ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
OCTOBER 14, 2003
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Russ Chapman called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. Other Commissioners present were Dave Dotterrer, Marilyn Briggs, John Fields, Mike Morris, Colin Swales, Cameron Hanson, and Kerry KenCairn. Ray Kistler was absent. Staff present were John McLaughlin, Bill Molnar, Mark Knox and Sue Yates.
Chapman said there would be a Planning Commission "Chat" on October 21, 2003 at the Community Development and Engineering Services office at 51 Winburn Way at 4:00 p.m.
McLaughlin announced that Thursday, October 30, 2003, will be a kick-off meeting for the downtown design charrette for the Copeland Lumber block, including the City's parking lot (corner of Lithia Way and Pioneer). The Council has authorized City participation at looking for options for redevelopment of the entire block. The developers are having a charrette process to talk about the initial issues. McLaughlin believes this is a key meeting for the Commissioners and citizens. The charrette is scheduled for the first week of December (time and place to be announced). This initial meeting will take the place of the regularly scheduled Planning Commission Study Session on October 28th.
McLaughlin announced a study session with the City Council regarding Now X2, regional planning. The Council wanted to look at the future growth areas one more time and have a discussion with the Planning Commission. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 22, 2003 at noon at the Council Chambers.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES AND FINDINGS
Hearings Board - The Minutes and Findings of the September 9, 2003 Hearings Board were approved.
Regular Meeting -The Findings for PA2003-105 (National Guard Armory on East Main) and PA2003-112 (Pacific Western on Clover Lane) were approved.
Minutes of the September 9, 2003 Regular Meeting
Swales noted in the testimony that the armory does not have its own liquor license but they could have functions where alcohol is served because the caterer can have a liquor license. Swales asked the minutes be amended to more closely reflect that Lt. Col. Chilton was referring to a Hispanic festival for families with minors in attendance and that was the reason for denying a liquor license, and that by no means was any discrimination intended. The Minutes were approved as amended.
ROBERT OWENS, 67 ½ Alida Street, said he is a frequent user of the existing public pathways in Ashland, and of particular interest is the public walkway commonly used across the railroad tracks. He is also interested in the area between the railroad tracks/Oak Street/Hersey Street/Mountain Avenue that is soon to be developed.
KenCairn told Owens about Ashland Woodland Trails Association and encouraged Owens to attend a meeting and talk about the urban connection and his perspective. McLaughlin said the AWTA works with the Parks Commission and they are currently working on a master trails plan.
BILL STREET, 180 Meade Street, spoke about the planning process with regard to the big box ordinance. He reviewed the steps taken over the past three years and the meetings held to get to the place where the big box was adopted. The Planning Commission agreed unanimously on February 11, 2003 that the original interpretation of the big box should stand, that the 45,000 sq. ft. should refer to the gross square footage of a building in downtown Ashland. Throughout the process, Street had warned the City Council and the Planning Commission about the urgency of getting this established as law. It is clear that someone has taken advantage of this opportunity, has rushed their application through and is hoping that tonight the Planning Commission will rule favorably on their behalf. He cited e-mails, conversations and meetings with various public officials and was led to believe that if an application were to be made for a building greater than 45,000 square feet, that the application would be made known to the Council and public before being reviewed by the Planning Commission.
McLaughlin took the request to amend the big box ordinance to a Council study session regarding the Planning Commission's recommendation. The Council made some amendments and put it back through the process that ultimately ended up in the ordinance amendment.
Street wants to make it clear to the people of Ashland what has happened in the last three years and in the last six months. It will be clear to the Planning Commission why so many people in this town are becoming increasingly cynical about the process and how decisions are being made. He feels responsible for the way this process works and how it looks to the people of Ashland.
Why wasn't notice given to the people of Ashland that a project larger than 45,000 sq. ft. was moving forward? He said it is really important that we all do our homework, do the research, talk to the Planning Department, and talk to the Mayor or we will end up with something that goes against the will of both the Planning Commission and the people of Ashland.
