CALL TO ORDER
Chair Russ Chapman called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. Other Planning Commissioners present were Cameron Hanson, Colin Swales, Marilyn Briggs, Dave Dotterrer and Mike Morris. Absent members were Ray Kistler, Kerry KenCairn, and John Fields. Historic Commission members present were Rob Saladoff, Alex Krach, Dale Shostrom, Sam Whitford, Terry Skibby and Joanne Krippaehne. Absent members were Keith Chambers, Tom Giordano and Jay Leighton. Staff present were John McLaughlin, Mark Knox and Sue Yates.
McLaughlin reminded the Commissioners this topic was discussed at last months study session. The City Council directed staff to draft an ordinance setting maximum house size in the Historic District. Currently, the limitations of how big a house can be on a lot are determined by the standard setbacks and lot coverage. The zones in the Historic District are primarily R-3 (allows 75% lot coverage), R-2 (allows 65% lot coverage) and R-1-7.5 (allows 45% lot coverage). For the most part, there is not a trend to utilize maximum lot coverage. However, nationwide, we are seeing larger houses being built in desirable communities (Ashland is on that list) and desirable neighborhoods. Larger homes may not reflect the character of the historic neighborhood. The proposed ordinance attempts to set some parameters for maximum house size relating to the scale of the neighborhood by using the lot size. As the lot gets larger, the houses are not allowed get progressively larger as well. There is a decreasing element proposed.
A floor-area-ratio (FAR) is the proposed approach used in determining maximum house size. It is a ratio of the house size to the overall lot size. The number .42 is proposed. A house could be 42% of the lot size. For example, a 5000 square foot lot allows for a .42 FAR. As lots get larger than 5,000 square feet, there is an adjustment factor that adjusts the lot size down. McLaughlin explained several examples. There are more examples in the packet. The maximum square footage allowed in the proposed ordinance would be 2587 square feet with attached garages included in the total area.
McLaughlin said they have proposed some different ways of looking at multi-family zoning in order accommodate the density. A table is included in the packet based on the number of units. The primary concern seen in the e-mails relate to single family homes.
Since last months meeting, the FAR has been bumped up to try and reduce the number of properties impacted by the restrictions in the event someone would want to add a bedroom or do an addition to their home. Staff has discussed using a Conditional Use Permit process that would allow increasing the size of an existing house in a way that would not overload the mass.
The height restriction is proposed at 30 feet. The idea of the maximum house size is to look at the size and scale within the district. There are very few houses that are 35 feet high in the Historic District.
COMMENTS & QUESTIONS OF STAFF
Shostrom thought the building code for ceiling height is seven feet
Swales wondered if McLaughlin is seeing a lot of requests to build large houses. McLaughlin said people are building larger houses in all neighborhoods, including additions and new construction in the Historic District. Is it excessive? That is a community value. The Council, after hearing comments from the community, believed we should be looking at trying to control house size. Larger homes are creeping in over time. Is there a point at which we stop that creep?
Skibby asked what limitations there are on accessory buildings. McLaughlin said a size limit has not been determined. A distance of six feet between buildings is included. Setbacks have to be met. Accessory buildings are excluded from the overall floor area. People will be encouraged to keep those buildings in scale with the primary house. The proposed ordinance encourages development along the alleys and separates the mass from the main structure. Staff has not seen accessory buildings as a significant problem with regard to size.
Briggs noted there is nothing that would prevent someone from combining lots and building a bigger house. Can we set a maximum lot size in the Historic District? McLaughlin said they could look at that. Under the proposed ordinance, there are diminishing returns on large lots. Briggs would like to see examples of combined lots and their potential building size.
Swales asked if we are allowing more density in the R-1 zone than in the multi-family zone. Has Staff looked at increasing the multipliers in the multi-family zone or allowing accessory units under the CUP process? Knox concluded that by using the CUP process for accessory buildings, that gives the Historic and Planning Commission a lot of discretion. McLaughlin added that in the R-1 zone there is a much lower lot coverage standard. There may be a greater intensity of total floor area but there is still a balance because of garage, parking, etc. to meet the lot coverage. Swales responded that it didnt seem to be encouraging maximum use of an R-2 zone.
COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
JERRY TAYLOR, 375 Alnutt Street, said the existing rules are adequate.
DONNA RHEE, 338 Scenic Drive, stated that she and her neighbors appreciate the diversity of the homes in their neighborhood and believe we need restrictions to keep homes in scale. On the uphill side of Scenic, four homeowners put their own covenants on their properties so they will have compatible homes on the uphill side of them.
ALLEN DOUMA, 83 Granite Street, believes no law or ordinance needs to be enacted unless a problem exists. He has not seen an example in Ashland where the existing ordinances have not been adequate or will be adequate in the future. The proposed ordinance is discriminates and focuses only on houses in Historic Districts and only on houses that are too large. Each Historic District has its own characteristics. He does not want to see unintended negative consequences that could have a major financial impact on many people. He wants the best data collected and evaluated to substantiate assertions and determine impacts.
JOANN HARBAUGH, 180 Windemar Place, said she feels the current codes are adequate and adopting this ordinance will create more work for city staff.
JIM WILLIAMS, 180 Church Street, does not believe size is a factor in judging the history of a residence. His Queen Anne Victorian is very tall. He does not want house size restricted.
JED MEESE, 88 Granite, believes the current regulations are more than adequate and gives everyone flexibility. He recommended tabling this topic.
CHRIS ADDERSON, 300 Vista, said limiting house size does not reflect the historical identity of the neighborhood. By keeping everything average, Ashland can lose its attractiveness. He believes larger homes enhance neighborhoods and he does not want limitations.
