Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Hearings Board

Minutes
Tuesday, October 12, 2004


ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
HEARINGS BOARD
MINUTES
OCTOBER 12, 2004

I. CALL TO ORDER
Mike Morris called the Ashland Planning Commission Hearings Board to order at 1:45 p.m. on October 12, 2004 in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street, Ashland, Oregon.
Commissioners Present: Mike Morris
Michael Dawkins
Allen Douma (arrived at 2:00 p.m.)
Absent Commissioners: None
Council Liaison: Alex Amarotico (Council Liaison does not attend Planning Commission meetings in order to avoid conflict of interest.)
SOU Liaison: None
High School Liaison: None
Staff Present: Bill Molnar, Senior Planner
Maria Harris, Associate Planner
Sue Yates, Executive Secretary
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II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES AND FINDINGS - Douma/Dawkins m/s to approve the minutes of the September 14, 2004. Voice Vote: Unanimous. Douma/Dawkins m/s to approve the Findings for PA2004-115, 724 Iowa Street, Kaufman. Voice Vote: Unanimous.
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III. TYPE I PLANNING ACTIONS
A. PLANNING ACTION 2004-127
CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT FOR THE EXPANSION AND STRUCTURAL ALTERATION OF THE NON-CONFORMING GARAGE STRUCTURE LOCATED AT 108 SEVENTH STREET (ADJACENT TO "C" STREET).
APPLICANT: MATT STORMONT, NEW HEIGHTS DESIGN

This application was administratively approved. however, the Historic Commission had a number of design issues. If the Hearings Board feel there are items that require further discussion, then Staff would recommend calling it up for a hearing next month. He believes the applicant is anticipating a postponement. Douma/Dawkins m/s to call this action for a public hearing next month. Roll Call: Unanimous.
B. PLANNING ACTION 2004-113
REQUEST FOR MODIFICATION OF A PREVIOUSLY APPROVED SITE REVIEW PERMIT TO CONSTRUCT A TWO-STORY, 22,000 SQUARE FOOT ADDITION OF LABORATORY AND OFFICE SPACE TO THE NATIONAL FISH AND WILDLIFE FORENSICS LABORATORY LOCATED AT 1490 EAST MAIN STREET. THE APPLICANTS ARE ALSO REQUESTING A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT FOR AN ADDITION NOT ALREADY NOTED WITH THE SOUTHERN OREGON UNIVERSITY MASTER PLAN.
APPLICANT: USFWS NATIONAL FORENSICS LABORATORY

Douma asked if the additional capacity capability of the lab would reflect any additional or different kind of evaluations going on. Is it possible they will be bringing significantly dangerous materials? He would like to make sure there would be a full discussion about this so there is no second guessing later on. It would be to the advantage of the Forensics Lab also.

Molnar said we could utilize Conditions 12 and 13 to get more information such as a complete list of chemicals and pathological wastes to make sure the lab is coordinating with City systems in terms of how they are discharging the waste.

Douma wanted a guarantee that Phase 2 would happen. Molnar said Condition 11 covers that question.

This action was approved.

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IV. TYPE II PUBLIC HEARING
PLANNING ACTION 2004-110
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT TO CONSTRUCT A NEW SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCE ON THE PARCEL LOCATED AT 150 CHURCH STREET WITH A PROPOSED TOTAL FLOOR AREA IN EXCESS OF THE MAXIMUM PERMITTED FLOOR AREA (MPFA) ALLOWED BY ORDINANCE. THE MAXIMUM PERMITTED FLOOR AREA FOR THE PARCEL IS 3,249 SQUARE FEET, WHILE THE PROPOSED RESIDENCE IS 3,557 SQUARE FEET OR 9% GREATER THAN ALLOWED BY ORDINANCE.
APPLICANT: ROBERT M. SALADOFF

Site Visit or Ex Parte Contacts - Site visits were made by all.

