ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
MARCH 11, 2003
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order at 1:30 p.m. by Chair Russ Chapman. Other Commissioners present were Ray Kistler and John Fields. Staff present were Maria Harris, Brandon Goldman, and Sue Yates.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Fields moved to approve the February 11, 2003 Hearings Board. Chapman seconded the motion and the minutes were approved.
TYPE I PLANNING ACTIONS
PLANNING ACTION 2003-003
REQUEST FOR MODIFICATION OF FINAL PLAN AND PARKRIDGE SUBDIVISION INCLUDING CHANGE IN DRIVEWAY LOCATION, SITE REVIEW FOR 19 RESIDENTIAL UNITS AND TREE REMOVAL PERMIT FOR SEVEN TREES
APPLICANT: DOUG IRVINE
This action was approved.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-012
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT TO CONSTRUCT AN APPROXIMATELY 750 SQUARE FOOT ACCESSORY RESIDENTIAL UNIT ON THE BACK HALF OF THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 980 PARK STREET
APPLICANT: K. JOY DOWNEY
This action was approved.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-013
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT TO CONVERT AN EXISTING GARAGE STRUCTURE LOCATED AT THE REAR OF THE PROPERTY INTO AN APPROXIMATELY 820 SQUARE FOOT ACCESSORY RESIDENTIAL UNIT FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 155 WESTWOOD STREET.
APPLICANT: STEPHEN AND CYNDY GAGNE
This action was approved.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-014
CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT FOR A TEMPORARY USE TO RENOVATE A PORTION OF THE INTERIOR OF THE EXISTING BUILDING LOCATED AT 310 OAK STREET (PREVIOUSLY CANTWELL'S MARKET) FOR THE PURPOSE OF OPERATING A SMALL, LIVE THEATER
APPLICANT: ARTATTACK/JUSTIN LOCKWOOD
This action was approved.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-018
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT TO CONSTRUCT AN APPROXIMATELY 988 SQUARE FOOT ACCESSORY RESIDENTIAL UNIT AT THE FRONT OF THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 869 WRIGHTS CREEK DRIVE.
APPLICANT: JON & DIANA VAN VLECK
This action was called up for a public hearing.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-030
REQUEST FOR FINAL PLAN APPROVAL OF A 21-LOT SUBDIVISION UNDER THE PERFORMANCE STANDARDS OPTION FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED ADJACENT TO STRAWBERRY LANE AND HITT ROAD.
APPLICANT: PAUL HWOSCHINSKY/RICHARD LOVE & ALEX KNECHT/MARGARET BROWN
This action is approved.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-022
REQUEST FOR A PHYSICAL CONSTRAINTS PERMIT FOR LOT 6 (LOGAN
DRIVE SUBDIVISION) FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF A RESIDENCE ON HILLSIDE LANDS, INCLUDING AN
ADMINISTRATIVE VARIANCE TO HILLSIDE STANDARDS RELATING TO MAXIMUM SLOPE AND BUILDING DESIGN. IN ADDITION, A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT IS REQUESTED TO ALLOW FOR AN APPROXIMATELY 982 SQUARE FOOT ACCESSORY RESIDENTIAL UNIT WITHIN THE BASEMENT AREA.
APPLICANT: KEN & SUSAN WILSON
This action was approved. Fields noted, however, he believes it is time to revise the Hillside Ordinance because of some of the issues that have come up in this action.
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS
PLANNING ACTION 2003-007
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT AND SITE REVIEW TO CONSTRUCT A 484 SQUARE FOOT ACCESSORY RESIDENTIAL UNIT AS AN ADDITION TO THE REAR OF THE EXISTING HOUSE LOCATED AT 276 WEST NEVADA STREET.
APPLICANT: MARK KNOX
Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts
A site visits was made by Chapman. Fields drove by. Ray Kistler stepped down as he is friends with the applicant and does not believe he can be impartial.
Goldman reported the request is for a 484 square foot accessory residential unit. The lot is 10,500 square feet in an R-1-5 zone. The existing house is 1400 square feet with an attached two-car garage. The applicant is proposing to build an addition to the rear of the existing garage. The entire addition will be approximately 628 square feet with 144 square feet to be used as storage off the garage. The property has 75 feet of frontage along Nevada. There is 50 feet of uninterrupted curbing. The applicants have proposed to use an on-street parking credit. Staff believes it meets the criteria.
