Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Regular Meeting

Minutes
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

FEBRUARY 14, 2006

 

CALL TO ORDER – The meeting was called to order by Chair John Fields at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers located at 1175 East Main Street, Ashland, OR.

 

Commissioners Present:

 

Absent Members:

 

John Fields, Chair

Michael Dawkins

 

Dave Dotterrer

 

Mike Morris

 

Council Liaison:

 

Russ Chapman

 

Jack Hardesty, present

 

Olena Black

 

Staff Present:

 

Allen Douma

 

Bill Molnar, Interim Planning Director

 

John Stromberg

 

Maria Harris, Senior Planner

 

Pam Marsh

    

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

 

 

ELECTION OF OFFICERS

Black/Douma m/s to draft an ordinance amendment in April to change the election of officers so it will coincide with the terms of Commissioners’ appointments.  Voice Vote:  Unanimous.

 

Douma/Chapman m/s to hold the election tonight and nominate the existing officers as a slate to be voted upon (John Fields, Chair and Michael Dawkins, Vice Chair).  Voice Vote:  Unanimous.  Morris/Douma m/s to close the nominations.  Voice Vote:  Unanimous.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Molnar reported on the following:

  • The Council recently finished their goals covering the next two years.
  • The organizational audit is available.  The consultant, Paul Zucker will make a presentation to the Council at their March 7th meeting, 7:00 p.m.
  • The Land Use Ordinance review is tentatively scheduled to be reviewed at the March 14, 2006 meeting by the consultant, Scott Siegel.
  • There will be a Study Session of the Planning Commission on February 28th.  There will be a report of committees.

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES AND FINDINGS

HEARINGS BOARD

Black/Chapman m/s to approve the minutes of the January 10, 2006 Hearings Board meeting.  Voice Vote:  Approved.
Douma/Chapman m/s to approve the Findings for PA 2005-01836, 695 Walnut Street.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

Chapman/Black m/s to approve the Findings for PA2005-02186, 1449 Windsor Street.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

FULL COMMISSION

Black/Dawkins m/s to approve the minutes of the January 10, 2006 Regular Meeting.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

Douma/Black m/s to approve the minutes of the January 24, 2006 Continued Meeting.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

Chapman/Morris m/s to approve the Findings for 1651 Ashland Street.  Voice Vote:  Approved.  Marsh abstained as she had not yet been appointed to the Commission.

Dawkins/Marsh m/s to approve the Findings for 1500 Oregon Street.  Voice Vote:  Approved. 

 

PUBLIC FORUM - No one came forth to speak.

 

TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS

PLANNING ACTION 2005-01834

REQUEST FOR A SITE REVIEW APPROVAL FOR A THREE STORY, MIXED-USE BUILDING FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 479 RUSSELL STREET.  THE PROPOSED BUILDING IS COMPRISED OF RETIAL OFFICE SPACE ON THE GROUND FLOOR, AND THREE RESIDENTIAL UNITS ON THE SECOND AND THIRD FLOORS.  THE PROPOSED BUILDING IS APROXIMATELY 9,700 SQUARE FEET IN SIZE.  THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED IN THE DETAIL SITE REVIEW ZONE AND IS ALSO SUBJECT TO THE LARGE SCALE DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS.  THE APPLICATION INCLUDES A REQUEST FOR AN ADMINISTRATIVE VARIANCE FOR THE SITE DESIGN AND USE STANDARD FOR THE FLOOR AREA RATIO (FAR) TO BE .60 WHICH EXCEEDS THE MAXIMUM FLOOR AREA RATIO OF .50.

APPLICANT:  RUSS DALE AND DARREN LECOMTE

 

Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts

  • Fields was not present at the last meeting but he had a site visit and has watched the video and he would like to participate.  No one objected.
  • Marsh stated she was not a member of the Commission when this item was first heard, therefore, she stepped down from the hearing. 
  • Stromberg asked that the correspondence received tonight be read aloud. Fields said he will read them as long as the writers are not testifying.  (Fields suggested talking about this at a Study Session.)  Stromberg had an ex parte contact with Valerie Rasmussen.  He stopped the conversation when he realized it was going to pertain to tonight’s action.  Rasmussen submitted a letter telling the Commissioners about a development off Clay Street to see a real example of how a two-story building backing another two-story building will look.
  • Morris was not at the last meeting but he watched the video and heard the minutes. He took some measurements on-site.  
  • Black had a site visit.  She measured some of the areas.  She reviewed previous hearings (PA2003-347) and picked up a Falcon Heights Subdivision real estate sales flyer.  She was influenced by the prices they were asking for the lots.  It seems like the Variance the applicants are requesting is based on an economic factor. 
  • Chapman drove through the parking lot. 
  • Douma had a repeat site visit.
  • Dawkins ran through the site and ran the neighborhood.