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARING
PLANNING ACTION 2003-127
REQUEST FOR LAND PARTITION AND SITE REVIEW TO CONSTRUCT A MULTI-FLOOR MIXED-USE (CONDOMINIUM AND COMMERCIAL) BUILDING WITH UNDERGROUND PARKING UPON THE AREA OCCUPIED BY THE EXISTING ASHLAND SPRINGS HOTEL SURFACE PARKING AREA AT 212 E MAIN STREET. A VARIANCE IS REQUESTED TO ALLOW LESS THAN 65 PERCENT OF THE TOTAL GROSS FLOOR AREA OF THE GROUND FLOOR TO BE OCCUPIED BY A PERMITTED OR SPECIAL PERMITTED USES. IN ADDITION, AN ADMINISTRATIVE VARIANCE AND EXCEPTION IS REQUESTED TO SITE DESIGN AND USE STANDARDS RELATED TO SEPARATION BETWEEN BUILDINGS AND TO [I-C-3a(3)] AND TO ALLOW BALCONIES ON STREET FACING ELEVATIONS [VI-B-(3)].
APPLICANT: ED & TANYA BEMIS
Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts
KenCairn was contacted twice regarding the project and encouraged to review various parts of the submittal. She feels she can be impartial at this meeting.
Chapman agreed. If the public has any comments regarding planning actions, to send them to email@example.com and do not contact the Planning Commissioners. The information will then be included in the packet.
Hanson had a site visit and received a couple of e-mails he did not read.
Swales had three e-mails, did not open or read them, but replied to them and referred the senders to get in touch with John McLaughlin.
Morris, Fields and Briggs had site visits.
Chapman had a site visit and received two e-mails he did not read.
Dotterrer had a site visit. He received an e-mail from Jack Hardesty and read it. He read it to the Commissioners.
Molnar said the request involves a Land Partition to split the property in half, a Site Review to evaluate site improvements and building design associated with the new building, and a Variance request to allow approximately 56 percent of the ground floor of the new structure to be in a permitted commercial use such as retail or office rather than 65 percent, as required by ordinance. Two exceptions to the design standards have been requested.
This is a multi-faceted proposal located on the existing surface parking lot behind the Ashland Springs Hotel. The proposal includes multiple levels. The two uppermost levels will comprise 14 condominium spaces, 12 identified for residential use and two for commercial use. Below those two floors are approximately two and one half floors of structured parking. The parking structure will accommodate approximately 90 spaces, 68 to 70 for the existing hotel use and another 20 spaces for the residential condominiums. The area closest to the rear of the hotel is approximately four stories or 50 feet to the top. The average height is about 40 feet - the requirement for the downtown commercial area.
In addition to the condominiums and parking, the floorplans identify commercial tenant spaces. There are retail and professional tenant spaces identified along the perimeter of the project along First Street. The public pedestrian arcade walkway is between the back of the existing Ashland Springs Hotel and the new proposal. It will link up to the plaza and pedestrian ways behind the New Theater, ultimately connecting the public sidewalk along First Street all the way through to Pioneer Street.
The major component of the project includes site plan and building design review. Given the location of the project in the downtown, that it is located in the Historic District, and the scale of the project, it is subject to Ashland's Design Standards in their entirety. Staff believes a decision at tonight's meeting would be premature based on some of the items identified in the Staff Report. While the building is multiple stories, depending on which side of the project you are on, three and one-half stories are exposed above grade (50,000 to 60,000 square feet of building area). Staff's feeling is the information submitted is to some degree conceptual. While it gives Staff a good idea of what the building design looks like, there is not enough information to decipher some of the details along the building façade. Specifically, Staff sees a lot of changes in the building (columns, balconies), however, what is the difference in the depth of many of the elements from adjacent building design elements? If there is a projecting balcony, how far does it project from an adjoining column? Additional information is needed to make those distinctions clearer. If the proposal is approved, they don't want any questions at the building permit stage as to what was proposed at the planning level. Because the downtown is a pedestrian environment, many of the details on the building and site improvements can really influence how the downtown operates.
Yesterday, the planning staff met with the applicants and the project architects and additional information was provided to address some of Staff's concerns. One drawing they provided shows better awareness of the depth and dimension of the exterior façade. There are also details of the building façade showing exact projection of items, widths of cornices and other building elements. That has made the picture clearer to Staff, however, the Planning Commissioners are just seeing it for the first time this evening. He believes this information was not available to the Historic Commission at their meeting last week.