STAFF REPORT
Severson said this application was initially approved as a Type I. Two letters were received calling the action up for a public hearing. Staff believes the initial approval should stand and the additional 308 square feet is justified. The design uses the topography well, limits the mass to the street, steps the remainder of the building down slope and conceals the remaining mass behind the building. The scale works with the lot and the additional area is concealed to the degree it preserves the streetscape. The Historic Commission reviewed it last month and their discussion centered on the fact the applicant could have constructed a 3,249 square foot structure at the street and instead proposed 2,157 square feet of mass in order to preserve the streetscape in the historic neighborhood with the remainder down slope. The alley is the primary access for the project and is a requirement of the partition creating this lot. Two letters were received in support of the application. The removal of the oak tree occurred under a properly processed Tree Removal Permit. With regard to the run-off concern, building code will require that the applicant not direct run-off to neighboring properties but will have to go into the storm drain system. Staff recommends approval with the attached Conditions.

PUBLIC HEARING
Rob & Susan Saladoff, 1290 Munson Drive
Rob noted two points of the maximum house size ordinance. One purpose of the ordinance is creation of a graduated scale that can accommodate larger homes on larger lots. He did a survey (copy to Commissioners) that looks at all the residential properties within a quarter mile radius of their house. The documentation lists all the properties. He found the average floor area ratio (FAR), ratio of house size to lot size, on an acre basis in the neighborhood average was .19 and their proposed development is .20, slightly above the average. There are more properties with a higher FAR ratio in their quarter mile neighborhood than their proposal.

Saladoff believes they meet the ordinance to exceed the maximum house size because they have a 27 foot setback from the front property line. They have used a mix of materials. They have used low sloping and deep overhanging rafters, and a number of bumpouts and recesses that give modulation to the façade. The front volume composes about 2500 square feet of the whole house an is connected in the back with a one-story volume that turns toward the sun and picks up views of Mt. Ashland and is set quite a distance off the street. It helps break up the elevation from the street. The overall height of the house is 27 feet, the maximum is 30 feet. They are in the sloping line coming down Church Street, looking at the tops of roofs.

There will be a parking area in the rear for three cars off the alley. There will not be a garage. They will gain access to the house through the back or the side.

Susan said they tried with the design of this house to have a house that fit nicely into the neighborhood. The lot has been empty for a long time and they realize the neighbors are going to miss the empty space that is there now. They are not blocking their side neighbor's view of Mt. Ashland. They wanted to preserve the 100 year old oak tree. One tree has been cut down because two arborists told them if they built this house, the tree would fall down on top of it. The location of the pool is not relevant to this action. They are taking care of the storm drainage with an easement with the neighbor. Their lot is 17,000 square feet. The house will be in proportion to the lot size.

Dawkins said at some point in time, we need to look at how big houses are. It is important how it blends in with the neighborhood. He doesn't feel the other house sizes are relevant because they were built before the ordinance went into effect. Susan said this house design fits with the intent of the ordinance. Rob said that was an issue at the Historic Commission. Susan said the ordinance has the exception.

Bill Emerson, 90 Fifth Street, is speaking on behalf of Doug Whitney, the neighbor to the east. Whitney has already stated he is in favor of the application. He likes the size and believes the streetscape works. He handed out a photo. There is a tree on Whitney's property. The drip edge is just to the edge of the house. The landing for the basement is about two and one-half to three feet below grade. The concern is the root system of the tree. An arborist said the roots were more on the uphill side. Could a small part of the basement be cut away with post and pier construction and the landing placed a little further from the tree? The tree has a 24 inch diameter.

Jim Williams, 160 Church Street, lives next to the Saladoff property. In general, he believes the design is fine. He is opposed to the CUP because of traffic congestion on the alley. He is upset the existing oak tree was cut down. And, the applicant should designate a tree planting area in the location of the dripline of the fallen oak. His related his experience with the remodel of his Victorian house. He said a planner told them their 17 percent request for an increase in the maximum house size would never be approved. He wants the ordinance to be administered fairly.

Mark and Cici Brown, 151 Church Street, read a letter from David Hoxie, 174 Church Street. Mark said the Engineering Department wrote that the Church and Scenic intersection is the most dangerous intersection in Ashland. The Browns will be impacted by any additional vehicle trips. They are directly across from the entrance to the alley.

Cici said the timing of the removal of the oak tree was of concern to her. The wood from the tree was not milled, but cut into firewood. The applicants have justified exceeding the square footage saying they entertain a lot. That means more cars going up and down the alley. It seems more appropriate for access to be from the roadway rather than the alley.

Lew Nash, 88 Baum Street, said the lot size is not an issue. The rear appendage of the proposed house is over 1900 square feet. They are asking the Commission to hold the Saladoff's to the limit as established. The application is flawed. There was a certification on an application that the factual information was adequate and supported the excess size. Nash submits that is not true. On the initial application they listed ten properties as samples of the neighborhood norm. He calculated the average house size of 2,932. The sample omits properties that are very small. After doing his own survey, he came up with 1,708 square foot as an average home size of the ten homes in the same block as the proposed construction. These are just the houses on Church Street, Scenic and down High Street. The average of 23 houses is 2,116 square feet. Is the limit appropriate for this kind of neighborhood? It is more than generous. The house is massive in scale and is well oversized and should not be allowed.

He submitted a petition of 15 neighbors opposed to the application.

Melody and Jeff Jones, 79 Pine Street, lives next to the alley. Melody said the maximum house size ordinance is based on thought out criteria. By asking for an increase in size, it diminishes the integrity of the ordinance. It took the LTM truck four tried to get up the alley this morning. If construction trucks can't get up, she doesn't know how the alley can withstand more traffic.

Jeff said he never got one word of a house or a tree being cut down. He is concerned with alley access especially if they entertain. The increased traffic will create a more dangerous situation for his child. He requested they deny the request for the additional size and that the access be moved back up to Church Street.

Robert Burstein said he had two other arborists look at the oak tree. There were so many spikes driven in it, that it would have been very dangerous to cut it into wood. That was a big concern of the Saladoff's.

Rebuttal
Saladoff said the parking was dictated by City requirements. It is posted No Parking even front of their house. It was part of the partition requirements. They are planning to do a lot of landscaping and plantings.

Staff Response
Molnar said the Street Standards direct opportunities for access from an alley in conjunction with a partition. The access is not part of the application.

COMMISSIONERS' DISCUSSION AND MOTION
Severson noted there is a report from Upper Limb It (arborist) stating the tree was decayed and would recommend removal. The tree removal is not part of this application.

Molnar said under the CUP, they could entertain changes to ensure the health of the neighboring tree.

The Commissioners had considerable discussion and confusion about the criteria to follow for the maximum house size.

Molnar explained the Conditional Use Permit directs the Planning Commission to relate the application to the "impact" area. That is generally defined as the notice area (200 feet within the boundaries of the subject parcel), On appeal, if it was raised, that would be the relevant area.

Dawkins said the only issue for him is "size creep." He is very much in favor of size caps. He's watched this town creeping for 58 years. Last month they had their first hearing for maximum house size. He found evidence to be somewhat compelling to allow the CUP, but he had huge reservations. He believes the ordinance is generous. When you are looking at the scale of the entire neighborhood, he can't really look at lot size. It is a good design but he can't approve it and will say no unless it is hugely compelling to approve it. His hope is that they will stand firmly together on size limitations in Ashland.

Morris said this is the second time we have seen the maximum house size request. The issue he has with the ordinance is that it is a bulk and scale ordinance but it directed toward square footage. He cannot correlate square footage to bulk and scale. The square footage doesn't address the bulk and scale at the street. You can take square footage out and end up with a much bulkier building or a building that does not fit. To allow the CUP to go up to 25 percent larger has to fit with how the building fits in. The Historic Commission reviewed this according to how it appeared from the street and it fit in on the streetscape. He believes more guidelines are needed for this ordinance. Dawkins agreed.

It is not clear to Douma what the ordinance is trying to accomplish other than leaning toward size. Does it fit in (to the impact area)? The applicant has done a good job of designing into the landscape.

Molnar said the intent of the ordinance was to establish a figure and then give a relief valve (CUP) and it is compared with the target use for the property. In this case, it is a single family residence at 3,250 square feet. Does the extra 308 square feet have an adverse impact on the livability of this neighborhood when looking at bulk, scale and lot coverage? Each application is a little different and it will be a struggle to make a decision. The Historic Commission focused on the two standards with specifics toward streetscape. They are required to look at the criteria and forward their recommendation to the Planning Commission. They have given a fairly clear recommendation. Molnar added that "compelling reason" is usually more for a Variance situation. CUP's are a little more free-flowing.