 

STAFF REPORT

Molnar stated this is a continuation of the hearing last month.  The applicant’s response is in the packet.  They have kept the building where it is and they discussed some of the problems with moving it forward.  There was discussion at the last hearing regarding the grading and natural grade.  Staff reviewed the engineered grading plan for Falcon Heights and has come up approximately a two to three foot raise in the elevation from what was there before this development occurred.  

 

At the last meeting there were issues of screening. The Site Design Standards allow for the Commission to impose conditions to create a continuous vegetative screening as well as the installation of fencing.  The applicant has indicated the installation of fencing.  Staff would caution the Commission about the applicant’s willingness to work with individual owners with regard to each owner’s particular screening needs.  Staff would need guidance on how to condition that. 

 

Molnar said the main change from the January 2006 meeting is the applicant asked for some of the garages to be enclosed, which led to a Variance to the Floor Area Ratio (FAR).  After further review of the Land Use Ordinance, Staff is not convinced that enclosing the garages has an impact on the FAR.  The language in the ordinance tends to point that in either case, either structure whether enclosed or open, would be part of the gross floor area of the building.  Whether it is an open carport structure or enclosed garage system, there would be a Variance to the FAR.  He noted the following provisions:  18.08.260, 18.72.020D, SDUS II-C-2a2.  He referred to the definition of garage, private, and Floor-Area Ratio. When this ordinance was adopted 13 years ago, the feeling probably was that outside the Historic District there is a point where the proportion of building mass to the lot area should be set at a maximum because it could seem out of character with the development pattern.  In the downtown it is common to have FAR’s of greater than one. 

 

Molnar said Staff reviewed a book of definitions, Illustrated Book of Development Definitions.  He discussed the definition of Gross Floor Area.  Molnar referred to 18.75.050 C.  The key sentence in this section:  “Automobile parking areas located within the building footprint and in the basement shall not count toward the total gross floor area.”  Staff feels the Variance to the FAR is open to interpretation, but the code language seems to support including an open carport and/or enclosed garage structure in the FAR.  

 

If the Commission chooses to approve this application, Staff is recommending two additional Conditions.  The first would be a more formalized calculation for solar access, identifying natural grade,  Next, before any building permit is issued for one of these lots, the pedestrian bridge shall be replaced.

 

Reeder reiterated that if the Commission does find that the ordinance gross floor area needs to be interpreted, there is some guidance in 18.20.040.G, 18.24.040 I and J, and 18.28.040 I.

 

PUBLIC HEARING

TOM GIORDANO, 2635 Takelma Way, said his letter of January 25, 2006 addresses the items from the last meeting.  The grade varies, but was approved as part of the subdivision.  That parking lot has been approved.

 

Giordano was one of the authors of the FAR ordinance.  He remembers they determined that covered patios and decks were not counted as FAR.  With this application, the neighbors have requested they enclose the carports.  A carport doesn’t have to have walls.  Does that make it a building?  There is no livable space above the carports.  He does not believe carports with decks above should be considered in the FAR because the carport is outside the interior space. He would like guidance from the Commission.

 

DARREN LECOMTE, 1110 Gate Park Drive, Central Point, showed a rendering of the rear area with the carports.  If the Commission denies the Variance, he would try to do something to make the building look good.

 

Chapman interjected the project appears to be a work in progress.  If the applicants want to have an aesthetically pleasing project, an effort has to be made to incorporate some of the concerns of the neighbors.  The Commission has some definitions that need to be worked out. 

 

Giordano said the building meets all the criteria with the exception of the FAR.

 

Kerry KenCairn, 545 A Street, countered that there have been lots of iterations that have come out of numerous discussions with the neighbors.    

 

Chapman noted the applicants have failed to respond entirely, but it’s a matter of degree.

 

LeComte said there is not that much difference between a two or three story building with regard to visual blockage.

 

Fields read an e-mail from COLIN SWALES dated 2/14/2006.

 

Fields read a letter from VALERIE RASMUSSEN, 245 Tolman Creek Road #37, received January 13, 2006.

