Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 25, 2013

Residents weigh in on city’s plan

Due out this fall, proposal will guide Ashland through future growth

ASHLAND — Ashland residents got their first peek Thursday at the formation of Ashland’s new comprehensive plan.

The plan, due out later this fall, will help guide the city through future growth over the next five, 10 or even 20 years. Work began on the plan in January, and on Thursday consultants working on the project with city staff presented some maps outlining future use, potential transportation changes and neighborhoods for suggested revitalization projects at an open house prior to the commission meeting.

City officials and citizens alike had an opportunity to examine some of the maps that have been developed, ask questions and express their thoughts on how Ashland should grow and develop. Their input will help officials craft the plan, said Amy Williams, a principal of Taylor Siefker Williams Design group, which the city hired to help it craft the document.

“It is the plan that brings a lot of the different layers of a city together. From your land use to your transportation to what is going to happen downtown on the riverfront to community facilities you might need, it brings it all to one place and sets a vision for how we want to grow as a city,” said Williams.

There will be several more opportunities for citizens to weigh in, said Williams. The final plan is due out in October, and what will set it apart is a section on implementation of goals and projects along with potential funding sources and ideas.

Kerry Tague, of Ashland, a member of the board of directors of Ashland Main Street and the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center, was excited by the preliminary elements of the plan she saw Thursday.

“I love everything that you see here. It is great,” she said. “I’d love to be able to wave a magic wand and make it happen. It is definitely a process, but you have to have the whole community engaged to make it happen,” she said.

Tague was particularly drawn to a graphic displaying areas of the city where redevelopment is needed or suggested and described  Tax Incremental Financing that could be used to do so.  She spent some time discussing it with Williams and Josh Karrick, a landscape architect and planner with Bell Engineering.

“I really like the idea of the TIF,” said Tague after the conversation. “That is money that is being left there on the table — just because we are not set up properly, we are not getting that money back. I’d like to see us target one area, target that, use that example and then duplicate it throughout the city,” she said.

How the city pursues and  implements growth, especially in its downtown entertainment district, is vital to Tague.

“I’ve lived in other areas and seen other towns. I think we have all the structure, the core things, to make things happen here,” she said. “We just need now for everyone to get engaged around the idea and push for it and we can have a town that looks like the places we visit.”

Transportation improvements — particularly walking, biking trails and enhanced bus service, along with additional education facilities, resonated most  with Jacqui Thornburg, a longtime Ashland resident. Thornburg attended the open house with her teenage granddaughter, Hannah Vance.

One idea that jumped out at her was having a two-year technical training school linked to the area’s medical community downtown.  “We need to look at these programs,” said Thornburg, who works with Ashland Head Start. “Not all our kids go away to school or get a four-year education. There are a lot of them that get these two-year degrees and they are extremely useful occupations. They are the meat and bread of the community, really,” she added.

Both Vance and Thornburg were also interested in additional development on Ashland’s riverfront. “I think if it develops it could develop all of downtown,” said Thornburg. “I just think it has so much potential. We have seen other cities do that on both sides north and south of us,” she said.

“They said something about jet skis and canoes,” said Vance, referring to list of ideas about future riverfront growth. “I think that would be a fun place for teens to go and hang out on hot summer days like this. Definitely we need more restaurants on the riverfront, more of a variety,” she said. She’d like to see an Olive Garden and a Red Lobster.

The future development of the city is especially important to Vance, a senior at Paul G. Blazer High School, whose already thinking about where she will live in the future.

“I really like the city of Lexington. There is always something to do. It’s exciting. If the city of Ashland was more exciting I would want to come back more from Lexington,” she added.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com.

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