Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Regular Meeting

Minutes
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

OCTOBER 10, 2006

 

CALL TO ORDERVice Chair Michael Dawkins called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

 

Commissioners Present:           

 

Council Liaison:

Michael Dawkins

Olena Black

Tom Dimitre

 

Kate Jackson (Council Liaison, does not attend Planning Commission meetings in order to avoid conflict of interest.)

John Stromberg

Pam Marsh

 

 

Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris

 

Staff Present:

Bill Molnar, Interim Planning Director

Absent Members:

 

Maria Harris, Senior Planner

John Fields, Chair

Dave Dotterrer

 

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES AND FINDINGS

Morris/Marsh m/s to approve the minutes of the September 12, 2006 Planning Commission meeting.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

 

Stromberg/Morris m/s to approve the minutes of the August 22, 2006 Study Session.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

 

Approval of Findings for PA2006-01294:  There were no ex parte contacts declared.  Marsh/Dimitre m/s to approve the Findings for PA2006-01294, Park Street Apartments.  Voice Vote:  Approved. 

 

PUBLIC FORUM

BRYAN HOLLEY, 324 Liberty Street, said as a Tree Commissioner, he is concerned with the conditions of approval and monitoring of those conditions along with applicants not adhering to the Tree Commission recommendations to the Planning Commission.  He cited two recent examples.    

 

Dawkins suggested Holley bring his remaining comments to the Study Session on October 24, 2006.

 

ART BULLOCK, 791 Glendower, handed out “Ex Parte—Issues and Solutions, Part 2” dated October 10, 2006. 

 

MOLNAR introduced the new Assistant City Attorney, Richard Appicello.

 

TYPE II PUBLIC HEARING

PLANNING ACTION #2006-00612

REQUEST FOR A SITE REVIEW APPROVAL TO CONSTRUCT A MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT COMPRISED GENERAL OFFICE SPACE AND SIX RESIDENTIAL CONDOMINIUMS FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 160 HELMAN ST. 

APPLICANT: SISKIYOU LLC/JAMES BATZER

 

Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts – Mindlin had a site visit.  She drove into the parking area and noticed the tightness of the area, the steep grade, and the high hill dominating the creek area.  Dawkins had a site visit and noted, in particular, the setback and development pattern from North Main to Van Ness.  Black had a site visit and was reminded of the consequences of having industrial next to residential when she smelled the pungent, fruit-rotting odor coming from the dumpster.  She noted how much farther away from the street Buildings 1 and 2 look on the site map versus standing on the site.  Marsh and Stromberg had a site visit. 

 

STAFF REPORT

Harris reviewed the project as outlined in the Staff Report.  In applying the Site Review standards, the Planning Commission has some level of discretion especially in the Detailed Site Review Standards.  Staff feels it is important to balance a strong commercial component because it is in the E-1 inventory and will target job creation in the future.  At the same time, there should be a thoughtful and considerate building design and site layout to transition from the historic residential neighborhood across the street to this property.  The area on the east side of Helman Street has been a light industrial area since the community was established.  Staff believes the application meets most of the applicable approval criteria and design standards. 

 

Areas of Concern

1.            Finished ground floor level of Building 2 (corner building).  It appears the finished floor level (bottom floor) appears to be two feet below the sidewalk level at the intersection. 

2.            Setback of the corner building from Helman Street or from the sidewalk.  Staff said up and down the street, there is a consistent green area between the buildings and the sidewalk.  The current design doesn’t seem to be consistent with the neighborhood development pattern.  There is a historic district standard that applies to this project that speaks to maintaining historic façade lines along the street and also dividing the building mass in heights and sizes that relate to human scale.

 

The Historic Commission has reviewed the application several times informally and then two times after the application was submitted.  Their recommendations are in the packet.  They recommended approval of the applications adding some suggestions about giving more emphasis to the corner entry. 

