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Hearings Board

Minutes
Monday, December 12, 2005

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

HEARINGS BOARD

MINUTES

DECEMBER 12, 2005

 

CALL TO ORDER – The meeting was called to order at 1:35 p.m. by Commissioner Michael Dawkins at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 East Main Street.

 

               Commissioners Present:  Michael Dawkins, 2nd Vice Chair

                                                            Mike Morris

                                                            Allen Douma

               Absent Members:                              None

               Council Liaison:                 Jack Hardesty, absent

               Staff Present:                      Bill Molnar, Interim Planning Director

                                                            Derek Severson, Assistant Planner

                                                            Amy Anderson, Assistant Planner

                                                            Mike Franell, City Attorney

                                                            Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Douma/Morris m/s to approve the minutes of the November 8, 2005 meeting.  Voice Vote:  Unanimously approved.

 

TYPE I PLANNING ACTION

PLANNING ACTION:  2005-1953

SUBJECT PROPERTY: 1167 Tolman Creek Road

OWNER/APPLICANT:  Michael & Mary Jacobson

DESCRIPTION:  Request for Land Partition to divide a lot into two parcels for the property located at 1167 Tolman Creek Rd.  A Variance is requested to the rear yard setback from the existing home to the proposed property line.

 

This action was approved.

 

TYPE II PUBLIC HEARING

PLANNING ACTION:  2005-01474

SUBJECT PROPERTY: 893 Hillview Drive

OWNER/APPLICANT:  Medinger Construction Company/Erin McNulty

DESCRIPTION:  Request for a Land Partition to create a flag lot from the rear of the property located at 893 Hillview Dr.  The application includes a request for a Variance to create a lot that is wider than it is deep. 

 

Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts

All Commissioners had a site visit.  Dawkins is acquainted with some of the neighbors.  Morris had a conversation with Lynn Costantino, a neighbor, but they did not discuss anything pertaining to the application.

 

STAFF REPORT

Anderson gave a history of the application to this point as reported in the Staff Report Addendum. II.  She explained the status of the 120 day time limit.  This hearing is continued from November 8, 2005. 

 

Franell explained there is a restriction on the maximum lot depth of 150 feet in the code.  If the flag drive area is included in the calculation of the lot area, in most instances that would end up exceeding the maximum lot depth. 

 

Dawkins asked if the applicant could tear down the existing house and make a legal flag drive.  Anderson affirmed and said the lot depth dimension is dictated by the ten foot rear yard setback for the new garage addition the applicants have proposed.  If they removed the house, they could meet lot, width and depth dimensions.  The full lot depth is 190 feet.

 

PUBLIC HEARING

LARRY MEDINGER, 115 Fork Street, distributed materials to the Commissioners showing examples of 27 flag lots in the Clay Street area and 32 lots in the Oak Street area.  Some lots are square, some are wider than deep and some are deeper than wide.    He believes the framers of the 1964 ordinances when referring to lots that are supposed to be narrower and longer were meant to mean the interior lots on the inside of a block on a street  and that this section was not intended to refer to flag lots.  The purpose of his examples is to show what the City has practiced in the past.  He believes the Assistant City Attorney’s interpretation is incorrect.  Medinger thinks his suggestion for the Hillview lot is good planning.

 

Medinger said when looking at the Variance criteria, we don’t create a Variance because it is a unique situation.  He thinks Criteria 2 is the critical issue – Is it a better way to do a project?  He is proposing this is a unique situation because previously it has been one thing and now we have an interpretation from an unrelated part of the ordinance that suggests something else.  That makes it a unique situation.  In every other way, this is not a unique situation.  His project is exactly the kind of planning they have been promoting including appropriate use of land and appropriate setbacks and it complies with the ordinances.  He wouldn’t even be applying for a Variance if it weren’t for the aforementioned ordinance interpretation.

 

VERNON HUBKA, 843 Hillview Drive, said he looked at Medinger’s document dated November 22, 2005, page 3 – Criteria for Variance.  He said Medinger’s statement is incorrect.  The statement referred to Hubka’s lot.  The Hubka’s did not request a Partition and Variance.  In 2001, Hubka did a boundary line adjustment at 843 and 847 Hillview in order create two more rectangular lots more consistent with other lots in the neighborhood.  It appears Medinger is trying to make a case for his Variance using Hubka’s lot as an example, but the information is misleading and incorrect.  Hubka provided documentation for his lot line adjustment.   

