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Housing Commission (View All)

Housing Commission Minutes 5-08-08

Thursday, May 08, 2008



May 8, 2008



Bill Smith called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E Main St., Ashland, OR  97520.


Commissioners Present:


SOU Liaison Alexandra Amarotico

Carol Voisin



Richard Billin


Council Liaison:  Alice Hardesty

Steve Hauck



Aaron Benjamin


Staff Present:: 

Graham Lewis

Nick Frost


Brandon Goldman, Housing Specialist

Regina Ayars

Bill Smith


Carolyn Schwendener, Account Clerk












No one came forth to speak



Staff Presentation

Goldman explained that this action is coming to the City Council in two parts.  The first aspect of the project is the acquisition of the property for affordable housing. The second being the acquisition of the property for parks purposes.   Goldman noted that   if the original proposal for the 10 acre property has an annexation approval for 107 Units, 17 of which would be affordable. 


Goldman said that the City Council had previously identified the sale of three lots on Strawberry Lane, and specified  that the proceeds from those lots are to be used in support of affordable housing.  The Strawberry Lane site itself it is not well designated to have affordable housing units so the intention was to sale the property in order to support affordable housing somewhere else in the City. 


Goldman explained that for housing to be considered affordable people cannot be spending more then thirty percent of their total income on housing costs.  The 10 acre property on Clay Street has been envisioned to be a site for provision of housing to people that make the median income and below.  Goldman said that the Clay Street property would not be purchased in its entirely  for housing development, they envision sixty homes, with a number of them being rentals, put on five of the 10 acres. The remaining 5 acres would be developed as a park. 


Goldman showed pictures of affordable housing located in Ashland pointing out how indistinguishable they are from the market rate housing around them.  The City looks to see that affordable housing is built with longevity in mind and that itís built to a higher standard so that the replacement costs donít negatively impact the project explained Goldman.


ACLT Presentation

Evan Archerd, 550 East Main explained why the City should consider building affordable housing on this particular site. Mr. Archerd said what makes this a good value is that the property has a number of qualities that make it suitable for mixed affordable and workforce housing.

  • Itís hard to find this large of a piece of property in Ashland that is zoned for multi-family housing.   
  • Itís very flat; topography is important making it much cheaper to build on.
  • This property has the City services necessary; water, sewer, storm drain, city streets. 


  • The location is great. Residents would have the ability to walk to the market, drug store, YMCA, parks, restaurants and it is close to schools.  Archerd stated: You can pretty much do all you need to do by foot, or bike, or the bus on Ashland Street, making it possible to live on this property without the need of a car. 


Public Comments

Darren Borgias, 503 Strawberry Lane, spoke representing the Friends of Westwood Park.  Mr. Borgias read his letter in opposition of trading this dedicated park land for acquiring land for affordable housing. He gave a copy of his letter to each Commissioner.


Keith Baldwin, 1176 Beswick Way, spoke as a friend of Westwood Park.  Mr. Baldwin explained his main mission was to ask the Commissioners to either delay or recommend against the park land swap portion of the project.  His reasons were:

  • Decisions regarding park land should be separated from those decisions related to affordable housing, they are two separate subjects.  By Co-mingling these the community is faced with a choice of affordable housing or to protect park land.
  • The park land swap portion of the deal breaks the trust the community places in the City to protect and preserve existing park land.
  •  Westwood Park is part of a Community that was negotiated over a period of eight years between the then land owners and it involved all the existing lots in the area as well as the open spaces and Westwood Park. 

Scott Dixon, 838 Blackberry Lane, spends time walking on that property.   Mr. Dixon said he believes it is a bad precedence to establish that the City is going to begin to sell off parks, even for affordable housing which is an honorable objective. The citizens want to have affordable housing but if it was offered to them as a ballot measure he questioned whether they would agree with the selling of the park. Of course affordable housing is worthwhile and itís a question of how do we fund it and where does the income come from stated Mr. Dixon.  He objects to the idea of selling parks and encouraged the group to scale back the project and see what they can fund without selling off the park. 


Gaia Layser,  503 Strawberry Lane, thanked the Housing Commission members for all the public service they do. Ms. Layser read her letter and gave the Commissioners a copy regarding her concerns related to the proposed land trade.


Ron Roth, 6950 Old Highway 99 South has worked in downtown Ashland for thirty-one years.  Mr. Roth believes if any city is going to do affordable housing they need to recycle existing premises and challenge existing regulatory barriers.  Mr. Roth has seen the small affordable units in the downtown disappear.  Years ago people could work downtown and afford to live there. The best planning process Mr. Roth has seen in the Community was North Mountain Park.  This land trade would provide a park for people living at the Clay Street end of town as well as providing five acres of high density housing.  Mr. Roth strongly recommends that the Housing Commission support this proposed land trade.