 

Fields comments from EDWARD HUNGERFORD, 456 Williamson Way, opposing the project.

 

KERI GREEN, 288 Ninth Street Alley, spoke to larger concepts as a community.  This could be the last remaining jewel.  The City was invited to participate in a master plan for the railroad district.  She doesn’t see enthusiasm or excitement from anyone except the architects about this project.  We are talking about more than pleasing neighbors or meeting ordinances.  We are looking for compatible and complimentary development.  If we accept this plan, we set a new standard.  What sort of standards is the Commission wishing to set?  We run the risk of betraying the City’s greater interest if we don’t consider the goals we established in the master plan.  Then we make decisions based on each parcel, piece by piece. 

 

SURYA BOLOM, 470 Williamson Way, said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Cars, their fumes and noise are not that nice to be around.  She doesn’t think the major concerns of the neighbors have been addressed.  The key is to move the building ten feet closer to Russell Street in order to give the neighbors a decent buffer.   She believes the grade level was changed.  The applicant’s entire landscape strip should be increased ten feet at the narrow part with a five foot fence.  Bolom showed pictures.  She questions the natural grade and solar setback too.

 

JANET TUNEBERG, 327 Starflower Lane, has watched the development grow up behind their house and the dump trucks of fill.  She submitted a photograph of the area before it was filled.  She has been less than impressed with some of the practices she has seen.  They will need screening after the pedestrian bridge is removed.  She would like to see a two-story building, not three.  She is hoping for restoration of the creek sides.  It is reasonable to grant moving building Lot 4’s building toward Russell ten feet.

 

 LEE TUNEBERG, 327 Starflower Lane, thought the grade has changed between three to five feet.  He knows this comes down to economics.  He believes the neighbor’s property values will drop.  Just because the applicants meet the criteria, should their proposal be approved? 

 

ERIC NAVICKAS, 711 Faith Avenue, requested the Planning Commission reject the request for a Variance.  They haven’t shown the demonstrable difficulty.  He is concerned mostly about the continued development.  He believes we need to be very strict about the FAR.  Navickas recalled, with regard to the FAR, that it was meant to allow underground parking, not an exemption for above ground parking. 

 

MERA GAGNON, 466 Williamson Way, showed a real estate flyer for the subject property.  She is surrounded on two sides by the development.  She gets limited light in her house.  She suggested limiting the building to two stories and moving the building forward by ten feet.  That would give her more of a buffer and more privacy and the neighborhood would get what they need with solar.  She would like some nice plantings.  Half the existing plants are dead.  The trash cans are still 15 feet from her dining room.  She knows the natural grade is lower.  She is concerned a precedent will be set by allowing a three-story building.

 

ALLYN GREGORIO, 474 Williamson Way and BILL HOLMES, 357 Starflower Lane gave their time to ARLEN GREGORIO, 474 Williamson Way.  Gregorio thought they’d made some real progress at the last meeting.  Since they received the last public hearing notice on January 10th, there has been no communication from the applicants.

 

Gregorio has reviewed the applicant’s letter of January 25, 2006.  The neighbors have problems with screening, size of the building looming over them, and the solar measurement that should be made at the base of the fence looking north from the applicant’s property to find natural grade.  He showed photos showing natural grade around 2000 at the start of the project.  It is important to have an independent assessment of natural grade.  They have asked for individual written landscape requests from each owner  for those that want them so there won’t be any misunderstanding.  They need landscaping even with a five foot fence.

 

He would support the building moving toward Russell Street.  He asked for a 35 foot cap on building height.  They do want garage doors.  They would agree with removal of the northeast deck cover.

 

Staff Comments – Molnar said it is best for the Commission to focus on the Variance.  If there is agreement that there is not evidence for the Variance, there would have to be changes to the design that might ultimately involve some of the other items the neighbors have addressed. 

 

It appears that the base of the wood fence would be the natural grade.  The Commission could ask the applicant to come back with additional landscaping.

 

Rebuttal - LeComte & Giordano said it seems everything hinges on the FAR.  They are not opposed to moving the building forward six to seven feet and still meet building code.  They are agreeable to continue this if they have some guidance from the Commission.

 

KenCairn said moving the building and changing the infrastructure would not work.  The plant material hasn’t survived but it will be replaced.  The applicant is required to take care of these things.  They can resolve the fence issue and address the landscaping.