The applicant has addressed a concern about the future improvement of Nevada Street. The cityís Public Works Department has not developed a draft plan for the future improvements, but engineers have begun to look at a series of future bump-outs along Nevada Street to allow for sidewalk installation and encourage traffic-calming measures. If a bump-out should be located in front of the subject property, Staff has provided a Condition, that the on-street parking credit be relocated on-site. Staff is confident it can be located in front of the existing garage by widening the driveway by a foot.
With regard to traffic impact, Nevada Street is a major collector and has a capacity of between 3,000 and 10,000 vehicle trips per day. It is anticipated that after build-out of the proposed subdivision at the end of Nevada Street traffic counts will be under 3,000 vehicle trips per day on Nevada. Staff believes there is adequate capacity now and in the future.
The applicant will be required to sign in favor of installation of a sidewalk as well as the traffic calming measures for a LID for West Nevada Street. There are existing trees on-site that are adequate and within five feet of a future sidewalk.
There is adequate capacity of city services for the accessory residential structure.
MARK AND NORA KNOX, 276 West Nevada Street
Mark said he designed an accessory residential unit that is compatible with their existing ranch-style home. The design also is compatible with the neighborhood. Approval of a CUP for an accessory residential unit will allow them to stay in the neighborhood and provide a residence for their mother. Technically, the lot could be divided. They are well within the bounds of the R-1-5 zoning. There is capacity for transportation and other city services.
Nora explained they are building this unit for her mother so she can be physically closer to their family and they will be able to help her financially and medically.
Mark stated that they have designed the unit as an independent unit. They could have built it without kitchen facilities. It has been designed so it could be a master bedroom.
Knox said the side yard setback on the addition side will be seven feet and about 35 to 40 feet from the rear. The allowed lot coverage is 50 percent and they are proposing 35 percent. The size of the unit is about 35 percent of the primary house. There will be no problem putting a parking space on-site, if necessary.
CHRIS HALD, 275 Cambridge, believes this application does not conform to the R-1-5 zone, a neighborhood that is designed to be a family neighborhood with nice sized yards. He is concerned the unit will be rented out at some time. Creating a rental unit will adversely affect the livability of the neighborhood. It is not compatible and in scale and bulk. Most homes are 1500 square feet and this will look out of place. There will be more people on the property that will create more noise and more living space near property lines. There are no other rental units being created in the neighborhood and this is setting a bad precedent. He has not reviewed the landscaping plan and he would reserve the right to comment. He would like to see a condition added that the main house has to be owner-occupied and the unit occupied only by a relative.
Chapman observed that Hald does not seem to be objecting to this specific application but to the philosophy of the accessory residential units in general. The applicants have met the criteria. The Council passed the ordinance for accessory residential units. If Hald should wish to change the ordinance he would need to address the Council.
Knox echoed Chapmanís comments that the Council established the rules for accessory residential units. Any appeal would need to be based on existing criteria. Knox believes their application meets the criteria and should be approved. Their yard space will have to be cut into, but they designed it so three-quarters of the yard is remaining open.
Goldman noted that there have been approximately 90 approvals in Ashland for accessory residential units. No condition has ever been applied limiting occupation of a unit to a relative or requiring the primary structure be owner-occupied. By applying a condition, this could set a precedent that would undermine the intent of the accessory residential unit. With regard to Haldís comments concerning parking, the parking standard for a unit less than 500 square feet is for only one space.
COMMISSIONERSí DISCUSSION AND MOTION
Fields noted that in any single family neighborhood the issues that Hald has mentioned have come up. However, the philosophy of creating accessory residential units is that it can create affordable housing opportunities. He is willing to support that philosophy. He believes the neighborhood can absorb the small nature of the unit in relation to the size of the lot and meets the criteria for approval.
Chapman moved to approve PA2003-007 with the attached conditions. Fields seconded the motion and the application was approved.