 

NANCY NERENBERG, 853 Hillview Drive, stated she is representing the neighbors.  She read the Neighborhood Rebuttal to comments made by Mr. Medinger in his “narrative” applying for a variance.  The Neighborhood Rebuttal was entered into the record.  The rebuttal provided ten items.  The neighbors oppose the splitting of 893 Hillview Drive and are asking the Planning Commission to deny the application.

 

JENS SEHM, 853 Hillview Drive, RICHARD SCHAEFF, 904 Hillview Drive, MAYA NERENBERG, 853 Hillview Drive and SHARON HICKS, 893 Hillview Drive, yielded their time to Nancy Nerenberg.

 

ANNE CRISPINO-TAYLOR, 902 Hillview Drive, stated she is representing the neighbors.  She read the Neighborhood Rebuttal to Mr. Medinger’s criteria for variance and entered it into the record. 

 

LINDA BROWN, 904 Hillview Drive, RON STEFFANI, 872 Hillview Drive and BEV HUBKA, 843 Hillview Drive, yielded their time to Anne Crispino-Taylor.

 

CYNTHIA DION, 897 Hillview Drive, said she submitted a letter to Mike Franell since the last hearing regarding what she perceived as procedural irregularity at the last meeting.  She was requesting this action be heard by the full Planning Commission.  Whether the action is denied or approved, it will likely be appealed and she does not think the City Council would want to see it before the full Commission reviews it.

 

She believes the ordinances need to address flag lots very specifically so there are not so many different interpretations.

 

Dion said the biggest reason she is opposed to the partition is because of the incredible amount of impervious surface that is required by ordinance to install a flag drive and more impervious surface for a fire truck turnaround.  Backyard permeable soil is necessary to allow water to percolate and not get flushed directly into the storm drainage system.  The more we require the impervious surface, the more problems there will be with water quality.

 

SHEILA JOHNSON, 873 Hillview Drive and MARILYN YOUNG, 345 Harrison Street, yielded their time to Cynthia Dion. 

 

CHUCK SMITH, 895 Hillview Drive, opposes the partition.  He wants to retain the low density neighborhood.  He’ll now have to look into the backs of two garages and listen to cars start up if this partition is allowed.  He objects to removal of the screening and buffering.    He is concerned with water runoff.  The ground is saturated and there are numerous springs on the property.  He has installed about 700 feet of curtain drain around his property.  He showed photos of standing water.  He is requesting the applicants hire a hydrologist and pay for an engineering study to determine what steps are necessary to correct the drainage problems.  He asked that the Partition and Variance be denied.

 

Douma asked Smith how he would feel if the Hearings Board denies this application and the existing house is demolished and two houses are built on a partitioned lot.  Smith does not want a flag lot behind a front lot because it is out of character with the neighborhood.

 

DARLENE STEFFANI, 872 Hillview Drive, yielded her time to Chuck Smith.

 

KEITH KLEINEDLER, 873 Hillview Drive, asked how many Commissioners had been in the backyard.  Douma was in the backyard and Morris walked down the driveway.  Kleinedler believes standing in the backyard gives one a different feeling than looking at it from the street or standing in the driveway.  Kleinedler submitted photos taken on November 8, 2005 and December 1, 2005, days we experienced significant rainfall.  He would like to see an engineered study too, guaranteeing the water stays on the applicant’s property.  Any impervious surface will cause more water to run underneath his house.  He would like to not have a partition as it is out of character with the neighborhood.

 

MATT WARSHAWSKY, 443 Allison Street, asked the Commission to consider runoff.

 

LYNN COSTANTINO, 892 Harmony Lane, submitted signed statements from 96 neighbors that oppose this Partition.  He believes it can be denied on the basis of the R-1 Purpose, which is to stabilize and protect the suburban characteristics and encourage a suitable environment for family life.  This is the blue collar neighborhood in Ashland.  He was attracted to his home because it was a large lot.  There is a place for his kids and other kids to play under supervision.  He was also attracted to the Ashland School District.  He can’t imagine how it won’t change the characteristics of his neighborhood.  If lots get all chopped up there isn’t going to be anyplace for kids to play outside.  He urged the Hearings Board to deny this application because of the livability issue.

