road, railroad property along Clear Creek Drive, the downtown core along Main Street and Lithia Way, and an area dubbed the “Transit Triangle” along Highway 99/Siskiyou Boulevard between Indiana Street and Tolman Creek Road and along Highway 66/Ashland Street between Indiana Street and Interstate 5.
“Climate-Friendly Communities” are walkable neighborhoods with most daily necessities within 15 minutes of home, such as work, school and groceries. Supporters believe this will drive down the use of vehicles and reduce climate pollution.
In 2022, the state legislators directed Oregon’s all regions with more than 50,000 residents, including the Rogue Valley, to develop plans for implementing such communities. They said Oregon is not on track to meet its climate-pollution reduction goals by 2050 and have identified vehicle traffic as a significant source of greenhouse gasses.
Planning officials for Ashland, Medford and Talent began phase one of this project earlier this year, including a public forum Feb. 2, to gather input on local priorities for Climate-Friendly Communities. The next step is for local city councils to adopt specific areas as Climate-Friendly Communities and begin studying the steps necessary for these neighborhoods to be compliant with the state’s program, a process that must be completed by the end of 2023.
The April 13 meeting will get cities closer to this goal by giving the public a chance to weigh in on the areas each city is considering. Verbal input will be accepted at the meeting, while online surveys will be available through each city after the meeting.
Once adopted, cities will consider steps such as mixed-use and mixed-density zoning to encourage a wider variety of development within a smaller area, and the repeal of some rules requiring large amounts of parking for apartments, stores and similar developments. Ashland Senior Planner Derek Severson said the city has already been passing similar zoning regulations to encourage development within the Transit Triangle, and adopting the area as a Climate-Friendly Community will help build on these efforts.
Residents with questions about the meeting, including the arrangement of interpretation services, may contact Severson at 541-552-2040 or firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as Medford Principal Planner Carla Paladino at 541-774-2395 or email@example.com, and Talent Community Development Director Kristen Maze at 541-535-1566 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on the statewide program is available at Oregon’s website on “Climate Friendly & Equitable Communities.”
Starting April 14, online surveys will also be available on each city’s project websites:
• Ashland: ashland.or.us/climatefriendly
• Talent: cityoftalent.org/news.asp
Visit oregon.gov/lcd/CL/Pages/CFEC.aspx for more information on climate-friendly communities.
April 3 update: Story expanded and updated.