ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
FEBRUARY 25, 2003
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Russ Chapman opened the Study Session at 9:00 p.m. after closing the continuation of the Regular Meeting. Other Commissioners present were Ray Kistler, John Fields, Cameron Hanson, Marilyn Briggs, Dave Dotterrer, Mike Morris, and Colin Swales. Kerry KenCairn was absent. Staff present were John McLaughlin, Bill Molnar, Brandon Goldman and Sue Yates.
Molnar said everyone should have Briggs’ letter regarding inclusionary zoning. Her letter is to the state legislature asking them consider rescinding the current state law prohibiting local municipalities from adopting inclusionary zoning provisions. There are some other groups considering moving this forward. 1000 Friends of Oregon are asking for rescinding. If it is rescinded, it does not mean inclusionary zoning is allowed. It means that local government can take the issue to the local community and decide for themselves if it is appropriate. Molnar enclosed some articles from some independent housing policy 'think tanks' discussing the reasons for inclusionary zoning, how widely it has been used throughout the country, and the results of some of the inclusionary zonings.
Molnar said the points of opposition have been from the homebuilding industry. The say it shifts the cost and taxes to the market-rate homeowners in a subdivision. They have to subsidize the affordable units by paying more for the market-rate homes. It requires all new developments of any size to have integrated housing, in other words, a certain percentage of housing where the purchase price is set. Therefore, it requires that some newer neighborhoods have more integrated housing and it could be in areas that have been fairly homogenous.
The benefits of inclusionary zoning, according to Molnar are that it provides affordable housing at no cost to local government. It has resulted in a significant number of units. Another benefit is that it integrates different cost housing in all new developments. The conclusions, that while some of the criticisms are justified, the arguments in opposition are relatively weak when you look at what inclusionary zoning ordinances have accomplished with regard to the number of units built. Housing policy groups feel this is an important tool for communities that have affordable housing problems. Ashland would be ripe for inclusionary zoning. It doesn’t prohibit cities from adopting regulations to provide voluntary incentives or waive other requirements in order to encourage inclusionary zoning. Often inclusionary zoning is written with some type of compensation for the developer such as increased density or a waiver of fees or a combination in order to avoid legal issues such as "takings’.
LARRY MEDINGER will argue against inclusionary zoning. This taxes a small minority to solve the general housing problem. Government is saying we don’t want to pay or take responsibility for our housing situation getting out of balance. We will accelerate the number of people we are losing because the amount of housing that can be produced by this is offset. In order to have an affordable house, the other homes in the subdivision have to absorb the cost. The real estate transfer tax would spread out the cost more evenly. He would suggest they tackle the problem with the real estate transfer tax.
Briggs wasn’t sure that Medinger’s argument makes sense. What if you have ten homes and the two affordable units could be built with shared walls? Medinger talked about how expensive land is in Ashland.
Kistler said that Ketchum, Idaho had both the inclusionary zoning and real estate transfer tax.
Briggs is asking if the Commission thinks it is important enough to try to get inclusionary zoning. Fields said if the state will go for it, it would give the local jurisdiction a chance. Hanson sees this as a redistribution of wealth. Chapman thinks our energies ought to stay local. Looking to Salem is out of the question. Dotterrer said this is an incredibly complex issue and he is concerned about unintended consequences. Morris agreed. Swales said this town needs decent family wages. Kistler supported Briggs’ letter. The straw vote was three in favor of sending a letter and five were opposed. Chapman noted, however, that the Commission is open-minded and are willing to entertain anything coming forward from the Housing Commission.
CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT PROCESS
Chapman summarized his meeting with Bill Street, Ann Seltzer, John McLaughlin, Colin Swales and himself. There were several ideas they felt could be accomplished now and are open for discussion.
Bill Street and Ann Seltzer
Add the Public Forum agenda item to the Study Session as well as the Regular Meeting agenda. That would give the public two opportunities a month to bring items forward.
Put the blurbs on the website as tentative agenda items.
Briggs would like to see them in the newspaper.
Seltzer said there are things Staff can do to provide easily accessible information about process and procedures. She has started to draft a handout. She believes information needs to be provided in a variety of different ways. The Process and Procedures handout would be available at the lobby of the Community Development and Engineering Services building and the Council Chambers. The same thing would be available on the website. We could let people know about it through our City newsletter or utility billing inserts.
Providing information in advance. The blurbs are ready two weeks prior to the meeting. They can be easily available as a handout and posted on the website.
The Planning Commission packets are quite thick and often contain maps and information that would need to be scanned. It would be a start to provide staff reports on the website and hard copies as handouts. The next level is getting the packets archived on the web.
Council room design changes. Street and Seltzer find the design of the room difficult and intimidating. The Council will consider remodel of the room as a goal for next year. There is no money to do anything with it now. The audience can see speakers on the TV monitor instead of looking at the back of their heads. Seltzer is checking to see if RVTV can have the monitor working for non-televised meetings. Some people are not comfortable with that, so it is important to make the speaker feel at ease. Chapman suggested a podium.
Allow close-up viewing time for projects. Project maps can be posted in the lobby or in the Council Chambers. Seltzer will work on finding a place for these display items. There was some concern about disruption of the meeting during proceedings if people are wandering around looking at maps. There could also be a problem with providing duplicate copies of maps and the extra time it would take for staff to post. Hanson wondered if there is a demand.
Street believes part of the problem with the process is that we don’t reach out and encourage active participation by the way the Commission presents themselves. They need to say, "We’ve got these plans here, we got this project, and we’d like to have you come in early. We want your opinion." How do you invite people to get them to participate? This is an item that can be discussed at greater length later.
Hanson understands what Street is saying, however, we are probably the most inclusive town in terms of the public, in the whole valley. There is probably no one else in the valley as dedicated to disseminating information or calling for public input. You can only do so much. Everything is available in at least two or three different ways. There is a certain responsibility on the part of the people who are interested to get the information.
Street hears Hanson but feels there are still ways to improve what we are doing.
Kistler asked about the goal and intent. Street said there is not enough participation.
Dotterrer said we tend to see the same people the meetings. We should encourage people to attend.
Other items the group talked about:
Talking to the Commissioners in small groups.
Community issues forum similar to what the Chamber puts on.
Whatever we do has to have a focus and purpose.
Make it meaningful.
Chapman asked the Commission if the focus group should meet again and come up with an idea for an "event".
Street asked that Chapman give a brief report at the regular meeting stating that we are working on ways to encourage public participation.
Dotterrer cannot attend the March 11, 2003 Hearings Board. Kistler will take his place.
No Study Session is scheduled for March because of spring break.
There will be a Joint Study Session with the Council in April to discuss regional problem solving.
ADJOURMENT- The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.