Kistler rejoined the meeting.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-023
REQUEST FOR SITE REVIEW TO CONSTRUCT AN APPROXIMATELY 8071 SQUARE FOOT, TWO-STORY MIXED-USE (I.E. COMMERCIAL & RESIDENTIAL) BUILDING ON LOT 1 - CLEAR CREEK DRIVE. PROPOSAL INCLUDES A REQUEST FOR AN ADMINISTRATIVE VARIANCE FROM THE CITYíS SITE DESIGN AND USE STANDARDS TO EXCEED THE MAXIMUM FLOOR AREA RATIO STANDARD.
APPLICANT: BENJAMIN STOTT
PLANNING ACTION 2003-025
REQUEST FOR SITE REVIEW TO CONSTRUCT AN APPROXIMATELY 9326 SQUARE FOOT, TWO-STORY MIXED-USE (I.E. COMMERCIAL & RESIDENTIAL) BUILDING ON LOT 1 - CLEAR CREEK DRIVE. PROPOSAL INCLUDES A REQUEST FOR AN ADMINISTRATIVE VARIANCE FROM THE CITYíS SITE DESIGN AND USE STANDARDS TO EXCEED THE MAXIMUM FLOOR AREA RATIO STANDARD.
APPLICANT: BENJAMIN STOTT
Harris stated that even though these are two separate applications, they will heard together but the Hearings Board will still need to make two separate decisions.
Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts
Site visits were made by all. Fields said he is willing to step down because he may, in the future, enter into contractual relations with Stott. To date, no contracts have been drawn up. He believes, however, he can be unbiased. Chapman asked the applicant if it would be acceptable if Fields remain on the Hearings Board. Stott did not object to Fields remaining on the Hearings Board.
Harris said there are two separate actions that will require two separate decisions. The applicant has two lots, identical in size. The Administrative Variance for Building 1 is to exceed the FAR maximum of .5 and bring it up to .64 and for Building 2 to bring it up to .75.
Harris explained a couple of process items. Because of the size of the buildings, this would normally be heard as a Type I decision, not involving a public hearing. However, since the floor area maximum change was recently discussed before the full Planning Commission, Staff felt it was important this application be heard at a public hearing. There is a request from Colin Swales to call the action up to the full Commission. Under Section 18.108.100 c., the Hearings Board does not have the power to do so. The Hearings Board has to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the application. If the Hearings Board reviewed the application and was moving towards denial because it didnít meet the criteria for approval, the applicant might have the opportunity to bring it back and ask that it be reviewed by the full Commission.
Harris said the property is zoned E-1 with the residential overlay in the Detailed Site Review zone. Building 1 ground floor is comprised of a medical office and a general office and the second floor has three residential units. Building 2 has a general office and the lower level of residential units. The second floor has two more residential units for a total of three residential units for the building.
Staff believes the Site Review standards have been met as outlined in the Staff Report except for off-street parking. The off-street parking requirement has been met for Building 1. Building 2 requires 14 off-street spaces and they have provided nine, five spaces below the requirement. They seem to be requesting a mixed-use parking credit although the application does not address that. The ordinance states the Hearings Board can grant up to a 35 percent credit for mixed use buildings (in this case five spaces) if the applicant shows that the peak parking demand times are offset. Staffís concern is that the application does not show that the demand times are offset. The applicant uses A Street as an example for the FAR findings of what these buildings are being modeled after. The mixed use parking credit has used A Street as a comparison. The difference between this area and A Street is that there are not as many streets for on-street parking (A Street and the numbered side streets are used heavily). Clear Creek Drive has no side streets or cross streets. That could result in a high parking demand. A Street has parking on both sides. Clear Creek has parking on one side. The mixed use parking credit is based on the notion that people living in the residential units would always leave in the morning and come back in the evening. However, that isnít always the case because it seems as though a high percentage of people in Ashland work at home. Staff is recommending that a mixed use parking credit not be used in this area until the full Commission goes through the review of the floor area ratio issues.
