The Ashland City Council approved a plan last Tuesday to extend water and sewer lines beyond the urban growth boundary to the site of a proposed rest area near Exit 19 and the Oak Knoll neighborhood.
The plan includes a welcome center, as well as the rest area, to be built close to Exit 19 in Ashland. The plan has been in the works since 1997, and the city council finally approved the extensions, but with conditions.
The water and sewer services will only be provided if the welcome center is built. Representatives from Travel Oregon, which is responsible for the center’s construction and operation, say the funding for the welcome center is budgeted, but members of the city council say that the funds are an uncertainty. The rest area will be built by the Oregon Department of Transportation, which has the money available.
Many residents from the Oak Knoll neighborhood spoke out against the plan on Tuesday, voicing concerns about crime and the possibility of an increase in accidents near the rest area.
The council has given ODOT and Travel Oregon four years to complete the project. If it is not completed in that time, the agreement for the water and sewer extensions will be void.
The council was divided on the issue, with some members speaking out against the project.
“This is a travesty,” said councilmember and Southern Oregon University professor Carol Voisin.
Councilmember Greg Lemhouse also voiced his opposition to the agreement. “It bothers me that we’re going down this road,” he said.
The final vote was tied, which forced Mayor John Stromberg to give the deciding vote.
The final votes of approval were Stromberg, Michael Morris, Russ Silbiger and Dennis Slattery. The opposing voters were Greg Lemhouse, Carol Voisin and David Chapman.