There is an exception to the downtown standards relating to projecting balconies. The standard is that projecting balconies shall not be incorporated on street-facing elevations. There are a number of projecting balconies proposed, primarily for the residential condominiums. New information has been provided showing the projections at four to five feet from the building façade. The information raises some new questions. The projecting balconies along the street elevations would also project in some locations, halfway over the public sidewalks. Staff is identifying sidewalks along First and Hargadine Streets at ten feet in width. We have not evaluated that information yet. There are a number of new street trees to be planted in tree grates along the public sidewalks. Given the size of the building, the street tree species will tend to be narrow or columnar. How will the placement of the street trees relate to the projecting balconies? Everyone involved in a project of this size wants to have a very clear idea of how this building is designed and what can be expected if it is constructed. Staff believes the balconies can enhance the living spaces and will serve to provide more visibility on surrounding streets.
The applicants are asking for variance to the percentage of ground floor area required to be in a commercial use. They are proposing 56 percent and the requirement is 65 percent. The site is currently asphalt. The downtown plan looks for a strong pedestrian environment an element currently lacking. A proposal that adds retail and commercial space on the ground floor along a public sidewalk, Staff sees as advantageous. The proposal sets those areas along First Street, Hargadine and the public plaza area.
The applicants have requested a potential Administrative Variance to a design standard requiring that buildings be separated by a distance equal to the height of the tallest building. If separate parcels are being developed by individual property owners, can one property owner really be held hostage to another possibly rendering a parcel difficult to develop? Staff does not think this applies to separate parcels under separate ownership, that is was intended to apply to an area like the Tolman Creek Shopping Center where there are multiple structures in one development.
Swales said this parcel is under one ownership. How does it apply? Molnar said they are proposing to partition the property as part of the application. Swales said that is the owner's choice. Doesn't that make it self-imposed? Molnar said, in a sense, yes. Self-imposition or unique or unusual hardship does not apply to an Administrative Variance. Does the design still meet the purpose and intent of what the downtown standards and site review standards are trying to accomplish? Staff feels there are many separate parcels in the downtown. Swales said since there is no minimum lot size, the lots could be subdivided infinitum, making this part of the design standards completely meaningless. Molnar said it was noticed as a Variance and the applicants have addressed it in their findings and have really tried to meet the spirit of the standard in their application.
Molnar said another issue raised in the Staff Report is the public space requirement calculation. For large scale developments of greater than 10,000 square feet, one square foot of public plaza space is required for every ten square feet of gross floor area. The application identifies about 2,400 square feet of public plaza space. That calculation was based on one square foot for every ten square feet of footprint area or 19,600 sq. ft. Based on the Council's past interpretation of footprint area as the maximum size of the building, that is how the public space required would be calculated. There have possibly been past applications where the public space requirement was based on interior gross floor area. In this case, the public space requirement would be around 4,500 square feet. In this application, open space for public use runs between the two buildings. The public space need not be dedicated right-of-way. There are some areas within the project that the applicant can identify, depending on the Commission's interpretation, that could go toward the public space requirement. There is an area in the center of the building that allows access to individuals.
Staff is requiring that additional property be dedicated to expand the six foot sidewalks an additional three to three and one-half feet around the perimeter of the project, as well as looking at a public walkway along the public alley to allow for pedestrian refuge along the alley.
Overall, Staff has identified several positive elements of the project. The Historic Commission had two motions. One was for denial based on the submittal information that was deemed too conceptual. The other was to approve the design in concept with need for additional details and return to the Historic Commission. The second motion passed. Staff's position, even though new information has been received, is that given the scope of the project, additional evaluation of the information is needed and they believe there might be more new information needed. Some of the new information has raised additional questions. There is site information that has not been discussed in the application (i.e., electrical transformers on the corner that appear as landscape areas on the plans). Staff has recommended that the application be continued until additional information can be reviewed by this Commission and the Historic Commission. If the Planning Commission chooses to consider an approval, there are Conditions added.
Briggs wondered if Staff's recommendation is for ten foot sidewalks on Hargadine and First Streets, won't that make the entire footprint smaller and all the numbers change? Molnar said that was a Staff concern also. There may be some planter areas that could be removed to accommodate the wider sidewalk, but Molnar advised Briggs to ask the applicant.
