Opinion: Growth or Sprawl in Ashland?

Sprawl. That’s a scary word. Sprawl. Feels big and messy. If I didn’t like a housing project, I’d use the word ‘Sprawl’ to describe it.  I’d also sprinkle in scary phrases like, “soulless project” and “forest land diminishing,” and “REIT” and “wildlife killing,” and “traffic generating sprawl.” What person would like those horrible sounding things?

But what are some of the recent commentaries and opinion articles really talking about here? It’s the proposed 200 apartment Agri-hood on Highway 99 on the north end of town. Do you know the spot? You should look at it.  It makes a difference. Considering a specific location with a specific building plan is more, well, considerate than a general “say no to sprawl” commentary.

Let’s go there right now!  If you’ve ever scanned a QR code with your cell phone to read a restaurant menu, scan this QR code right here. It will take you to a web page of photos and video of the property.  I’ll wait.

So, you are driving out of town north on the 99.  Passing the newly purchased Buffalo Billings farm on your right. You drive under the railroad trestle and Pow! What a view to your right, across the entire valley!  Well, that is NOT the property in question.

Look over your left shoulder at the scrubby field there.  Between the railroad tracks and the auto body shop and Highway 99.  Remember all those family picnics and 3rd grade field trips and wedding receptions that happen on that property? Of course not. This chunk of land looks abandoned and is just a 17 acre triangle of wildfire kindling.

If you genuinely want to help people you don’t know find a place to live, you have to take a second, or third look at this potential 200 unit apartment location.  It’s billed as an “Agri-hood” with a renovated barn and community farm land as it’s central common area. Expected to have many solar panels and only use well water for crops and landscaping.  Wastewater will go to the county easing any burden on the city. It incorporates the bus stop to help promote the use of public transportation and 25% of the apartments will be low-income housing.

Pull out your phone again. This QR code takes you to a webpage featuring the builder’s drawings. I think it’s cool.

How do I know all these things will happen? Well, you never know how new ideas will pan out, but I had coffee with the property owner once and he seemed like a decent, sincere guy who wants to build something special. A cynic might say that you can’t trust a “soulless” builder, but I believe him. It’s much easier to tear down ideas than it is to build new things and I think it’s worth the effort to help shepherd this idea along.  So much energy is being spent fighting this attempt to create new housing that could be better spent trying to solve housing problems and remove housing obstacles.

Admittedly there are traffic intersection issues and speed limit adjustments that may help. ODOT may have ideas, suggestions, or requirements that could be helpful and the residents of the Nauvoo Mobile Home park behind Dutch Bros and Human Bean could have some insight. They’ve survived right there for decades without any horrific traffic casualties.

Sure it would be fun to raise money through a GoFundMe site and have a village of rammed earth yurts with solar charging stations for e-bikes – but we need a good number of new housing options sooner rather than later and it takes a silly amount of time and money to create a clean commune for Whole Foods hippies.

I like this kind of “Sprawl” although I’d use the word “Growth.” Same exact concept, but a much more positive word. Growth is a word we all need to believe in.  Making babies is still a very popular hobby. Our community is growing whether we’d like it to or not. I believe that this apartment project on the north end of town will be a positive move forward for Ashland as long as we all stay positive, stay involved, and believe.

I’m on team Ted Lasso – I believe in Believe.

Jim Falkenstein

//inserted by Sharon