 

JEANNE COSTANTINO, 892 Harmony Lane and D. WAYNE LINN, 899 Hillview Drive, yielded their time to Lynn Costantino.

 

MATT WARSHAWSKY, 443 Allison Street, said he is a firm believer of infill, however, it needs to be applied in a way that maintains diversity in neighborhoods.  It should not be applied to the point where Ashland is a homogenous area of small lot properties.  He referred to the Purpose of the R-1 district (18.20.10).  How do you provide larger lots and neighborhoods with larger lots? 

 

LINDA SHAY, 904 Hillview Drive, has investment in this community and her family prefers to live here.  She is the CEO of a health care company.  Ashland Community Hospital and Southern Oregon University are having trouble attracting young professionals to our community because of the lack of single family homes with lots that are attractive to young families.  Unless we pay attention to these issues, we will end up being a community of wealthy, retired people with no one to support us.  We need to think carefully about neighborhoods. 

 

MICHAEL HICKS, 948 Spring Way, stated he is an RN at Ashland Community Hospital, said most people are here because they don’t want a developer establishing a beachhead in their neighborhood. 

 

Staff Comments – Molnar said the Hearings Board needs to base their decision on the approval criteria for a Land Partition and Variance.  The Purpose and Intent of the R-1 zone mentioned by a number of people is not used as approval criteria. 

 

Rebuttal – Medinger apologized to Hubka for misinterpreting his lot split.  They are planning to remove a few small trees and those along the back side that have to be resolved with the neighbor as far as replanting.

 

There were comments about substandard lots, but he doesn’t feel a 7500 square foot lot is substandard, especially for young people moving to Ashland.  He feels people are using the word “Developer” is like a swear word.  He works hard for his living and he doesn’t feel it is fair to be characterized as “the local criminal.”  He knows the water encroachment is a real problem.  He will comply with any requirements to keep sheet water from moving to other properties. 

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DISCUSSION AND MOTION

Douma has been perplexed about the ordinances and their intent in this action.  He will have to rely upon the Assistant City Attorney’s interpretation.  

 

Morris noted the compact urban form is in the Comprehensive Plan in several places.  These lots are big.  Maybe it is one of the prices you pay for moving into the City.  No matter what happens here, this is the start.  Medinger could demolish the house and split the lot.  Or, someone else could sell their property and this could happen all over again.  What is this neighborhood supposed to look like in the next several years?  He is having a lot of trouble trying to figure it out.  If this is denied, he believes it will come back with another proposal.  He is still at a loss as to what to do with it. 

 

Dawkins believes most of the people here know where he stands on this issue.  They are definitely going to have a community dialogue on infill. They can deny based on width vs. depth and that the partition does not meet the criteria.  He is inclined to deny the project and let’s see what the next step will be. 

 

Douma agreed the focus has to be on the Variance of depth vs. width.  He has a legal problem with Plan A and a social problem with Plan B.  How do you interpret the word “unusual” in the criteria?  It is unusual because for 19 years the new interpretation of the ordinance was not applied?  Can the “negative impacts on the adjacent neighbors” relate to the social contract we have with the whole city?

 

Dawkins said the ordinance says the lot has to be deeper than it is wide.  He does not see anything unusual with this application.    

 

Molnar said the application has to meet all three Variance criteria approval.  If it fails on one, the Variance fails.  Usually the unique or unusual circumstances apply to some physical attribute of the site.  Medinger identifies unique or unusual as the new opinion by the Assistant City Attorney.  Staff had a hard time determining if this was really unique or unusual in this way.  It is the applicant’s burden to do his research and defend unique or unusual circumstances.

 

Morris said he hopes the Variance will not preclude people from doing something creative.  It’s just that there is another side of this whole issue. 

 

Douma/Dawkins m/s to deny the Variance because they were unable to find anything unique or unusual about the application based on the rules the way they are.  Roll Call:  The motion was approved unanimously.

 

ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted by

Susan Yates, Executive Secretary

 

 

 

 

 

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