Should this application be heard before the full Commission? Straw Vote: Dawkins voted "yes" and Douma and Morris voted "no."

The Commissioners had a difficult time knowing what decision to make. Should it be heard before the full Commission?

Should it be denied? Should it be approved? Is the applicant willing to extend the 120 day limit? The Commission did not want to hold the applicant up in the process.

Dawkins moved to deny PA2004-114. The motion failed for a lack of a second.

Morris moved to approve PA2004-114. The motion failed for a lack of a second.

They asked the applicant if they were willing to extend the 120 day rule. Molnar said the Findings could be ready to adopt at the meeting in two weeks. The Saladoff's did not wish to extend the 120 days. They asked that the Commissioner's decision not be prejudiced and make a decision based on the merits of the project.

Douma stated he doesn't have a reason to vote against the proposal. That is assuming that having up to 25 percent must be coming from our elected officials thinking there are reasons why an additional size is allowed. He doesn't know what should or could ever allow for a percent increase. The reason for his vote is to move the process forward. He is hoping an appeal is not onerous for those that wish to appeal. If we vote to approve the project to move it forward that it will not prejudice anyone at any level to think this was a 2:1 vote in favor. Douma/Morris m/s to approve PA2004-114.

Dawkins will vote to deny based on the criteria 1 - similarity in scale, bulk and coverage. Douma would have concurred with Dawkins' statement if the Historic Commission had not already weighed in with an ordinance that came out of their impetus.

Severson asked if the Commissioners wanted to address the tree. Dawkins feels it is important and hoped the Saladoff's would take it into consideration.

Morris said if the Council really wants to identify bulk, scale and coverage, they can't really be defined in this ordinance. He would hate to have an appeal to clarify an ordinance. He is afraid the Council will not clarify it and we will go through it again. There are no criteria that seem to be valid based on our CUP that apply to this ordinance.

Voice Vote: The motion carried with Douma and Morris voting "yes" and Dawkins voting "no."

PLANNING ACTION 2004-114
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT AND SITE REVIEW TO CONVERT THE EXISTING RESIDENCE LOCATED AT THE FRONT OF THE PROPERTY AT 659 LIBERTY STREET INTO AN ACCESSORY RESIDENTIAL UNIT (ARU) WHILE CONSTRUCTING A NEW 2 ½ STORY 2,325 SQUARE FOOT RESIDENCE AT THE REAR OF THE PROPERTY. A PHYSICAL CONSTRAINTS PERMIT IS REQUIRED FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF A PORTION OF THE DRIVEWAY AND ENTRY PORCH UPON HILLSIDE LANDS (I.E.<25% SLOPE).
APPLICANT: Philip Weiss

Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts - Site visits were made by Dawkins and Morris.

STAFF REPORT
Molnar explained the request as outlined in the Staff Report. The proposal is to construct a larger residence at the back of the property and access it from a new driveway and the CUP request is to allow for the existing residence to function as an accessory residential unit and the primary residence located at the rear of the property. It is a little unusual because of the sequence of construction. Similar applications have been approved. However, the Planning Commission denied a similar application in 1991. The Commission believed the reference to the primary residence meant the existing residence at the time of application. This Hearings Board can judge this application on its own merits.

Staff's guidance to the Hearings Board is to apply the CUP criteria on the project as a whole and the surrounding property. There are some issues raised by the neighbors (included in packet). Some issues refer to scale, lot coverage and architectural compatibility. The project is a little larger than the rest of the neighborhood, but within the target use of the zone on an oversized lot. The highest point at 27 feet complies with solar access. It was the applicant's intent to make the building architecturally unique. He has tried to divide the house up into different volumes. Is the primary residence out of character? Is building the primary residence behind the existing structure appropriate?

There is a request for a Physical and Environmental Constraints permit. They have had a geological investigation of the property and it is stable. The report suggests long-term erosion control measures.

Should the Commission choose to approve this proposal, eight Conditions have been added.

