CALL TO ORDER
Planning Commission Chair Russ Chapman called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. Other Commissioners present were Kerry KenCairn, Colin Swales, Mike Morris, Marilyn Briggs and John Fields. Cameron Hanson, Ray Kistler, and Dave Dotterrer were absent. Council members present were Alex Amarotico, Kate Jackson and Chris Hearn. Absent were Don Laws, John Morrison and Cate Hartzell. Mayor Alan DeBoer arrived at 8:00 p.m. Staff present were John McLaughlin and Sue Yates.
GREATER BEAR CREEK VALLEY REGIONAL PROBLEM SOLVING "NOW X2"
McLaughlin said there have been three meetings on this topic. Each community in the Greater Bear Valley has been working on their individual comprehensive plans and their growth effort. The region is tightly linked with air quality, transportation, etc. This plan is looking at where growth can best occur and where it should be discouraged.
What are Ashland's recommendations for growth areas? With all the various constraints, such as I-5 and hillsides, we are looking at relatively small areas. The purpose of this meeting is to get some clear direction from the Commission and Council that will be taken to the Council for their final recommendation and adoption for growth areas.
McLaughlin's memo of August 26, 2003 describes the potential growth areas and the positives and negatives of each area: AD1, AD2, Mountain Meadows extension, and the Young property.
KenCairn asked if the City can just say "Stop" under this plan. McLaughlin referred to the Greater Bear Creek Valley Goals and Policies, Goal 3, (Recognize and emphasize individual identity, unique features...) Should Ashland provide a greater amount of housing, but due to the constraints, end up spoiling the part that makes us an important factor in the region? Ashland has a certain character and desirability. Regional problem solving is a process allowed under state statute that allows for flexibility of the statewide planning goals. We have to comply with the goals, but we have flexibility with the Admininstrative Rules. One option the City could choose is to recommend none of the growth areas and start looking at other opportunities for infill or increased densities in some of the vacant areas we have.
Swales asked about AD2. The western most side follows the bluff. Why does it go down into the gullies and cut back to East Main? Why the steeper land on the eastern side? McLaughlin thought it would be better under the City's jurisdiction than Jackson County's. As the areas develop, there are logical open spaces around the creek buffers that could be incorporated into an overall neighborhood plan some time down the road. That line is not necessarily fixed. Only the area that is accessed is what would be urbanized.
McLaughlin added this is the time to look at the big picture for the region. We are looking at a major policy issue for Ashland and the region. Are we going to modify our boundaries to accept additional growth as well as infill or are we going to say no? There are opportunities for amendments in future years. A process will be designed for that but it will be rigorous. The future growth areas are not for immediate growth. This is a long-term plan. We are still required to show the need for additional lands. Once the areas are identified for potential growth areas for Ashland, it will change their character. They will increase in value and there will be pressure to bring the lands in at some point.
McLaughlin thought the letter from 1000 Friends of Oregon raise some very good points.
DAVID YOUNG said he owns the triangular section of land near I-5. He is interested in helping the City meet the pressing need for affordable housing. His would offer the entire parcel for 50 or more affordable housing units. He would be willing to sell the units under the City's affordable program for $140,000 each. It looks to Young like a natural continuation of the urban plain with multiple density housing on the other side of Mountain Avenue.
McLaughlin explained that if this area was added as a growth area and the regional process is complete, Young could begin the process the next day.
KenCairn wondered if it could be zoned for low-income housing. McLaughlin said it could be zoned for that purpose.
Jackson asked about the road capacities for North Mountain and East Nevada. Would either one of these additional areas exceed the capacity? McLaughlin thought not.
Hearn wondered if Gary Collord, Housing Specialist, had been able to come up with any land use possibilities for parcels like Dr. Young's? McLaughlin said Collord's efforts have been going into more immediate housing already within the City, rather than something that might be five to ten years out.
Fields asked if this property would be a gift. Young said his plan would be to develop it himself and meet the City's intent.
McLaughlin said the difficulty of the discussion is that we are looking at some really different timeframes. We are looking at land needs and future development patterns for the community as opposed to a specific development that may be needed right now. That will evolve in the next five to ten years.
Swales wondered if we have looked at the wisdom of having high density so close the freeway in terms of the aesthetics Ashland presents to travelers along the I-5 corridor, or just how nice is it to live in those places?
MADELINE HILL said she and Larry Medinger own a piece of land east of Mountain Meadows. She commissioned a study of the land. It has never been used for agriculture. It is right next to a developed urban area. It is a manageable size and close to North Mountain Park and the greenway. Services are only a foot away. They would be interested in working with the Ashland Community Land Trust (ACLT). She and Medinger have been successful developers of affordable housing in whatever the City's program has been.
ELIZABETH HOWARD(?) said there is clearly a need in Ashland for affordable housing. We use other valuable resources by forcing the workforce to commute to other communities. She finally gave up looking for real estate in Ashland, Talent or Phoenix. She would like the Commission and Council to seriously look at those who cannot afford to live in Ashland. She has also noticed the lack of racial diversity in Ashland.