DOUG NEUMAN, 951 Emigrant Creek Road, does not agree with limiting size. The consequences will be people working around it and finding loopholes.
BRYAN HOLLEY, 324 Liberty, believes it is a great idea to enact this ordinance. Our communities are about a balance of private property rights and willing participants who have given up some individual right for the greater community good. We do have a moral obligation to each other.
DOUG FORSYTH, 65 Granite Street, stated he is against the proposed ordinance. People have a fundamental right to build the house of their choosing.
TANYA BEMIS, 398 Dead Indian Memorial Road, is opposed to limiting house size. The restriction is not need based but fear based - fear of change. This ordinance restricts freedoms beyond the bounds of moderation.
GEORGE KRAMER, 386 N. Laurel, said he has heard testimony that no one is building large houses. There is a trend in this town. There is a current planning action, as described in a letter sent to every member in the Historic District, for a 4000 square foot footprint, two and one-half story house. That is a 10,000 square foot house. The average square footage of the other houses in that neighborhood is 1800 square feet. If built, it would be the largest building by a factor of three of any house built in the Historic District in Ashland. People can choose to move outside the Historic District to build a larger home. There is a need for this ordinance.
PAUL MENSCH, 451 North Main Street, said he is opposed to the ordinance. What are the real number of current properties that become non-compliant? He owns a bed and breakfast and people come to Ashland to see plays not to see the Historic District.
SID DEBOER, 234 Vista Street, suggested if the ordinance is passed that they not consider any one-half story living area in maximum permitted floor area. If people can put a couple of extra dormers in and get an extra 300 to 400 square feet, what does it hurt? He does not see a need for a five foot building height reduction. He asked there be a way for people to connect their garage and not have it count as living area. He believes Table I could be expanded. If the ordinance passes, he would ask the restrictions be made as expansive as possible and create as little conflict as possible.
BILL STREET, 180 Meade Street, said the Historic Districts mean a lot to him, he supports the ordinance and he asked if we are really interested in preserving them.
Chapman read about property rights from the Planning Commissioners Journal. He also read from the Comprehensive Plan.
Dotterrer said in looking at the sample data, 11% of the homes are larger than the ordinance would allow. He compared an 800 square foot house and a 4000 square foot house and he thought the 4000 square foot house fit better into the neighborhood. It was set back, had nice landscaping and looked newer. It did not appear that much larger.
Skibby said he wants a balance. He believes an ordinance is very important. Our Historic District is one of our assets. We do not have a historic preservation ordinance and nothing to really protect the Historic District.
Krippaehne does not think there is a person in the room who does not believe in historic preservation. She has not seen a threat of large houses. There is more a threat from demolition and remodeling and trying to create new houses that pretend to be old. It is not her personal priority to pursue house size limitation.
Briggs gave examples of her own research and she discovered that the large houses she has visited all over the world are generally on large acreage. Those who want to build a big house, need to put them on a big pieces of land.
Whitford agreed with Briggs. He is in agreement with the ordinance. As a homeowner in the Historic District, he would not want someone building a huge house next to him.
Saladoff looked at the existing diversity of homes. Seventy-nine percent are less than 2500 square feet and only 9% are over 3000 square feet. Are there any loopholes? What are the limits on the expansions?
Hanson believes we have enough restrictions already and he does not see this as a problem.
Krach echoed Skibbys remarks. The Historic District is deserving of protection.
Morris believes there should be some controls in the Historic District and would like to forward this ordinance to the Council. He would like to see the CUP provisions reviewed.
Swales has stated his full support of this ordinance in the past and continues that support. It is one more piece to limit bulk and scale. When people come to Ashland to see plays, Ashlands Historic District is part and parcel of that and that is why they choose to stay at Menchs bed and breakfast, not Motel 6 in Medford.
Briggs read a letter from Martha Wilhelm. She mentions the value of smaller scale homes.
Swales said the idea should be that large historic homes should remain the significant homes and are not overwhelmed by new houses that are built. Hanson wondered if the huge homes built today wouldn't be the historic homes in the future. Chapman said the problem is no one is building small houses any more.
McLaughlin said most of the building in the Historic District will be redevelopment. The trend in other desirable communities is that smaller homes are being demolished and larger houses are being built. As homes are demolished and rebuilt, the areas begin to lose their historic value.
Skibby said it is necessary to keep a certain percentage of historic homes in the Historic District to retain their status on the National Register. With the demolition of houses and combining of lots, he is concerned we will lose the balance.
Shostrom believes it is really important to retain what we have. Under the current ordinance, someone could build a house that is way out of scale with the neighborhood. That house will have an effect on all the houses in the neighborhood. The average house in our Districts is 1800 square feet. Some of the lots in the Railroad District are 25 feet wide and need to be built at a smaller human scale. That is what is unique about the Historic District.
Whitford said it is not only the scale of the house as it relates to the other houses, but the space around the house. This ordinance is about preserving some green space around the house.
Chapman agreed with Shostroms remarks. Ordinances speak about vision.
Shostrom said the Historic Commission review board members often see people who want to expand their attic space. It seems obvious to raise the dormers on each side. By leaving dormers as an option, that opens up that whole level to be either a second or third story and he would not go for that. It makes it too big. It is not a historic detail. If it has legal headroom, count it.
McLaughlin said the Historic Commission would review the changes on August 6, 2003. The Planning Commission will review it at their regular meeting on August 12, 2003. They will try to improve on the language based on tonights discussion. It will likely go to the City Council in September.
ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.