I. CALL TO ORDER: 7:00 PM, via Zoom
Chair Haywood Norton called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Commissioners Present: Staff Present:
Michael Dawkins Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Haywood Norton Brandon Goldman, Planning Manager
Roger Pearce Derek Severson, Senior Planner
Lynn Thompson April Lucas, Development Services Coordinator
Lisa Verner Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant
Absent Members: Council Liaison:
Kerry KenCairn Paula Hyatt
Community Development Director Bill Molnar made the following announcements:
III. PUBLIC FORUM
The Commission heard from two prospective applicants for the vacant Planning Commission seat, Eric Navickas and Doug Knaur.
IV. DISCUSSION ITEMS
A. Croman Mill District Plan Update - Townmakers LLC.
The Commission heard a proposal from Townmakers, LLC regarding the former Croman Mill site. Their team was comprised of:
Mike Weinstock, Developer Michael Mehaffy, Urban Planner
Alan Harper, Land use Legal Advisor Laurance Qamar, CNU-A Urban Designer
Darren Sandeno, Engineering Planner
Urban Planner Michael Mehaffy presented a slideshow detailing Townmakers’ plans to create a new mixed-use neighborhood on the former Croman Mill site. This new neighborhood would comprise approximately five hundred new homes, and include bike paths, walkways, community gardens, and enclosed greenways that would connect the community. The nearly sixty-five-acre neighborhood would be made up of light-industrial, mixed-use buildings and affordable housing from single apartments to family dwellings. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as market trends towards an increase in remote work, Townmakers, LLC. hopes to create a neighborhood that includes small businesses, workshops, and dwellings that allow for an increased opportunity for its residents to work from home. The proposal would be to create a neighborhood in which one could live, work, and engage in recreational activities all within the community, while still being connected to the greater city (See Attachment #1).
The Planning Commission asked the following questions of the design team:
With past projects TownMakers LLC started with detached houses, but very quickly moved to Row-houses and flats above stores. The goal is price diversity, even if one kind would be more profitable. As time goes on this sort of community would become more valuable if it were diversified. The current plan would be to combine differently priced units throughout the neighborhood and not separate lower-income and higher-income homes within the district.
The roads would be designed to create slow-moving traffic, so the goal would be to integrate cycling and street traffic rather than diverting cyclists to a separate bike lane. This also reduces the required width of roadways. However, two routes are being considered as dedicated bike lanes. One would come down the center of the community on either side of the central greenway, while the other would travel along the railway. Further discussion would be required. As for childcare, that could be potentially located within one of the neighborhood courtyards where it would be protected from traffic. This would create a safe, closed environment for children.
Saraya Lumbreras/Ms. Lumbreras thanked the Commission and the applicants for their work in developing the Croman Mill site. She requested that all development on the plot be made will all renewable energy to safeguard the community from the effects of climate change. She cited her personal experience in witnessing her family’s struggle with health issues, as well as the Rocky Mountain Institute and the De Mayo Clinic in describing the negative health effects caused by fossil fuels. According to these studies it was found that in households burning gasses, such as those used in stoves and gas heating, produced fifty to four-hundred times more carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide than fully electric homes. Because of this in many instances short and long-term nitrogen dioxide levels in homes with gas stoves exceeded outdoor EPA air quality limits. Ms. Lumbreras concluded by requesting that the City of Ashland move to 100% renewable energy for city use and in development of the Croman Mill site (See Attachment #2).
Anya Moore/Ms. Moore thanked the Commission for its work in the City of Ashland. She requested that the Planning Commission recommend to the City Council adopt formal electrification policies, immediately work to reduce gas emissions, and ensure that all future developments in Ashland are done with renewable energy. According to the 2021 State of Oregon Biennial Report nearly one-third of the state’s carbon emissions are a result of households that rely upon fossil fuels. Approved in 2017, Ashland’s Climate and Energy Action plan sought to end the city’s reliance on fossil fuels by 2050. Ms. Moore emphasized that, on its current trajectory, Ashland would not be able to meet these goals unless it committed to adopting formal electrification policies, immediately reduced carbon emissions, and ensured that all future development was purely electric (See Attachment 3).
Mira Saturen/Ms. Saturen thanked the Commission and applicants for their work for Ashland and the opportunity to speak. She requested that the Croman Mill site be developed to run solely on renewable energy, citing the health benefits for citizens, climate, and the potential jobs such a policy would create. She suggested that homes built running on renewable energy saw a reduction in housing costs over the household’s lifetime, and eliminated the necessary cost of transitioning to renewable energy in the future. Ms. Saturen further detailed the effects of climate change already seen in Jackson County, including reduced snowpack and the increase in seasonal fires. She stated that to combat this Ashland needs to commit to eliminating its reliance on fossil fuels and adopt renewable energy policies (See Attachment 4).
Dana Greenblatt/Ms. Greenblatt thanked the applicants for their presentation and the Commission’s work for the City of Ashland. She stated that she is a member of the Rogue Action Group, a non-profit that focuses on social issues such as housing. She expressed support for development of the Croman Mill site, and emphasized the growing need for affordable housing in Ashland that has seen many residents priced out of the city in recent years. She detailed Ashland’s demand for additional housing, particularly for extremely low-income households. Ms. Greenblatt conveyed her understanding that one development site could not be expected to solve the housing issues that afflict Ashland, but hoped that the applicants would do all they could to help alleviate them.
Chair Norton thanked the participants for their public comments and, citing the size of the project, hoped that more residents will submit comments in the future. He also expressed a concern that between the numerous greenways, alleyways, and open spaces, that there would be limited parking available in the neighborhood. He reminded the applicants that the City of Ashland would only be responsible for the roadways within the neighborhood, and that the upkeep for the greenways, lawns, pond, and amphitheater necessitated caretaking by a local Homeowners Association, which would further increase the cost of living in the district.
Mr. Weinstock and Mr. Mehaffy stressed their goal of exploring renewable energy alternatives in the development of the district, and described two energy-saving methods that TownMakers, LLC. are considering: Passive House Construction, which would reduce the energy cost of HVAC units by between 80-90%, and Geothermal energy. Mr. Mehaffy also reiterated their commitment to providing affordable housing and will go into further detail at a later date.
Meeting adjourned at 9:06 p.m.
Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant