MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
February 6, 2001 - 7:00 p.m.
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order in the Civic Center Council Chambers at 7:00 p.m.
Councilors Laws, Reid, Hartzell, Hanson, Morrison and Fine were present.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Regular Council Meeting Minutes of January 16, 2001 were approved with an amendment to page 3, paragraph 7, line 2, which should read "Wanderschied clarified that in the original bond $607,000..."
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS
1. Minutes of Boards, Commissions and Committees.
2. Mid-year Financial Report.
3. Liquor License Application from Patricia Montagnino dba On the Green Cafe
4. Confirmation of Mayor's appointments as follows:
Stephen Jensen to the Forest Lands Commission for a term to expire April 30, 2004.
Jean Maxwell to the Senior Program Board for a term to expire April 30, 2004.
Keith Massie to the Traffic Safety Commission for a term to expire April 30, 2004.
Bryan Holley to the Tree Commission for a term to expire April 30, 2004.
Councilors Hartzell/Fine m/s to approve Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES.
1. Public Hearing and approval of the Siskiyou Boulevard Design concept.
Public Works Director Paula Brown presented a synopsis of the Siskiyou Boulevard redesign efforts. She stated that the primary objective and goal was on safety. A detailed cost estimate was not available, but the project is estimated at $2.1 million. Additional goals include: Sense of Community Place; Park-Like Ambience; An Environment Supporting Transportation Choices; Functional and Maintainable Infrastructure; Safety for All; and Maintaining Historical Character. Brown presented maps and explained, in detail, concepts and designs for the Historic and University Districts. Brown asked the council for approval on the concept level and explained that the concept level encompasses the over-all idea of the plan, not specifics such as curb placement, intersections, etc.
Gateway District (Library/Fire Station) Brown noted that redesign for the gas station, library, or fire station is not included on this design. It is the recommendation of the committee to close the swooping left turn typically used for the fire station emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles would exit left at a point further down on Siskiyou, which would be made specifically for them.
The Historic District
A considerable amount of pedestrian movement would be provided throughout this section. The medians at Union, Harrison, and Liberty Streets would be changed, prohibiting left turns onto Siskiyou. Two traffic signals would be added, one at Sherman and another at Morton. These signals would allow for U-turns. The end of Iowa Street will be closed, stopping traffic from entering Siskiyou. Heavily landscaped medians would be put in on Siskiyou between Beach and Mountain prohibiting pedestrian crossing mid-block.
The University District Brown noted that blue lines on the map along Siskiyou indicated pedestrian well-defined crossings. Marked concrete and pedestrian lighting will raise vehicle awareness. A possible promenade along Siskiyou in front of the Southern Oregon University is of interest to both citizens and the University. However, this is not part of the current plan. One contentious issue involves removing the possibility of a left turn at the end of University Way. From a safety standpoint, it is important to reroute this traffic. At the end of the parking lot on Siskiyou, the left turn would also be blocked. At each intersection, signs would be posted allowing for U-turns.
South Gateway It was noted that the traffic pattern at Highway 66 changes at this section. Siskiyou at Wightman would be narrowed to include one thru-lane and one left lane. This is for two reasons: 1) traffic safety; 2) continuing the look and feel of Siskiyou Blvd. Brown clarified for council that the goal of the committee was to look at traffic safety. The volume of traffic currently in that area, as well as projected volumes, indicate that five lanes are unnecessary. By narrow the street from five to three lanes would allow for a dual left-turn lane, two travel lanes, and a bicycle lane, which leaves nine feet on both sides of the street to make parking bays and plant trees. Brown requested council direct her to bring back recommendations for this plan.
Reid commented on her concern of current construction taking place at this time and noted that it may be necessary to cut freshly laid cement.
Hartzell noted her concern regarding the Walker Street intersection. Brown stated that should the street be reduced from five to three lanes, something would need to be done to address significant pedestrian issues at that intersection.
Brown explained that the landscaping shown on the map at Highway 66 is only a future suggestion as it is not part of the Siskiyou project. The intersection at Siskiyou and Highway 66 would be straightened and given a more box-like appearance instead of the skewed pedestrian crossing currently at that site.
Brown further clarified, in regards to the narrowing of streets, that city street standards are set at 11 feet, whereas current streets are 12 feet. She agreed to bring copies of studies indicating that 11-foot lanes are as safe as 12-foot lanes along with a list of streets with 11-foot lanes so that council can test-drive them. Tom Litster, Project Manager of OTAK, explained that 11-foot travel lanes are very common, especially in urban areas. That there is no data indicating that 11-foot lanes are less safe than 12-foot lanes. In addition, the narrower lane reduces the size of right-away and impervious surfaces, which is critical for storm water management and air-temperature at the street level. Studies have shown that narrower lanes create traffic calming by slowing vehicles. In his experience, there has not been a detrimental consequence to narrowing lanes to 11 feet.
Public Hearing Open 7:35 p.m.
Dennis Sweet/1135 Reiten/Submitted a letter to the council, noting his opposition to a proposed three-lane design. He requested the retention of the present five-lane design with street-side enhancements. Sweet thought the potential for the creation of congestion is not worth the safety risk.
Zane Jones/223 W. Hersey/Offered his support of the project and noted his concerns about pedestrian crossings.
Kate Jackson/359 Kearney/Noted her positive experiences working with the committee. She stated that the values and comments incorporated into the conceptual design have been consistent with the recommendations of the 1994 public design process and the Transportation Element of the City Comprehensive Plan. Jackson asked the council to approve the proposed design concept and move forward with detailed engineering.
Brent Thompson/582 Allison/Stated that this project should be third on the list of priorities after Ashland Street and North Main. He is not in favor of shrinking the medians or blocking streets. Streets could be made safer by adding lights for pedestrians and bicycles. Thompson suggested starting with smaller projects by enhancing pedestrian and bicycle safety first. He also cautioned about grant money and possible strings attached.
Dick Meister/1777 Crestview/Read letter by Steve Meister supporting beautification, but not at the expense of function.
Ron Peil/1500 Siskiyou/Submitted a letter on his concerns regarding proposed Siskiyou Blvd designs for the commercial portion. Reducing from five to three lanes will restrict the flow of traffic and increase congestion. Population increases will only compound the problem.
Carole Wheeldon/815 Oak/Commended city staff for the work involved in the proposed conceptual design. She cautioned that money from ODOT for this kind of project is rare and may not be available again. The way to relieve vehicle congestion is to encourage pedestrian and bicycle usage through safe traveling options.
David Young/672 Monroe/Stated he was a representative of the bicycle/pedestrian community on the committee. This project has developed a comprehensive way of thinking about traffic. Safe infrastructure should be engineered first and then teaching can occur. Young requested support for the proposal from the council.
Valri Williams/744 Helman/President of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce/Noted the Chamber's concerns about lane reduction. She urged the council to look at the potential for growth before removing the two lanes.
Don Greene/229 Normal/Supported the proposal for 3 lanes, and was convinced that 5 lanes are not warranted. Safety is the biggest issue. Greene felt the only solution is to reduce the lanes.
Wes Brain/298 Garfield/Voiced his concern regarding pedestrian safety. He felt a higher level of enforcement by police officers in the school areas, especially the university district, was needed. Enhanced crossing is necessary. Brain supported raised medians to guide pedestrians to cross at designated points.
John King/289 Palm Ave/Noted the need for pedestrian safety, including the maintenance of sidewalks. He shared his personal experience involving vehicle/pedestrian accidents. King urged council to think of safety first.
George Fardelmann/490 Liberty/Spoke in favor of bike lanes on Siskiyou Boulevard. He supports narrower lanes and the lane reduction. Fardelmann suggested a citywide 25-mph zone between Maple and Walker.
Carol Lee Rogers/327 Glenn/Remarked on the unsafe conditions for bicyclists riding on the sidewalk. She supports bicycle lanes on Siskiyou Boulevard. Rogers urged the council to accept the plan and move forward.