With regard to the FAR, the application makes a pretty good case for being granted an Administrative Variance. The area does have an R-overlay but the FAR maximum makes it hard to build a larger second story to provide the residential units. It is a unique and unusual circumstance that the ordinance encourages and allows the development of residential units. However, the FAR cap is not allowing that to happen. The application will not negatively impact adjacent properties because everything around these lots is commercially zoned E-1. There are many potential benefits to have residential units in this area in a mixed use format. Multi-modal is a viable option. It is closely located to some of the main routes in town as well as in close proximity to downtown, close to services and shopping. It is consistent with the purpose of the Site Design and Use Standards and a minimal request in terms of alleviating the problem of providing those residential units and developing a more urban nature.
The postal service building is a good example of the extreme opposite. The minimum FAR was put in place to prevent a more suburban development with large parking areas surrounding a building. What we are finding now is that by setting a maximum outside the Historic District, we might be pushing buildings to more single story buildings surrounded by parking instead of doing something more urban focused.
Staff is also asking for further clarification of the awning detail (Condition 11). Does the awning provide protection for pedestrians?
Staff believes the criteria for Site Review and the Administrative Variance have been met. However, Staff is suggesting continuing the application, allowing the applicant to revise their submittals so they meet the off-street parking. If the Hearings Board decides to approve the application, there are 14 attached conditions.
Chapman wondered if we want to go down the path of approving lots of variances (like FAR). Harris said if the FAR ordinance is going to change, we canít ask an applicant to wait for that to happen.
Fields wondered if the awning is just an amenity to enter the front door. There is nothing that even tells us an awning is even needed. Harris said the standard is worded in a more general nature, however, the drawings in the Site Design and Use Standards, very clearly show in every one of the drawings along the front of the building, generous protection areas whether they are awnings, trellises or something along the front of the building. Historically, that is how it has been interpreted in making decisions.
Fields wondered if Harris sees the parking and FAR as overlapping issues. Is the building getting too bulky and too massive or have we outgrown the FAR and the large end isnít working? Harris believes the issues are pretty separate. The issue in this area with the off-street parking is where is the overflow going to go? If there was a more gridded street pattern and more on-street parking, Staff would probably not be hesitating with the mixed use parking credit. With regard to the FAR, off-street parking can to a certain extent keep the building size in check. Harris responded that after talking with Staff, she is not certain the maximum was ever that well thought out and serves the purpose for which it was intended. She is not sure it is consistent with the current policy of the Comprehensive Plan. She doesnít think lot coverage is an issue because in E-1 there is no maximum lot coverage. The applicants have the landscaping they are supposed to provide. The buildings are not each 100 feet long; they are not subject to the requirement of offsets or jogs in the building. Staff believes they are meeting the building design standards.
JEROME WHITE, 253 Third Street, architect,
BEN STOTT, 155 Strawberry Lane, and
CARLOS DELGADO, 307 Morton Street
WHITEread his testimony addressing the mixed use parking credit and submitted it for the record. He also included a survey of property owners along A Street. They proposed the Hearings Board accept a 13.8 percent spread over lots 1 and 2. The mixed use parking credit is working on A Street and represents an example for the future development of the railroad property. He has calculated that two of the 25 spaces would be occupied during daytime hours. He believes that Fourth Street impacts A Street more than A Street impacts Fourth Street. White has talked to the chef at the Peerless and he said they have no problem in the evening with their customer parking.
DELGADOaddressed the FAR. This is a unique and unusual circumstance because of the residential overlay. The Detailed Site Review zone is in conflict with the stated development goals of the property. Staff has indicated a desire to modify the FAR and admit that the original intent of the .5 FAR is not really understood. The Railroad Master Plan states the design and development pattern should model what is happening on A Street. Compatible mixed-use zoning will provide services in residential areas and offer housing in commercial areas. The mixed uses would decrease the number of trips for goods and services. The parking is a severe limitation for the size of the project.
White said by removing the residential from the second floor that would allow them to conform to the 35 to 50 percent. They considered waiting to apply until the FAR was modified, but they were confident it could be approved with an Administrative Variance.
White noted that they are planning for a 36 inch awning over the entrances.
Delgado said he would like to reduce the bike parking by one space.
STOTTsaid sometimes a little congestion is not a bad thing if it brings life, pedestrians and enough density to the area. They need enough residential to help pay for the building.