McLaughlin said they are looking at possibly rezoning some existing areas. We are still within the 20 year time range for all land classifications, but we are getting tight.
Hearn left the meeting.
KenCairn finds it interesting there are owners of two pieces of property asking to be included as growth areas. If we have this intensive low-income housing need and are having a very hard time finding property to facilitate it and these owners are willing to accept zoning that would force them to do 100 percent affordable housing, it seems like an incredible value to the community. Her concern is that there would be an island of low-income housing. Chapman mentioned this could be done with AD1 or AD2 also.
Chapman still wants to be able to call Ashland a small town. We have 20,000 people now. By the time we build out what is here, he thinks we'll be at 24, 000 to 25,000 people. He believes at that point we have an obligation to protect ourselves as a small community and we need to say, "that's it". He is not closing the gate. There is a small town attraction, charm and beauty that we need to protect. He thinks the current inventory is enough. KenCairn responded that is what is increasing the problems with affordable housing. Fields thinks we have an opportunity to force that land in with affordable restrictions.
Jackson asked if maintaining that small town feel would mean the rural feel of driving out East Main. Would AD2 enclose it more? Is it harder to describe senses of how different parts of town relate to each other? It is a difficult thing to pin down. You can physically define and limit the acres inside the city limits, but your population is always going to grow. You either accommodate that growth in higher density in attractive developments or you don't. To her, a big part of the community feel is that people that work here can live here.
The small town feel to KenCairn is that people know each other; people work together and see one another in the evening. The less affordability there is, the less that can happen.
Mayor DeBoer arrived.
Briggs prefers the AD2 piece. It seems like a more natural place to put a growth area and the bluff behind it seems like a natural boundary. It has the flattest land for building.
Chapman mentioned the areas of potential growth already in the UGB: The Croman property, the area around McDonald's, and two recently approved areas on North Mountain. The AD2 seems like the most logical area for growth, especially because it is in close proximity to the schools. Can the community absorb a potential 480 to 960 dwelling units?
Amarotico asked if they recommend no change and in ten years the town is bursting at the seams, how possible is it to change then? McLaughlin said it would mean going through this process locally and at a regional level. There will be windows of opportunity, probably every five years, for communities to amend their plans.
Jackson reminded the Commission and Council that we are a greater urban area. Regional transportation, growth, jobs placement, and housing can be better dealt with on a regional level than by each city by itself. From her viewpoint, she wants to be open-minded about the process. Swales said, in other words, politically, it is better to say we will do a little bit but with the understanding that we will keep tight control of what actually happens.
McLaughlin cautioned everyone in looking at the specific need for affordable housing. We are really looking at future housing areas that are going to be a combination of housing types. We don't want to isolate one type of housing.
KenCairn sees an opportunity with the two areas being offered by their owners to provide some affordable housing. Fields said there might be ways to do some creative things, like an affordable housing mitigation plan.
Chapman believes we have an obligation as a whole not to grow beyond the carrying capacity of the resources of this community. If it were a choice of parcels, he would not choose either piece by the freeway.
Swales feels it is not right to designate these areas as ghetto type housing. We have policies in place to allow for affordable housing and encourage infill and density. It would seem perfectly within our purview to take the lead and take that message to the rest of the valley.
Chapman said by adding areas, we are abandoning our principles for growth. He would support Option 2 for no change.
Swales said the demographics in Ashland are changing. The population moving here seems older and wealthier. He believes we should take this slowly and do our best to keep our compact urban form.
Briggs wondered what could happen to the possible growth areas if we choose not to add them. Can they develop? McLaughlin said according to state statute, land within one mile of the UGB cannot go below ten acre minimums.
Morris would like to see housing as a separate issue. It doesn't make sense to have low- income housing dictate decisions for our long-term UGB.
DeBoer believes we should adopt Option 2. We can always add more land or deviate from the plan if we find the right pieces of property. We need to have a regional approach. The rest of the county should see how we've worked with infill. It is a great statement to use what we have first before changing our UGB.
McLaughlin suggested doing a straw vote on how to proceed.
Morris wondered about a density transfer for setting aside wetlands in AD2. McLaughlin thought it would be hard to end up with 900 units.
Fields supports Option 2.
Swales supports Option 2. He would like a statement of our vision and promote our vision to the rest of the valley.
Jackson said since we are grappling with affordable housing, she would consider adding a few acres from the two proposals and AD2. Our statement of rationale for bringing these areas in would be to provide the housing type for which we are running out of acres.
Swales, Morris, KenCairn, Chapman, Fields, Amarotico and DeBoer support Option 2 (to varying degrees).
No one seemed to like AD1.
There was no opposition to the Goals and Policies.
Mayor DeBoer announced the Council will be talking about affordable housing priorities and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) at their next study session at noon on September 3, 2003.
Briggs gave a brief report of the recent AIA conference in Portland.
ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 9:20 p.m.