KenCairn wondered on what Staff was basing their plaza calculation. Molnar said they based it on the interior floor space of the building devoted to heated, occupiable space - the two floors of condominium and the retail areas on the third floor. They did not include the parking structure. Staff believes it should be based more on the volume exposed above the basement. KenCairn said the interior gross floor area used for living is 40,000 sq, ft, or less. That would take the plaza to 4,000 square feet or less. Molnar said living floor space and commercial space below would exceed 40,000 square feet.
Hanson asked if the top story of the parking structure underneath wasn't included in those figures, why might it be included in the gross floor area? Molnar said that, based on changes to the big box amendments that go into effect in two days, parking areas that are not considered a basement are included in the gross floor calculation. The uppermost level of parking looked like more than 50 percent was exposed by more than six feet, therefore, it would not be considered a basement parking level for the purposes of maximum building size. That is how Staff came up with roughly 59,000 square feet, based on the new ordinance amendments that will go into effect. This is a new hybrid that we've never had a chance to apply the standard.
Swales is concerned that the applicants and to a certain extent Staff, seem to kind of cherry-pick between the original ordinance and the amended ordinance as it suits them. What do we base our decision on tonight? Molnar said the application is subject to the ordinance already in effect at the time application was made. That is the existing ordinance, not the new one coming up in two days. McLaughlin said state statute says that the rules in effect the day application is made, are the rules that apply. The applicants do not have a choice
ED AND TANYA BEMIS, P. O. Box 1018, Ashland, OR 97520
Ed said he and his wife found the site behind the Ashland Springs Hotel and thought they would like to build there and live there.
Tanya said there were a number of challenges posed to the architectural firm. They had to replace the parking at the hotel and deal with the slope. They have brought a mixed-use design to the downtown core. She is pleased with how they have been able to incorporate a lot of trees, shrubs, and green spaces into the pedestrian corridor and into the internal plaza area entering from Hargadine. It is visible from all the units. They did not want to build a new building that looked like an old building. They want it to compliment the historic buildings. She believes it has a look that says it is from a different era, yet has a modern flair. There are arches and columns that replicate some of the features in the hotel and across the street that have been incorporated.
DAVID WILKERSON, OgdenKistler Architecture, 2950 East Barnett Road, Medford, OR 97504, handed out additional information. They designed over 11,000 square feet of retail/commercial space at ground level, two commercial condominiums and 12 residential units, including one affordable unit. Another element included is the pedestrian plaza that links from OSF to First Street. Wilkerson said they want to enliven and enhance the pedestrian way and the streetscape. They have replaced the surface parking with enclosed parking, hidden from view. They have provided dwelling units in the downtown core, in accordance with the Downtown Standards and Downtown Plan. They have provided affordable housing. The design and scale of the building is compatible with the neighboring buildings and with the downtown fabric.
Wilkerson showed a couple of wall sections through the exterior of the building on First Street and through the pedestrian areas showing the setbacks and projections of the balconies. This is a result of the meeting with the Historic Commission. The 3-D perspective shows how the building is responding to the Downtown Design Standards.
KEN OGDEN, OgdenKister, said currently the sidewalk is five or six feet wide and that is where the property line occurs. Staff has asked them to increase the sidewalk to approximately ten feet in width, but the balconies do not project beyond the property boundaries. The additional sidewalk width could be allocated to the public plaza requirements should the determination be that it is based on gross square footage. It will not alter the building footprint, because prior to the sidewalk width they have now, there was a landscape strip that has been removed. The tree wells and tree grates have been reconfigured to conform to a more standard size that meets the requirements of the Tree Commission.
Wilkerson said the drawings indicate that exterior public space square footage is 5,178 square feet. That includes space around the building on all three sides. The mid-block plaza link is 2,359 square feet.
Ogden said they have also included benches along the pedestrian link and the sidewalk along First Street.
Briggs asked about the electrical boxes. Ogden said they are looking at cleaning up the site and relocating the boxes.
Wilkerson said currently the property is all on one lot and owned by the Ashland Springs Hotel. It does not need to be partitioned to get around any design standards, but the Bemis' want title of the property.
Ogden said the Historic Commission encouraged the concept of their proposal and were very supportive of this type of development going in. He would encourage adding a condition that they will meet with the Historic Commission two or three times during each phase of the architectural process to make sure they are in conformance with their intent for the project.