Colin Swales requested an opportunity to give public testimony. Chapman addressed Swales. He said that by being appointed to the Planning Commission, Swales did not give up his First Amendment right. As a Planning Commission member, he does hold a special place in the community. One of the things that makes Swales special is that when applicants come before the Commission, they can rest assured they will get an unbiased review of their application. If Swales comes before them today to testify as a private citizen regarding this application, he does not have a problem with that. He does not think it is a good idea for Planning Commission members to bounce back and forth on a specific application as a citizen and a Commissioner. Should Swales decide to speak today as a private citizen, Chapman would probably argue against Swales considering this application if it were to come back before the Commission again because he has a problem feeling that Swales would be unbiased.
COLIN SWALES, 461Allison Street, said the same thing was pointed out to him after talking with John McLaughlin. He is choosing to represent himself as a private citizen and would recuse himself from this application should it come before the Planning Commission. He wanted to reserve his right as a citizen to testify.
He has concerns about the whole development of this property with regard to the FAR limit and also the FAR limit as it could be interpreted with regard to the "big box". He wasnít at the study session where this topic was discussed. Except for one member of the public that spoke, everyone else that spoke including the Planning Commissioners, are involved in development and/or own E-1 properties. He would find this to be a conflict of interest. By using the existing FAR, there is a possibility of building commercial space and one residential of 1000 sq. ft. on the ground floor and two 1500 sq. ft. apartments on the second floor. It can be done without the variance. If we are going to change the FAR, we have to look very closely at the rules. If the applicant wants to wait until that time, then he should bring it back when and if the rules have been changed.
Criteria - Demonstrable difficulty - The lot is practically flat with access on two sides. It is not demonstrably difficult. All the applicant has to do is build the buildings a little smaller and variance wonít be needed for the parking or the FAR. Negative impact on surrounding area - The applicant is asking for a 50 percent increase in the allowable square footage on this lot. It seems it is to escalate the land prices. It creates a denser area and does not provide affordable housing. Because of more "elbow room" on the Clear Creek lots, it shouldnít have to be developed at the same density as A Street. The applicant is trying to create the same look and feel as the downtown. Some people feel this area has a vibrancy in its own right. It shouldnít have the same density at downtown. Is the minimum FAR necessary? There is no difficulty building on this lot. It seems residential is icing on the cake. The buildings are attractive, but they are just too big.
Kistler noted that as a Hearings Board member he has nothing to gain from this issue before them today. Swales said anyone who has E-1 property outside the Historic District stands to gain from this. He added that if there is a residential component to an E-1 zone, he believes you have to be cognizant of people living there when looking at Conditional Uses.
Fields is hearing that the 50 percent FAR was ill-conceived and will change. He hears Swales saying the ordinance is where it is and there are not circumstances that would justify a variance. Swales sees no unique circumstances for approving a variance. Fields said if you add the alley that is part of the parking median, you would have the 50 percent. Is there a way to weigh these things? Swales said only if these particular lots have huge amounts of parking. Fields asked if we want to water everything down or is it reasonable to allow a higher density? Swales said there are some times when a variance to the FAR should be granted.
White told Stott in the beginning there is a 50 percent FAR limit. Stott talked with Molnar and Molnar did not see it as being as difficult an issue as it has become. If you add 20 feet of paved alley to the property, then the FAR is approximately 53 percent. The Council communication has indicated they want development to follow as it has along A Street. We may get to the point where we donít use FARís. Downtown densities are 200 percent. That is not what Lennertz and Coyle were proposing in the draft Railroad Master Plan. What does the community want? He sees what is happening on A Street as positive. He lives and works there. It is not because he is prospering from it. They could not wait indefinitely for the Council decision on the FAR before bringing in a development proposal.
Stott felt there is an undertone concerning developers wanting to maximize the bucks. He is not coming from that place. Making decisions based on emotional undertones is not a good idea. He has tried to do the best thing for the property. He reduced the FAR to .64 due to Staffís recommendation. They canít know when the Council will change this. He does not see the precedent as a bad one in terms of filling the goals of the City.