Public Hearing Closed 8:25 p.m.
Brown explained that the proposed signals would be timed, and that pollution, associated with stopping and starting vehicles, is most evident with "cold starts." The timing of the lights will improve traffic congestion and pollution. Reid requested data on pollution from vehicles stopped at signal lights. Litster explained that it would be difficult to determine the amount of pollution. Forcing vehicles to drive an extra half block in order to make a U-turn would be balanced by more trees, lower air temperatures, and the beautification of the boulevard.
Reid requested a traffic comparison for University Way be completed before a decision is made to close any streets. Brown clarified that the decision, whether to reduce from 3 to 5 lanes, should be set aside until a later time in the conceptual design. She stated that strings, attached to the project by ODOT, include bike lanes and keeping the lanes open during construction. Staff will be gathering traffic-count information.
Brown explained that staff used the quick response design team, funded by DLCD and ODOT, to go through a rapid design process. That it took three and half months, which is a compressed amount of time and there was good participation at the meetings. She explained that throughout the design and construction phases, businesses will be included and that sidewalk repair or replacement is part of the plan.
Morrison noted that there is no permeable surface under the medians, as they are dirt piled on top of pavement, and that new planters should go through the pavement to the dirt below. Brown agreed, and added that the new designs would garner more green areas than currently in existence. Morrison noted the increase in speed as vehicles cross the intersection at Highway 66 and that the highest number of accidents occur at this point. Brown agreed that safety is a priority and she will be gathering information about safety and the reduction to 3 lanes for the council. Litster stated that bicyclists and pedestrians are the "yellow canary" of the roadway system, that when their numbers go down, it is a sign that the system is fundamentally flawed. Safety should be proactive not reactive.
Brown clarified for the council that a 4-lane and median idea is possible, but turn lanes are necessary, and they would reduce the width of the medians. Laws commented that business owners may prefer three lanes to four lanes with a median strip. Litster stated that if the goal is to extend the powerful sense of Boulevard, the way to do this, is to go to 3 lanes with a median strip and turn refuges.
Brown explained that the traffic signals were not in the original budget and that additional funding is needed. She stressed that enhanced pedestrian crossings at signals is planned. She further explained that discussion regarding the promenade along the university will continue in the future, and added that signs will clearly define crosswalks for pedestrians.
Brown stated that the proposed design has a 9-12 month time line and requested approval from the council on the concept and to move forward on the RFP process.
Councilors Morrison/Fine m/s to approve concept design and to direct staff to implement the process to select an engineering design team for final engineering design.
Reid noted her concern regarding the number of large projects the city is undertaking and that because the road is old, she is concerned about what may lay beneath. She felt she could not support taking control of the street from the State, but would vote in favor because she felt the project is moving in that direction. Fine voiced his concern regarding the possibility of going over budget and noted that there other highly unsafe areas in the city that need addressed. DeBoer reviewed staff's recommendation to move forward, leaving the 3/5-lane option open. Hartzell clarified that other issues covered by staff would be resolved as well.
VOICE VOTE: ALL AYES. Motion passed.
S.K. Lumen/1565 Siskiyou #26/Spoke regarding the need for affordable housing for the Upper and Lower Pine Trailer Park and other low-income families in Ashland. She had just found out that the area in which she lives has been deemed a "slum." The group living in this area will be meeting at the Presbyterian Church on February 13, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss keeping their homes. A petition will be distributed in support of their cause.
NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS
1. Update on the Middle School Bicycle Safety and Awareness Program.
Associate Planner Maria Harris explained that the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) had received a three-year grant from ODOT to develop a safety curriculum for middle school children.
Scott Bricker of the BTA explained that the program is similar to a driver's education course. In addition to in-class time, the students are taken out to the streets to practice rider safety. The BTA provides bicycles, helmets, and learning materials for the project. The goal of the program is to increase ridership and safety. The grant is lapsing, and support has been offered by the hospital, bicycle shops, the university, other city departments, and citizens.
