Ashland City Hall Tidbits

By David Runkel

Ashland Doesn’t Make US News and World Report’s List
 Of 18 Oregon Places to Visit

US News and World Report last week put out a list of 18 places in Oregon to be sure to visit – Ashland was not on the list. It was, however, on the magazine’s list of four places “to vote to add to this roster.”  Oddly, this was not accompanied by a picture of Lithia Park, the Shakespeare Theatre or the downtown shopping district; rather it showed a wooden barn and its reflection in a pond. Can anyone identify where that picture was taken?

When Katharine Kato, who runs Travel Ashland, appeared before the City Council last Tuesday to present the tourism promotion agency’s rosy quarterly report, she didn’t mention this challenge.  And, no one of the Council inquired about how the city, long one of the state’s major tourist locations, missed this year’s list. 

The Chronicle urges everyone to go to the US News and World Report website, pull up this article and vote to add Ashland to the list of places to visit in Oregon.

In order, the magazine’s list is:  Crater Lake, Cannon Beach, Mt. Hood, Willamette Valley, Silver Falls State Park, Hood River, Bend, Newport, Brookings, Portland, Astoria, John Day Fossil Bed, Seaside, Florence, Mt. Bachelor, Oregon Dunes, Tillamook and Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Other possible adds are Sisters, Lincoln City and Columbia Gorge. 

The author has been to all but two on the list during his 22 years in Oregon.  Who has been to all 18?

Other Tourism Related Issues

When Ms. Kato appeared before Council she was not asked about the $310,000 drop in food and beverage tax income last year, compared to 2022, and what if anything was being done to bring in more hungry, high-end tourists. 

Nor was she asked to give her reaction to the many tales of woe told by city business people at the Council’s Business Roundtable the night before.  The Council was told that many businesses, restaurants and lodging places are hurting due to the declining number of tourists, particularly those who used to spend more than one or two nights in town, shopping in downtown stores, eating at fine dining places and going to great productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.   

Left Behind on New Technology?

When three City Councilors and Mayor Graham voted down adopting the League of Oregon Cities model code on 5G technology it put Ashland in an unusual position.

More than 500 cities around the country have cleared the way for the latest version of internet connections to proceed, including many Oregon cities.

Neighboring Medford accepted 5G a couple years ago. Among others agreeing to provide cell tower locations for the technology which speeds up internet and telephone services are Bend, Eugene, Salem, Portland, Oregon City.

Jim Teece, president and chief executive officer of Ashland Home Net, Project A and Rogue Broadband, told the Medford Mail-Tribune, when it was publishing, that “5G has a number of advantages and allows for up to 100 times more users, with a lower latency, or time for the signal to travel, measured in milliseconds.

“In order for us to have the fifth generation, we have to have lots of these towers, and they have to be smaller,” he said, adding the reputable studies have found that health hazard concerns to be unwarranted.

The health concerns have been repeatedly voiced to Ashland’s Council for “four or five years,” Mayor Tonya Graham noted, shortly before she cast the deciding vote against going ahead with approval of the League’s model code.

What happens next is not clear.  City Attorney Doug McGeary was not given instructions by Council on how to proceed as the Council’s meeting time expired. 

Climate Friendly Areas

What parts of Ashland are now or could be climate friendly?  What part is not climate friendly?

Under an executive order issued by Gov. Kate Brown before her term expired, Ashland and other communities throughout the state were forced to undertake a massive study of where 30 percent of residents could live in mixed-use, pedestrian friendly areas with more efficient land use and transportation.  The goal is a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Through the Rogue Valley Council of Governments and 3J Consulting engineers of Beaverton, a 64-page report was shared with the City Council last week. Three sites for climate friendly development were recommended – the 92 acre Cromon Mill site at the south end of town, the 57-acre railroad property north of the rail line to East Hersey street and the 167-acre Transit Triangle formed by Siskiyou boulevard, Ashland Street and Tolman Creek Road.

But, is the city going to grow to fill in all or any of these areas?  Community Development Director Brandon Goldman told Council there are an estimated 10,705 dwelling units in the city presently and that only 858 units are expected to be added by 2041. The city’s population has been stuck in the range of 21,000 for a number of years, and unofficially has a no-growth policy, as City Manager Joe Lessard noted in his 2023-25 budget message. 

The Croman Mill site alone, if densely developed which is not planned or expected, could host 5,142 housing units, according to the report.  The city has until the end of December to make climate friendly decisions and forward them to the state Department of Land Conservation and Equitable Communities which paid for the study. 

What happens after it’s filed?  We’ll have to wait and see.  

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