Ogden said they are working toward bringing more residential to the downtown area, enhancing the pedestrian pathways with commercial opportunities, and internalizing the parking for the building. Where the building does butt the residential edge along Hargadine, the scale has been kept very residential. The front forms are articulated so there is relief. The treescape will buffer this building and across the street. First Street is a branch off the Main Street core and there is an opportunity to vary from a harsh street front by using balconies. The articulation creates more interest in the architectural elements, but it also responds to the element of outdoor space for the multi-family units. It makes it a little more visual and allows the good relationship between residential and the street activities happening below.
Dotterrer asked the applicants how they calculated the gross floor area. Wilkerson said the gross floor area under the current ordinance is 39,303 sq. ft. (occupied or heated space).
Briggs would like to see this proposal done without a variance to the 65 percent commercial space requirement. It looks like we are obliged to go with the old ordinance. Could the affordable unit have one parking space instead of two? Add the parking space to the retail. Ogden said if there is an opportunity to do that, they would be willing to make the adjustment.
Fields asked why they can't get the 65 percent. Ogden said in the initial go-around, they were looking at parking spaces as a valuable commodity, especially for the residential units. If it means the success of the space, they can wrestle with it. Also, the slope of the lot and access was a factor. It was a decision to balance parking and retail. Fields asked if the diamond at floor level was accessible. Is it just windows into the courtyard? The gate could be moved and put into the commercial space.
Swales said his major concern is that the application should include floor areas of the condominiums, floorplans, and dimensions.
Hanson believes a project of this size and scope deserves a lot more attention that we can give it tonight.
KenCairn is inclined to follow the lead of the Historic Commission. The concept is right but this is a really big project and it means a lot to a lot of people and she does not believe they have seen enough yet.
Ed Bemis believes there is a lot of detail on the drawings they presented tonight that meets the requirements.
Tanya Bemis said precise floorplans have not yet been drawn because they would like to offer them as shells so people can come in and design their own spaces.
Swales said none of the commercial spaces have been given any square footage. Most projects have a list of data and it's just not here.
Chapman is not prepared to make a decision tonight because he wants to respect the process of the Historic Commission.
KenCairn asked if they are committed to doing rooftop gardens. Where is the access? Are they expecting people to go up and participate? Ed Bemis said there is a stairway out of the basement and the access would probably be in that area. Wilkerson said the purpose of the rooftop gardens is to provide a green roofing system. They are still working on it. They can increase the insulation value of the roof envelope, decrease the amount of storm water runoff and decrease the heat load. Wilkerson said they will try to capture as much rainwater as they can and perhaps do raised bed. It is not intended as outdoor living space for the residents. KenCairn asked them to clarify what they plan to do on the roof.
Morris would like to see some proportions. On the third page of the handout, there are no dimensions as to how the face is broken out.
Swales asked for a clarification of the landscaping.
DOM PROVOST, 4224 Hwy. 66, said it would be nice to get behind these people because they are putting a beautiful project on a piece of land that is not very pretty. The project they are presenting will enhance downtown Ashland. He hopes the Planning Commission will approve it.
DOUG NEUMAN, 951 Emigrant Creek Road, felt the additional businesses would add to the downtown area. The benches and water features will be a nice addition. He also believes it will add to economic diversity of the downtown. He likes the idea of more pedestrians using First Street.
ERIC NAVICKAS, 711 Faith Avenue, does not like the building design. He is concerned about the variance to the setback requirement. The project does not meet the requirements of the Site Design Standards. There is no need to allow balconies in the downtown.
BILL STREET, 180 Meade Street, does not believe the design reflects our historic patterns. If you walk up the hill toward Vista, Gresham or Iowa, you don't see an 80,000 square foot building, 15,000 of which is hidden, and 65,000 that is visible to the naked eye. He believes John Fields' building on Second and Main has made good use of local materials, a building that steps up the hillside, and it's in the context of the other buildings that are modest.
Street applauds the Planning Commission for wanting the applicants to come back with more details. It is interesting that the one affordable unit is in the middle on the side overlooking the parking structure. Will teachers, planning officers, insurance men be able to afford the units? He would urge the Planning Commission not to approve this application in concept.
He referred to page 15 of the applicant's findings. It refers to the Administrative Variance, (A, B, C, D). He would like to focus particularly on item D - variance requested is the "minimum variance". What does that mean? It is his understanding that this is the largest building to be built in Ashland yet it has hardly been mentioned in the papers. Hardly anyone knows about it. The process is flawed.