Carol Lee Rogers of the BTA focused on the excitement at the schools. Not only children taking the class, but other students are riding their bicycles more often.
Chris Trowbridge, a middle school student who took the class, told the council that he had learned hand signals, proper helmet use, and the importance of reflectors.
Bricker clarified that the BTA runs programs in Portland, Hillsborough, Corvallis, Central Oregon, and the Rogue Valley. They hope to have more programs in Eugene, Gresham, and Clatsop County.
2. Report regarding Living Wage.
City Administrator Greg Scoles explained that there are a number of policy issues which need to be resolved. Staff recommended that an ad hoc committee or subcommittee be appointed to develop a final draft of the living wage ordinance.
Suzi Aufderheide/321 N Mountain/Stated that 50% of the children at the middle school are on free or reduced lunch, which testifies to the economic needs of the town. Federal poverty levels severely under estimate the costs of meeting a family's basic needs. A living wage is between 52% and 197% greater than the minimum wage. People often confuse the minimum wage with the living wage. A significant percentage of working families are not able to meet their basic needs. Incomplete and misleading information diverts attention from those suffering economic hardship. This is the reason for the need for a committee to refine an ordinance.
Rich Rohde/124 Ohio/Oregon Action organizer/Felt that forming a committee would be a positive step toward a living wage ordinance. Oregon Action supports the proposal, if it has a reasonable time line attached. He noted that many in the community have been given the hope that the council would move forward.
Patty Frey/507 Tucker Street/Owner of Rare Earth/Voiced her concerned with the council becoming involved in setting wages. Guanajuato Way was donated in the 1970s, and the council at that time was clear that it would remain open and accessible. The council has changed since then, and so has the accessibility of Guanajuato Way. Although the living wage ordinance will only affect city employees, she is concerned that other businesses will be forced to comply as well. This would raise the cost of goods, lose customers, and employment opportunities. Employers, forced to raise wages, will look for higher quality employees, leaving students and the elderly without work. She felt that a living wage ordinance would not make Ashland more affordable.
Valri Williams/744 Helman/Ashland Chamber of Commerce President/Voiced her concern about the affect on the community. The living wage ordinance would affect non-profit organizations, and raises serious concerns regarding the cutting of health benefits. The Chamber requests that the council allow the state and federal government to deal with wage issues, as it is counter-productive to the community.
DeBoer noted a letter from Dan Thorndyke urging the council not to rush in resolving this issue.
Williams stated she would be interested in serving on a committee is requested.
DeBoer stated that he supports a livable wage, but questioned whether it was the city's role to pass an ordinance. He felt that a considerable amount of staff time had been used to investigate an ordinance and that there is no staff time to enforce such a law. DeBoer requested that the council stop the forward movement on the proposed living wage ordinance and to not form a committee.
Hartzell noted that the previous council had the intention of moving forward on the living wage ordinance. She clarified that the proposed ordinance reflects how the city pays its staff. She supported the staff recommendation that the council forma committee of stakeholders (Chamber, Business Contractors, Service Masters, OSF, council members, etc.) to discuss an ordinance.
Morrison commented that he had not decided whether he was willing to pass an ordinance but supported exploring it further and that forming a committee of stakeholders would be a good way to get more information.
Fine supported the forming of a committee as he wants to see this issue move forward. He felt that the council has a responsibility to make a moral statement mandating that city employees be paid a livable wage and that the proposed ordinance would make a statement to the business community, and possibly induce private enterprise to join in.
Laws noted his concern on how a living wage may affect non-profit agencies. He is in favor of further discussion that includes exemption for non-profits.
Hanson stated that if the proposed ordinance affected any private businesses he could not support it, but he feels that this ordinance is harmless, as it only affects city employees and sub-contractors, who are already receiving a living wage.
Fine/Reid m/s to adopt staff recommendations. Voice Vote: All Ayes.