Harris said Staff still has concerns with the parking. The data that needs to be provided is a survey of both on-site and on-street parking that is available. If they are going to use A Street as a model to argue why this should also get a mixed use credit, they need to look at all the number of spaces available and do an occupancy survey. Again, she is not certain the same opportunities are available on Clear Creek Drive.
With regard to the comment that a little congestion is a good thing, the standards we start with are lower and have a certain amount of congestion built in. The applicants are asking for a credit that wants to congest that more and it may not work. We have a ten percent cap. The burden is on the applicant to show that will work.
In response to Fields' question about whether Staff believes FAR was intended to control bulk, mass and scale of the buildings, Harris does not believe it was. In the Detailed Site Review zone, the mass, scale and bulk of the building starts to get addressed under the large scale project standard where the building exceeds 10,000 square feet or 100 feet in length. The next click up is the "big box" debate with the current limitation of 45,000 square feet and 300 feet in length. If anything, the minimum was intended to make sure we get enough mass and bulk on the lots.
Harris believes the idea that a change in the maximum FAR or potential variances to that area is changing the vision for the area. Staff would contend that the zoning alone establishes the vision for the area. In addition, the Comprehensive Plan encourages mixed-use buildings. Staff does not see an Administrative Variance to the FAR as a pivotal decision in the vision and development of the area.
As a point of clarification, Harris said the Administrative Variance cannot be denied based on the idea the Master Plan should be adopted first or the ordinance change needs to be processed first. The Hearings Board has to use the laws that are in place now.
Harris said precedents arenít established. Look at the criteria and see if they meet the standards. If one Administrative Variance is approved, it does not mean they have to approve the other.
In Harrisí research the FAR was not instituted to distinguish certain areas from others. It was not imposed on the Historic District; buildings would be approved that clearly werenít in character with the existing commercial development in the Railroad District.
COMMISSIONERSí DISCUSSION AND MOTION
Chapman noted that no one has to come before this Commission and apologize for making a profit.
Chapman believes the parking standards should be applied as required. With regard to the FAR, he does not see specific difficulty in meeting the FAR requirement.
Kistler recalled when these lots were subdivided that one lot had alley parking on the back and that head-in parking off the alley would not cover the parking. The answer was that in some cases there will be parking lots developed off the back of the property on the alley. Regarding the FAR, he would consider the alley in the rear as part of this parcel. It is used for back-up and should be able to be used for FAR. He believes that is how development was viewed on A Street. He believes the alleyway serving these buildings should be counted. He would agree with Staff that we just donít have all the intersecting streets punching into Clear Creek to handle the overflow parking. He likes the building designs.
Fields thinks these are great looking buildings and they can tweak the occupancy to get the parking down. He doesnít know how to make the ordinance cover their decision. How can they make findings for the variance? Harris said the burden of proof is not quite as stringent as a regular variance. The demonstrable difficulty gives the Planning Commission some flexibility. Fields does not believe the ordinance tells us clearly what the goal was in order for him to interpret how this meets the ordinance. Fields said it is easy to solve the FAR by reducing the building size. He doesnít see unique circumstances to keep them from meeting the FAR.
Harris said the Planning Commission granted a variance for the postal service to go below .35 FAR. It was Federal requirement. It wasnít a particular unique characteristic of the site.
Fields wondered by allowing residential on the second floor if this is a clear and objective way of approving it. There are conflicting things going on. Is there a benefit to having this level of density with this building?
Kistler and Fields agreed on the shared parking.
Harris said when Staff reviewed the application, they saw that the FAR was in conflict with the residential overlay in the E-1 zone and that was the unique or unusual aspect of the site.
Harris said the Commissioners could vote to continue the hearing so the applicant could bring back more information.
Fields and Kistler can make the case for the FAR. They are willing to support the alley and access to the parking.
Stott said he can change the parking. He agreed to waive the 120 day time limit. Harris said she will find out how long it can be continued if the applicant wants to wait for a Council decision on a revised FAR.
The Commissioners agreed to continue the hearing until April 8, 2003 at 1:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers. The public hearing will be left open.
ADJOURNMENT- The meeting was adjourned at 4:45 p.m.