PUBLIC HEARING
Rick Vezie, 208 Oak Street, Suite 204, project designer, said the points brought up by the neighbors were addressed in the application. He noted that on Page 3 of the Staff Report, that Staff preliminarily approved the application. Vezie met with Staff in January of 2001 and they designed the existing front house so it would be an accessory residential unit. Staff never implied approval was guaranteed. The project was not created in a void. It was created with Staff input and a great deal of sensitivity to the site.

Unusual accessory residential units happen. The term primary residence is not defined in the Land Use Ordinance. AMC 1.04.020. Grammatical Interpretation - "Use of word and phrases not specifically defined shall be construed according to the context and approved usage of the language." The dictionary first defines the word "primary" as first or highest in rank, quality or importance; principle. The intent of the ordinance is clearly meant to define "primary" as first or highest in rank, quality or importance. There are no other references in the ordinance to construction sequence. What possible difference would it make if one structure were built four years before the other? All references in the ordinance distinguish from a primary residence by size of the structure.

The subject lot is larger than the surrounding lots. They felt a more contemporary house would be built to the rear of the lot and not be as visible to the neighborhood. They have tried to be architecturally compatible with the site. The lower floors are notched into the hillside due to grade. Architectural compatibility can be difficult to quantify especially in a neighborhood with such a broad range of architectural styles. The applicant chose to build a more traditional home along Liberty Street and his larger more contemporary home on the rear portion of the lot.

Kay Maser, 800 Clarence Lane, said she is adjacent to subject property. The neighbors have outlined several objections. It is massive and out of scale. When built, the north elevation will look like a medical building. All other houses are 60's and 70's style and much smaller. It is totally out of scale with the rest of neighborhood. This house will completely loom over her neighbor, Carol Bue who lives in a 1200 square foot house. The accessory unit has a complete kitchen. Their intent in the beginning was that would be the principle residence. She said Weiss is building this structure on a 25 percent slope. Weiss has cut trees and this will cause a drainage problem down the hill. She believes this is establishing a dangerous precedent in her neighborhood.

Barbara Zollinger, 801 Clarence Lane, said her concern is for her neighbor at 812 Clarence Lane. The solar setbacks are being abused. Where will the height of structure end up? How can an already determined existing primary residence be newly turned accessory? The proposed house is huge as is the driveway. She already gets too much drainage and she has a state of the art drainage system. Did Weiss have a permit to cut down the trees?

Staff Response
The solar is under Class B, allowing a 16 foot high shadow to be cast on the north property line. It is within the ordinance. The designer has included the calculations. The existing residence is allowed to have a full kitchen. Molnar understands the trees were removed but exempt from the tree removal permit, unless it triggered a Hillside permit.

Dawkins said there are going to be two houses there. He can't see that as an accessory residential unit.

Rebuttal
Vezie explained the intent of the solar ordinance. It allows us to apply height restrictions in a reasonable way. They will comply with the drainage. Their application shows why and where the trees were removed. He showed photos of the neighborhood. They are not trying to hide a house. They don't want the lot to appear like it is clogged with homes. It is a large lot. They are not asking for any variances.

Philip Weiss said he purchased the house 15 years ago. It was always his intent to build his dream house. He specifically made the small house 1000 square feet. If he loses the ability to build his house because of the order in which they are built, he would have built the big house first.

Dawkins has heard "design and mass" all the way through this. He would agree with what the neighbors have said about it. It's very clinical looking and architecturally stark. However, he can't deny it for that reason. Weiss said it would be nicely concealed on the lot. It is true that the neighbor on Clarence Lane has had a meadow behind her for years and he realizes it is going to change for her.

Morris said nowhere in 8 1/2x11's show the height and distance to property line. Vezie said it is approximately ten feet to the deck and ten feet to the greenhouse. Much of the volume of the house will disappear into the hillside. Dawkins can see how it is going to be stepping up the hill. He believes it meets the criteria. Morris agreed. Architecture is the main issue and defining what the impact area is. A Victorian would be the same elevation or worse. Douma/Morris m/s to approve PA2004-114 with the attached Conditions. Roll Call: Unanimous.

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IV. ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 6:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Susan Yates, Executive Secretary

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