3. Ad Hoc Committee Report on the Ashland Watershed Protection Project - Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Howard Heiner/784 Garden Way/Spoke regarding the report produced by the Ad Hoc Committee and is in response to the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the Forest Service. The governmental process required Ranger Duffy to add suggestions and make selections of alternates for the final Impact Statement, by February 12, in a Record of Decision. This is the final legal document that binds the Forest Service into action around the plan for the protection of the watershed. The committee is asking the council to pass their report on to Ranger Duffy as a recommendation from the city. Heiner stated that the City has a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed with the Forest Service in 1929. It has been a passive agreement as the City has seldom exercised suggestions to the Forest Service. The committee urges the council, under the Record of Decision, to take a more active role in the management of the watershed.
Jay Lininger stated the Ad Hoc Committee focused on alternative six of the final EIS, which was written by District Ranger Duffy in response to a public involvement process of the draft version. Alternative six changes the focus of the management strategy from suppression to fire resilience. The challenge is to facilitate conditions permitting low-intensity fires that would maintain soil stability, as well as forest and water quality. Alternative six is the first step in the process of addressing 10% of the landscape, which allows time for addressing the other 90% in a long-term management strategy.
The watershed, topography, climate, and disturbance history defy sweeping generalizations about the historic fire environment, as well as the effects of fire under current conditions. There is an incomplete understanding of the role fire plays. Forest restoration is important, as it has been degraded by past management. A widespread application of intrusive treatments, particularly mechanical logging applications, could lead to further damage of the forest's eco-system. It is crucial that restoration efforts are done in a careful and incremental fashion recognizing the limits of the current knowledge. Federal funding for the implementation of manual treatments and prescribed burning exists now. Congress allocated $125 million to the forest service for a fuels reduction projects in urban wild land interface communities. Ashland is at the top of the national priority list because it is a municipal watershed where fire has been actively suppressed and also provides for critical habitat for endangered species (northern spotted owl). Money is available to hire local labor on a fee-for-service basis. The process is broken into three parts: 1) manual treatments would emphasis the reduction of surface fuels (kindling on the ground) and ladder fuels (small trees that could take a fire off the ground and lift it up to the forest canopy), which are the primary variable for the initiation of crown fires; 2) Gathered debris would be burned; 3) strategies for long-term monitoring would be implemented. The committee's key recommendation is to begin in the urban wild land interface closest to homes and roads where the highest fuel hazards exist. The vast majority of fires in the watershed occur in the lower one-third of the watershed. People start most of the fires, not lightening.
Reid stated her support for the recommendation, but had a few questions. Heiner clarified that 10% of the watershed is addressed in the report. The plan would hopefully being this year and is expected to last three years. Lininger clarified that there are three factors putting Ashland at the top of the list: it is a municipal watershed at risk due to fire suppression standards, it is an endangered species habitat, and there is a unique public involvement process surrounding this project. He added that this project has been held up as a model by the Forest service.
Hartzell Notes that NEPA is almost done. She stated that 10% is as large an area as the Forest Service could handle at this time given the enormous acreage involved. Hartzell questioned the different names (mechanical, hand, manual) used to describe treatments. Lininger noted that "mechanical" is the correct term. Lininger added that the final EIS does not support canopy openings because the scientific justification is just not there from a wildfire management perspective.
Hartzell suggested that the committee discuss situations that might trigger an Environmental Assessment. Heiner responded by pointing out page 4, number 4, from the Northwest Forest Management Plan safeguarding those situations.
Eric Navickas/711 Faith Street/Noted that there has not been 100 years of fire suppression. There were fires in the watershed in 1910 and 1959, both of which were suppressed. The Forest Service has performed significant under-burning projects for years. In his observations he has found that the only areas where there are significant fuel loads are where the Forest Service has done large logging projects for fire reduction. Navickas read a letter from Regional Forester to the Forest supervisor regarding opposition to logging in the watershed. He displayed maps of the area and explained a compromise that was reached between the Ashland Watershed Alliance and Forest Service.
A motion was made to extend the meeting to 10:30 p.m. Voice Vote: All Ayes. Motion passed.
