Despite Huge Obstacles to Develop the Croman Mill Site; Ashland Council Is Given Upbeat Report

Despite Huge Obstacles, Council Given Upbeat Report on Croman Site’s Future
By David Runkel


City councilors were given an upbeat report this week on plans for the environmental cleanup of the former Croman lumber mill site in the city’s southeastern sector and for future development of the site for mixed housing, commercial and industrial use.


But, they were also alerted that huge obstacles remain that have delayed clean-up of the property and development of the site for the last 14 years since the city adopted an unrealistic plan for the site that originally focused on economic development.   The site has been vacant for decades.


The clean-up has finally been approved by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for the removal of contaminated soil, estimated at a minimum of 300 dump truck loads, from the two “Wigwam Burners” sites on the property.  However, no landfill has agreed to accept the soil, Community Development Director Brandon Goldman told councilors at a Monday night study session.  If a site is found, removal of the contaminated soil “could begin as soon as possible,” he said.


No plan, however,  has as yet been developed or approved for disposal of land from the more contaminated wood treatment location on the 61-acre property. 


Meanwhile, interested developerTownmakers, LLC of Portland is proceeding to prepare responses to an 18-page list of issues that need to be addressed, along with the payment of nearly $40,000 in permit fees, before the city approves any construction on the property.  Developer Michael Jacobson and his planner Michael Mehaffy told councilors they were working on answering the community development department’s demands that were provided to them three months ago at a pre-application meeting. 


They did not say when a formal application would be submitted.  Goldman defended the long list of requirements imposed by the city, saying they were “light” in comparison with other city responses to development inquiries.  And, he said, contributing to the list is the proposed annexation of a parcel at the south end of the property from the county.  Annexation kicks in additional processes before the Planning Commission and Council.


According to Goldman, the earlier city plan for Croman failed due to several of the still unresolved issues such as the environmental cleanup and the infrastructure costs of streets, water and sewer lines.


With one developer interested, Townmakers LLC, and the commitment of Croman Corp. current owners of the property, to the environmental cleanup, the city hopes that development of commercial, light industrial and housing will proceed.  At the Council session, Councilors Gina DuQuenne, Dylan Bloom and Bob Kaplan encouraged Townmakers to include a significant amount of affordable housing in the project.


Community Development’s assessment of the project states that the following steps must be taken before approval:


  1. A revised Land Use Ordinance Amendment which would need approval by the Planning Commission and the Council.
  2. A Transportation System Plan Amendment approved by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the city’s public works department.
  3. A Comprehensive Plan Amendment; Zoning and Comprehensive Plan Map Amendments.
  4. An annexation Application for the southern portion of the site that is not within city limits at present.
  5. Related development applications including an Outline Plan subdivision review (Final Plan subdivision approval is a second step) and Site Design Review. 
  6. The application will also require a Development Agreement (DA), a Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA), an Economic Opportunities Analysis (EOA) update, and a Housing Capacity Analysis (HCA) review. 
  7. Any plan must also take into account Climate Friendly rules still in development.


Mehaffy told the Council the Townmakers LLC is moving ahead on fulfilling many of these requirements, along with talking with affordable housing construction executives in the area who would construct apartments for rent and affordable units for purchase.  


In response to the Townmakers’ presentation and Goldman’s remarks, Mayor Tonya Graham said she was “glad to see this moving forward.”  Council has requested quarterly reports on the clean up and development plans. 

A previous version of this article misidentified the developer, Mr. Weinstock.  The author apologizes for the error.