BRYAN HOLLEY, 324 Liberty Street, noted the disconnectedness of this project. This is assuming that all businesses open and do well. He does not believe there will be affordable housing with this proposed project. He questioned the building square footage.
Molnar said the building footprint is just under 20,000 sq. ft. The three stories combined calculate out at about 59,000 square feet. Add another 30,000 square feet for the underground parking.
Ogden said the drawings that have been provided meet the checklist of items in the Site Review Standards. Their willingness to provide additional information is there. He would like an opinion of the prospect of the project moving forward conceptually. Does the Planning Commission endorse it? They would like to hear what information they need to respond to.
Chapman noted the following items: Historic Commission items, Staff's concerns, the rooftop space and what will be happening there. The Planning Commission does not give conceptual approval. He would love to see this parking lot developed and developed with the residential and retail mix.
Dotterrer agreed with Chapman. He approves of the concept. He has some concerns about the exception to the design standards with regard to balconies. He would like to see more detail so he can get a better idea of what it will look like. He would like Staff to explain why that was included in the design standards. He would like to know more about the size of the building.
Briggs would like to see the 65 percent variance eliminated. She has mixed feelings about the balconies. Perhaps they would be alright on Hargadine. She is having trouble with them on First Street because of the slope. The balconies projecting will have the appearance of bumping your head on them. She is not too troubled with the distance between buildings. Will the conifer at the back of the hotel by the alley be retained? Ogden said they would try. Briggs noted the affordable housing looks onto First Street.
Fields said for him it is what the ordinance was and is and is going to be. The Council's misinterpretation of what is gross and not, the Commission agreed unanimously that we stretched it and that we should go back and look at it. The original intent to the ordinance was that it was gross not footprint and it is not being reinstated. As far as he is concerned, a denial forces the applicants to come back under the new ordinance. He thinks we have the authority to deny. It has been a long ten year discussion of what big box means and what it means in the downtown. He thought we decided it. If we did decide it, then it leads him to denial. It may be losing downtown parking or some condominiums, but that affects the mass and scale of how big the building is going to be. He thinks the Commission's clear, consistent, objective standards have already been defined. The Council re-interpreted the ordinance, it took several years to redefine it and the applicants have applied from the Council's last interpretation. That is the area of concern. He would like to see it come back under the new ordinance. The land value and the parking needed for the hotel is in direct connection to the value of the land and it is not up to the Commission to subsidize that.
McLaughlin said the Commission has the authority to approve or deny. They have to use the criteria and standards in place at the time the application was filed. They can't use the new ordinance as a hammer.
Fields believes this is an unusual circumstance.
Morris would like to see it go forward. He would like to see more detail. Right across the street is a recessed balcony. He would like to see some dimension.
Swales has a lot of concerns with this. There has been a lot of discussion tonight about whether this is footprint or square footage. The determination that Council made is that the building would comply with the gross square footage if they were split apart. His recollection is that the architect gave the square footage of the Hargadine parking structure as 46,000 square feet. McLaughlin chose to instruct the Council to interpret that with the inside walls so it is now 45,000 square feet. That is the way the Council interpreted it at the appeal. If we use the old ordinance, we count it all. If we count the new ordinance, they would get away with a basement story of parking. That would be grounds for denying it. A more philosophical reason for denial is that the applicants have done a rush job to get this in under the wire in order to make use of the old ordinance rather than the direction the Council has given for the ordinance amendment. He believes that it should be judged by this and judged harshly by this. He thinks the timing is calculated to make sure that it can be interpreted in the best possible light. If they want to be held to that interpretation, they should be held to that interpretation. If they choose to thumb their nose at the ordinance amendments that come into place in two days time, then that is their choice.
