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Ashland Council Considers Croman Mill Activities – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Operators of the Croman Mill property, a prime development plot, are understood to be carrying out a reclamation project on the site.

The City of Ashland is investigating reports of an unpermitted commercial soil operation on the Croman Mill property south of Mistletoe Road in Ashland. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

The Croman Mill property, east of Tolman Creek Road in Ashland, has been eyed for years as a prime development site, with plans calling for a mix of residential and commercial development. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

A 60-acre site in southeast Ashland known as the Croman Mill District is being examined by the City of Ashland in response to concerns that a land operation has been conducted at the site in lieu of the reclamation project described in the city’s master plan to develop the property. .

“As we understand it, there was a period of approximately five to seven years: Croman Corporation, through an agreement with Johnny Cat Corporation, has operated an unpermitted, for-profit excavation dump (and) an operation for the sale of soils that has created a significant impact on the city and neighboring properties,” Councilman Stephen Jensen said during an Aug. 2 Ashland City Council meeting.

In 2010, the City of Ashland created a master plan to develop the Croman Mill District that called for light manufacturing, office buildings, housing, retail and restaurants while preserving natural areas.

City staff, according to city materials, have been in talks throughout 2022 with Townmakers LLC, a potential buyer of the land.

City planners unveiled a plan for the area in January that called for single-family and multi-family housing, hiking trails and opportunities for local commerce. Citizens could not be reached for comment this week.

The land, located east of Tolman Creek Road, cannot be developed until the Department of Environmental Quality clears it of any potential contamination, said Brandon Goldman, senior planner for Ashland’s Department of Community Development.

In the early 1940s, Croman Mill was one of several mills that formed the economic engine of the city of Ashland, said George Kramer, a local historic preservation consultant. Croman Mill was the last sawmill in Ashland when it closed in 1997.

The city of Ashland owned the land, Kramer said, and at some point during the mill’s operation the Croman Corporation bought it, but he has not been able to determine when the sale occurred.

The Croman Mill property is now owned by Dwain & Bud LLC, a company created by Croman Corporation in 2002 with the written purpose of “owning a development property,” according to business entity records filed with the Secretary of state of oregon.

The Croman Corporation specializes in helicopter registration and aerial firefighting. Its current contracts include the Oregon Department of Forestry and the US Army, according to its website at

The corporation accepted the city’s master plan and a reclamation project in 2010, according to council meeting materials.

Cleanup of the property was originally expected to take two to three years, said Bill Molnar, director of Ashland’s Community Development Department.

Reclamation according to the master plan required cleaning up contaminants and excavating 30 to 40 feet to reach the native soil beneath the layers created by the mill, Molnar explained.

When the mill was in operation, he said, he would put log covers on, and then put on those with rocks, and this was repeated for 60 years.

“At some point they (Croman Corporation) started using wood waste and bringing other materials onto the property to create high-value land amendments for sale,” Molnar said, “And we realized that it really wasn’t consistent with the zoning ordinance.”

Material was trucked to the site for soil amendments, he explained, but ungraded material from construction sites in the valley was also trucked in to fill excavated holes.

Croman Corporation entered into a voluntary cleanup plan with DEQ in July 2022, according to the voluntary cleanup letter obtained by the Mail Tribune.

“Through this new evaluation DEQ, of doing on-site testing, will identify if any of this material had contaminants when it entered the property,” Goldman said.

“Can you help us understand why a permit was never issued for this massive project?” Jensen asked community development staff at the Aug. 2 council meeting.

Molnar said the Community Development department did not believe the original project required a permit and that the department operated under the assumption that Croman Mill was a reclamation project.

“We would have liked to have caught him earlier. Unfortunately, we didn’t. There is a lot of compliance activity on different fronts in the city,” Molnar said.

Mark DiRienzo, owner and developer of the Mistletoe Road Business Park off Croman Mill Street, said he has been sending emails, making phone calls and requesting meetings with Ashland city councilors, the Department of Community Development, the former city attorney and former mayor. the last 10 years to alert them of activity on the site.

Several of those emails, obtained by the Mail Tribune, include videos and photos of activity at the site. DiRienzo described soil amendment operations, dust storms, silt clogging storm drains and, on one occasion, an eight-acre wildfire.

“I just want to see the land developed,” DiRienzo said in a telephone interview. “This is the best development opportunity for Ashland, and we’ve missed it for 10 years.”

In a 2010 letter to the Planning Department, DiRienzo wrote that because the soil operation at Croman Mill was conducted without a permit, there was no opportunity for public comment on the project. The project was also not subject to the regulations or oversight that would normally be required of an industrial project, he said.

Another resident of the mill site, Irene Kai, said that after the first few years of noise and dust, she started looking at trucks passing by her window. He estimated that for much of the last 10 years there were approximately 50 trucks per day. Trucks coming in were filled with construction debris, he said, while trucks leaving were filled with dark soil.

Business isn’t as busy as it was, he said, it’s no longer 12-hour days, but trucks still go to Croman Mill daily.

“The dust was really horrendous, with dark clouds with children playing in the playground across the road,” Kai said, referring to the proximity of Bellview Primary School to the Croman Mill site.

“It was only when we realized that the focus was on a commercial enterprise (in 2020), and it’s true that they told staff,” Molnar said, “and when we reviewed the ordinance, we realized that It was against the plan.”

Croman Corporation was then asked to apply for a conditional use permit to continue the operation, which was denied, Molnar said. A classification permit was issued in 2022, limiting activity at the site to reclamation only.

The grading permit established bimonthly site visits by community development staff to monitor the property, he said.

“The material as ordered is reused; a part goes to biomass. All the organic material that’s been removed, it’s been taken to another site, but it’s not being sold,” said Mike Montero, an urban development consultant representing the Croman Corporation, who described current activity at the site.

Montero said they have offered to host a site visit for the City Council, which is organized by the Department of Community Development.

“It’s a fact, and I saw it with my own eyes today, the transportation of quality materials from the Croman Mill site continues non-stop,” Jensen said at the Aug. 2 meeting.

Jensen said he drove to the site on Aug. 2 and asked a Johnny Cat driver if ground shipments were still being taken for sale, and the driver said yes.

Jensen offered a motion for community development staff to present detailed information on current activities at the site at the Aug. 16 City Council meeting. The motion was approved unanimously.

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.


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