Robert McLellan, 500 Strawberry Lane, said they purchased their property in 2000 at which time they believed the two acres of City owned land at the corner of Westwood and Strawberry would be dedicated to park land.  Shortly after purchasing their property the City was planning to subdivide the land into four lots and sell them for affordable housing. Because the property was put up for sale Mr. McLellan and the neighbors formed an organization called the Ashland Woodlands and Trail Association. This organization was intended to look at situations like this and at the parks land that we have collected and continue to collect in order to provide parks and connect them with the trail system.  Mr. McLellan encouraged the Commissioners to re-think the selling off the land as it sets a precedence for future actions. This is land not just for the residents in the Strawberry Westwood area but for citizens of Ashland, itís irreplaceable.  Reconsider keeping it as Parks land and find other ways for affordable housing.


Lance Thompson lives a half mile away from Strawberry Park.  Mr. Thompson shared about his experience with the park.  Every day he hikes on a trail neighboring the park and always assumed it was land being prepared for development.  Mr. Thompson confirmed he shares the sentiments of the Friends of Westwood Park.  Mr. Thompson looks forward to exploring this park more.  People do need to know its public park and not private land.  Itís a beautiful piece of property.


Krista Bolf, 190 Oak Street confirmed that this Commission was here to deal with the Housing portion of the trade not the land swap.   Her understanding is that currently there is 10 acres on the Westwood Park and two of those acres will be traded for five acres of Park Land on Clay Street increasing the total number of Parks land by three acres. Eight acres on Westwood would still remain Parks Land and the three additional acres on Clay Street will probably get more use because itís centrally located where more families exist and use park land, stated Ms. Bolf. The affordable housing element of the trade is being paid for out of the sale of Strawberry Lane property which is designated for affordable housing. At least 45 affordable homes will be built on the Clay Street project.  Ms. Bolf wanted to be sure that the public is aware there is no sale; itís a trade with a net gain of three additional acres of park land.


Catherine Dimino recommended to Commissioners that even though they arenít allowed to consider this she would still like them to recommend to the City Council that the swap not include the dedicated park.


Commissioners discussed the proposal

Billin asked Goldman how fundamental is the Westwood Park swap to the overall project?  Goldman responded that under the City as well at State rules any proceeds from the sale of Park property must be dedicated 100 percent to benefit Parks purposes.  With that division whether or not the Westwood property is included or excluded it wonít have any barring on the number of affordable housing units that can be created.  If the Westwood property goes away the City is still looking at the sale of the Strawberry property in order to support affordable housing noting that the funding for each was distinct  ďParks for parks, housing for housingĒ. 


Mr. Archerd explained that the property is zoned R-2 which currently allows density of thirteen and a half units per acre. The developer can get a twenty-five percent bonus density if they develop it all as affordable housing.  Theoretically they could have over seventy units of affordable housing on the five aces. Mr. Archerd said that if that is what the Commission in conjunction with the Council and the Community decides is in the communityís best interest it could be done. 


Goldman explained that the City acquired the property, approximately 12 acres, for the purpose of putting a water tank on it.   The water tank was relocated to another site on Hitt Road. A resolution was then passed by the City Council dedicating 10 acres of it for Parks Land. Goldman is not aware of any specific agreement that the City was obligated to maintain the two acres as Strawberry Lane properties dedicated to open space.


The Commissioners commended the eloquence of the neighborhood group in defending the existence of Westwood Park but wanted them to remember they testified before the Housing Commission.  The Commissioners also commended Mr. Archerd with the ACLT for their efforts regarding the Cityís affordable housing and workforce housing goals in relations to this project.  This is one of the best sites that have ever been presented to the City and the Housing Commission for development of affordable and workforce housing that would serve the entire community, stated Benjamin.


Amarotico commented that as a representative of students in Ashland the housing costs in Ashland make it literally impossible for students to live in Ashland and at the same time afford school. She believes this is one of the best pieces of properties the City has seen for a long time and the parks land is available for others who could utilize it. Amarotico said this is a good allocation of the trade of properties, because it important to pay attention to the people who cannot afford to live here. 


Hauck/Ayers m/s to recommend to the City Council that they proceed with swapping the land on Strawberry, the three lots, for property in the Clay Street project. Voice Vote:  All AYES. Motion passed.


Ashland Community Land Trust - Bridge Street Property discussion

The Commissioners reviewed the scope and timeline for the project at 404-408 Bridge Street


ACLTís representative, Steve Ennis, explained that there are two two-bedroom units in front of the property at 404-408 Bridge Street that were there when they purchased the lot.  ACLTís proposal is to work with Habitat for Humanity to construct two new three bedroom units in the back portion of the property.  Currently ACLT is working on the Planning Application. Habitat for Humanity board confirmed that they are not prepared to start construction until 2009.  The existing two units will have funds allocated for their remodel .  The front two units will be condos and they will give first right of refusal to each of the tenant to buy them.  If the existing residents canít purchase them due to their income, or other issues, they wonít be evicted and can stay as long as they want and the units will be used as rentals.   

Goldman explained that ACLT is presenting this project to the Commission as part of their Planning Pre-application review process.


Annual Retreat

Goldman suggested that the Commissioners email him with the dates they will be gone and then he will provide the possible dates for the  Annual Retreat .


ADJOURNMENT Ė The meeting was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by,

Carolyn Schwendener

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