Swales has other concerns with regard to what has been constantly touted here by the applicants and by Staff about how we want to encourage residential in downtown, even affordable. The adage about having 24 hour eyes and ears on this neighborhood is an argument he has heard with regard to large cities. We have a very vibrant downtown with traffic going through it all hours of the day and night. We have bars and nightclubs, bookshops and theaters open until late at night. We have numerous restaurants. He doesn't see where our little city needs 24 hour surveillance. He read the purpose and intent of the commercial area. He thinks the ordinance is saying that our downtown core is commercial and it encourages residential uses on upper stories. He thinks this development provides the wrong mix (19,000 sq. ft. of residential/11,000 sq. ft. of commercial) for this site. It is taking advantage of not having to provide parking for the commercial. All the parking spaces are private for the hotel and residential condominiums and there is no handicap parking in this neighborhood. The whole development speaks of self-interest rather than outreach. He also believes the applicants have misinterpreted what the ordinance says about balconies. The ordinance tries to discourage balconies and verandas on the façade of the building. It doesn't preclude outdoor spaces that could be provided by terracing the building back. That would seem more appropriate; to have a building that steps down, providing views and terracing on the roof of the unit below. He worked off the drawing and found the building height is about two feet over the maximum. With regard to the pedestrian plaza, he believes that is stretching the definition of a plaza. In fact, there is a pedestrian walkway with a 50 foot façade on its north boundary and it will get very little sunlight. It should be re-worked in conjunction with the Historic Commission taking into consideration the citizen input heard tonight. He believes the building should be more deferential to the existing historic grain and nature of our downtown. He would recommend either denial or in the interim it should go back to the City Council for interpretation for exactly what they intended the 45,000 sq. ft. under the existing ordinance.
Wilkerson said there are handicap parking spaces shown on every level of parking. Swales said there is no handicap parking for the general public. Ogden said some of the parking spaces could be allocated to the handicap spaces that could be available to the public as a way of meeting the 65 percent criteria.
Hanson likes this project and wants to see it built. However, Staff has reservations as there are too many variances, and the bigger the project, the more scrutiny it deserves. He believes the applicants are going to have an uphill climb with the current design.
KenCairn likes balconies. She doesn't want to see them hanging out over the sidewalk, but she likes open space on the building façade. Staff and the Historic Commission are uncomfortable with the level of detail. She would like to see the building happen. She would like to see the applicants work it out further.
Briggs liked Swales' idea about terracing. Perhaps the cornice could be stepped back so the mass is diminished on the four corners and that could be terraces for the condominiums. Dotterrer does not want to see it stepped back too much.
Ed Bemis said one of the most important parts of this building is that these are single level units.
Tanya Bemis said there was no attempt to rush anything or get away with anything. One of the considerations in terms of time, when this project is under construction, there is no parking for the hotel at that point. They thought the best time to shut down the parking lot would be during the low season.
Ed Bemis said they did not know when the new ordinance was going to be approved. It could have been two years from now.
COMMISSIONERS' DISCUSSION AND MOTION
Fields said the whole thing is based on massing. Is it too big for Ashland? Is it compatible? The variances are directly related to massing. The variances are all about maximizing square footage. He moved to deny PA2003-127. Swales seconded the motion. He added that the footprint never came into the discussion of the OSF building. It's more than 45,000 gross square feet and out of compliance.
Swales would like to see the applicants given a choice to apply under the new ordinance amendment. McLaughlin said they have submitted under the ordinance in effect at the time. He said unless they deny it, they are bound to the existing ordinance. The applicants have the option of withdrawing and reapplying. The Commissioners are bound to apply the rules that are in effect the date that the applicants applied. They have to view that in an unbiased way, looking at the evidence submitted in the record.
Swales asked if the interpretation of the existing ordinance is still up in the air. McLaughlin said, no. The written findings adopted by the Council enumerating their interpretation is what is in effect. The Council, could, if this was appealed, choose to change their interpretation regarding this action.
The motion to deny failed with Fields, Swales and Hanson voting "yes" and Briggs, Dotterrer, Chapman, Morris and KenCairn voting "no".
McLaughlin said the application is still active. The public hearing is still open. We will not be mailing out additional notice. The public hearing will be continued to Wednesday, November 12, 2003, 7:00 p.m. at the Council Chambers.
McLaughlin reiterated that the charrette will be a perfect chance to look at the specific development in the downtown, giving people a chance to get specifically involved with their input for a much larger area than the application tonight. This should be extremely valuable.
10/22/03 There will be a noon study session with the Council regarding Now X2.
10/28/03 Planning Commission Chat - Community Development offices - 4:00 p.m.
10/3/03 Charrette kick-off (time & place to be announced)
11/12/03 Regular Planning Commission meeting
ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 10:30 p.m.
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