Town leaders: 'Keep Ashland Ashland'

ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) – The Town of Ashland is getting a clearer picture of the future.  The Planning Commission is about to unveil it's latest comprehensive plan to the public.

As town leaders ironed out a plan for the future, a common theme emerged: Keep Ashland Ashland.

The town of Ashland, the train, small neighborhoods where you know who lives next door, and decades old storefronts of local businesses.  Those planning for the future want it to stay that way.

"We don't want to change it. It can get bigger but still be like a small town," said Planning Commission Chair Bob Brown.

The town's planning staff and commission is about to unveil the latest comprehensive plan to the public, something leaders admit has been a long time coming.

"This is our 2008 comprehensive update. Since then, we've had three planning directors and multiple planning commissioners, but we have come together. We have a cohesive group now, and I think we are ready to present this plan to the public," said Nora Amos, Director of Planning and Community Development.

Here's some highlights.  There's some specific plans for the downtown areas, both on the commerce side of Ashland near Interstate 95 and along the tracks near town hall.  The plan includes putting in even more storefronts along both Railroad Avenue and Thompson Street and creating a pedestrian friendly parkway lined with trees along Route 54 heading into town.

"What we need to do is keep building on the good things that are there," Brown said. "We need wider sidewalks, and we need to figure out where the buildings are, so we can line the streets with trees. They are only here and there now, and the thought was if we can make a parkway out of England street. What a great gateway."

Another key point will involve offering development incentives to build varied residential developments.

"All the houses aren't the same; all the lots aren't the same, they vary.  I always see the mother and little kids going up the street to see the retired lady who lives up the street who's 60, 70 years old. It's really sweet, so we are going to encourage that to happen as future developments come in," Brown said.

A copy of the comprehensive plan on the town's website next week, so the public can start reviewing it.  A public hearing will then be held in late June.  A date and time isn't set yet.  Town council will have final approval. That's expected to come this fall.

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