 

Stromberg asked if they could find a creative way of using the space in the parking lot to create a buffer experience rather than just a bigger parking lot.  Dawkins agreed.  KenCairn said adding more landscaping to the back edge is not an option because they are not able to just go out and dig a bigger planting bed. 

 

Giordano would like some assurance if they do lower the building to two stories and move the building forward and try to improve the back area, would they get support from the Commission regarding the FAR? 

 

Molnar said if the Commission asks for a continuance, they will need a 60 day extension from the applicant.

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DISCUSSION AND MOTION

Fields noted the burden of proof is on the applicant to locate natural grade.  He also said the applicant is maxing out the FAR and the solar.  The applicant is allowed 8100 square feet of gross floor area.  He feels any kind of structure is floor area.  If they want covered garage parking they will have to reduce the square footage of the building.  If they want greater volume of building because we think putting parking in garages is better, then the mitigation comes into play.  They can mitigate for the neighbors if they decide they have to have covered garages. They can’t change the back curb.  A five foot buffer with enough landscaping could make it work.  They can’t really tear out the back parking lot. 

 

Fields continued that this project is about volume, mass and scale and the impact to the neighbors looking up the hill.  They don’t want the solution to be worse, they want it better.   

 

The Commissioners discussed holding the line on the .5 FAR.  They would consider the Variance on reducing the front plaza.  They are looking for an improvement on the line of sight. 

 

Stromberg/Dawkins m/s to agree to a continuance with the assumptions that the FAR stays at .50.  The Commission would entertain an Administrative Variance to the front setback with the expectation there will be a reduction in the perceived bulk and scale and in the sight line as well as verification of the elevation of the natural grade. 

 

Molnar said there would still need to make sure there is adequate break up of the volume.  Fields said it would impress him if they came back with six feet or under for the solar shadow.

 

Roll Call:  The motion carried with Dawkins, Chapman, Fields, Douma, Stromberg and Morris voted “yes” and Black voted “no.”   

 

RE-OPENED THE PUBLIC HEARING

LeComte asked for clarification.  Fields said the Commission does not object to the garages.  It’s the scale of the building that is impacting the neighbors.  They want the building whittled down to the .50 FAR.  Move it forward as much as possible.

 

This action will be continued to the March 14, 2006 Regular Meeting.  The applicants agreed to a continuance. 

 

Marsh re-joined the meeting.

 

PA2006-00088

REQUEST FOR SITE REVIEW APPROVAL FOR A MIXED-USE BUILDING FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 588 N. MAIN STREET.  THE PROPOSED BUILDING IS COMPRISED OF MEDICAL OFFICES, AND IS APPROXIMATELY 6,100 SQUARE FEET IN SIZE. A VARIANCE IS REQUESTED TO ALLOW A COVERED ENTRY, STAIRS AND A WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE RAMP TO INTRUDE INTO THE REQUIRED 20-FOOT FRONT YARD FOR PROPERTIES ABUTTING ARTERIAL STREETS.

APPLICANT:  ASHLAND COMMUNITY HOSPITAL FOUNDATION

 

Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts – Site visits were made by everyone.  

 

STAFF REPORT

Harris gave the Staff Report.  The Variance component of the application requires a public hearing.  The applicant is proposing to locate a stair structure as well as an accessibility ramp and an entry porch bumping out a small portion of the front of the building that intrudes into the setback area.  The majority of the building is within the 20 foot setback.

 

The unique or unusual circumstance is the drop of five and one-half feet in the area from the front property line to where the existing parking starts.  It is within proximity to a bus line (building requirement) making it accessible to transit.  It has to be accessible for people with disabilities to the back also.  It’s the combination of the slope and the accessibility requirements at the front and rear of the building that are identified as the unique or unusual circumstance.  The benefit is shown as the accessibility.  The slope and access are not self-imposed.  There are 16 Conditions of approval.

 

A letter from ODOT was submitted, but Harris thinks ODOT is not aware that access is taken from the neighboring property.  She would not recommend adding the condition suggested by ODOT. 

 

PUBLIC HEARING

JAC NICKELS, Architectural Design Works, 821 Beach Street, said he did not have any issues with the Conditions.

 

PAT FLANNERY, Director of Development for ACH Foundation, 280 Maple Street was available for questions.

 

PUBLIC HEARING CLOSED

 

Douma/Morris m/s to approve PA2006-00088 with the added 16 Conditions.  Roll Call:  Unanimous with Morris, Dawkins, Black, Douma, Fields, Marsh, Chapman and Stromberg voted “yes.”

 

ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 11:06 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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