Asha Stout/130 Orange Ave/Representative of the Wilderness Charter School. He is sixteen years old and a student at the charter school. Stout has fulfilled an internship in fire reduction program. He is concerned about the use of toxic fire retardant in the watershed, the use of mechanical tree removal, and the removal and/or sale of large diameter timber from the watershed. He asked that alternatives five and six of the FEIS are discarded for the health of the watershed.
Councilor Fine made a motion to note the report and pass it on to the Forest Service. Motion died due to a lack of a second.
Councilors Laws/Fine m/s to forward the report of the Ad Hoc Committee and the letter received from the Forest Commission on to the Forest Service recommending their serious consideration to the thoughts expressed.
Reid stated her concern regarding the high quality of water in the watershed. A hydrologist told her that the Medford Water District has a higher quality of water because it is a deep spring, whereas Ashland is drinking run-off water. She is concerned about fire suppression chemicals used during fire season and the mixture of the water with these chemicals.
Lininger clarified that cyanide is used in fire suppression materials. Communities in Montana have asked 3M to develop a new formula, however, if one is not produced by fire season, the original will be used.
Morrison stated that the City should take a strong stand on this issue. The report from the ad hoc committee and the letter from the forest service commission are aggressive statements reflecting thoughts, with a focus on the interface of citizen's safety and welfare, as well as, a focus on the ecological conditions in the watershed. Soil conditions are particularly delicate. He feels there needs to be a particular focus in this area.
Hartzell supported Morrison's statement. The report from the Ad Hoc Committee should be forwarded to Ranger Duffy at the Forest Service.
Fine stated the report is very persuasive, but he lacks an expertise in forestry. He feels he cannot endorse this report as the City's proposal. He thought Linda Duffy would be a better judge, and recommended sending it to her.
Fine clarified the motion made earlier: Council will accept the report from the Ad Hoc Committee and will send it to Linda Duffy at the Forest Service, with a recommendation for very strong consideration of the materials.
Voice Vote: All Ayes. Motion passed.
4. Council Meeting Look Ahead.
(For council information only.)
ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS AND CONTRACTS
Second reading by title only of "An Ordinance Amending Section 15.04.212 of the Ashland Municipal Code to Change the Composition of the Demolition Review Committee."
Councilors Fine/Reid m/s to approve Ordinance #2866. Roll Call Vote: Reid, Morrison, Fine, Hartzell, Hanson, and Laws. All Ayes. Motion passed.
Second reading of "An Ordinance Amending the Requirements for Taxicabs by Permitting Flat Rates and Cell Phone Dispatching, Exempting Limousines and Medical Transports, and Requiring a Fee for Annual Renewal of Driver Permits."
Nolte read a sentence added to the original ordinance under subsection L, "A non-emergent medical transport vehicle means a vehicle which carries a person for hire and such persons require non-emergency medical treatment or supervision by an emergency medical technician or first responder certified by the Oregon State Health Division while in the vehicle."
Councilors Hanson/Fine m/s to approve Ordinance #2865. Roll Call Vote: Hartzell, Fine, Laws, Morrison, Hanson, and Reid. All Ayes. Motion passed.
Reading by title only of "A Resolution Establishing Fees for Taxicab and Special Vehicle Operations and Repealing Resolution 2000-08."
Councilors Fine/Hanson m/s to approve Resolution #2001-05. Roll Call Vote: Morrison, Hanson, Reid, Fine, Laws, and Hartzell. All Ayes. Motion passed.
First reading by title only of "An Ordinance Amending Chapter 13.12, Street Excavation, of the Ashland Municipal Code by Removing the Pavement Cutting Restrictions for Newly Paved Streets."
Councilors Fine/Hartzell m/s to approve first reading and move to second reading of ordinance. Roll Call Vote: Laws, Fine, Hanson, Reid, Hartzell, and Morrison. All Ayes. Motion passed.
OTHER BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS
DeBoer noted that the Strategic Planning Session is scheduled for February 10, at SOU.
Scoles stated that the Citizen Survey would be reviewed at the Study Session on February 7.
Meeting was adjourned at 10:20 p.m.