 

The Tree Commission has reviewed the application two times and their recommendations are included in the packet.  The Tree Commission did not object to the tree removal permit.

 

The applicants propose to keep the existing parkrow width along Helman Street and widen the sidewalk to eight feet.  The VanNess sidewalk is new and they propose to keep it in place. 

 

If the Planning Commission chooses to approve the application, Staff has suggested 28 Conditions.

 

Harris said there is language under Chapter 18.72, Power to Amend Plans that is intended to allow for some flexibility.  Every site is different.  The applicant has considered the project all one building because it’s attached by the above-ground plaza.  The ground floor is 65 percent of the project.  The Commission has to decide if they agree that it can be calculated that way.  Staff believes it would still work if it was calculated as multiple buildings.  .

 

Dimitre asked about vision clearance.  Harris said there is cantilevering over the vision clearance area and according to a memo from the City Attorney’s office, the Planning Commission has discretion.  The residential front yard setbacks up Helman on the opposite side of the street range from about 12 to 25 feet.  Further up the street towards Main the commercial buildings tend to be closer to the street. 

 

PUBLIC HEARING

MARK KNOX, 320 E. Main Street, introduced two project architects and Jim Batzer, property owner.  They have been working on this project since November, 2004.  The building is broken up into four buildings.  The corner building was specifically designed to match the newer building across the street.  The intent was to create a gateway into the Railroad District.  They have intentionally designed the building to be up near the street so pedestrians can see into the windows and people from the buildings can see the street activity.  The gap in the plaza is to give a break of light and air. The width is the same as the tallest point of the building.

 

The sidewalk up and down the street is proposed at eight feet while the remaining sidewalk up and down the street is five feet.  The three extra feet can be green space. 

 

Knox said they have planned for a six and one-half foot planting strip and an eight foot sidewalk so they are further back than the building across the street (on VanNess).  He agrees with Staff that the building works using either the 65 percent or 50 percent calculation. 

 

Knox said the property goes from 0 to 12 feet downhill.  They purposefully designed the corner building somewhere in between.  They were trying to achieve a reduced mass/height by lowering the building a couple of feet.  He is sure they can lift that building two feet up. 

 

With regard to vision clearance, Knox believes there should be enough room to put a planting strip along the curb and sidewalk.  This property has an excessive amount of right-of-way. 

 

JIM BATZER, property owner, 131 Terrace Street, said he wants to create a Green building, thus greatly reducing the energy costs. 

 

Dawkins said because we are bridging Residential with Employment, it is important to maintain that visual green space feel all the way down Helman.

 

MARK MCKECHNIE, MCKECHNIE & ASSOCIATES, 4406 San Juan Drive, Medford, OR  97501, said there is a four foot drop of the building around the corner.  They need to maintain vision clearance on the corner.  He tried to have the front door at grade to VanNess, but below grade if the front door runs to Helman.

 

Knox said all the utilities will be undergrounded on the site.  They cannot underground everything.  McKechnie said the pole is a main utility trunk and the City would have to underground it.

 

McKechnie explained the parking circulation.

 

Dawkins asked what would happen if the Commission asked to have the building moved back six feet.  Knox said that could be done. 

 

ERIC NAVICKAS, 363 ½ Iowa, noted that he is saddened there was no more effort to preserve the existing buildings and Pyramid Juice as it was a real working class industrial part of the City that is being destroyed.

 

This building is similar to the Northlight project that was considered two buildings.  He believes it should be looked at as one building.  The burden of proof is on the applicant to show it can be worked out both ways.  The bigger issue is consistency.  He thinks calculations are being done to benefit the developer.

 

ART BULLOCK, 791 Glendower, stated his concerns are with bulk and scale across the street from a one story residential neighborhood.  The buildings will completely dominate the view and will be exacerbated by bringing the building to the curb.  There is no transition and it will adversely affect the view down the street.  He is also concerned about transportation, specifically bike transportation on both VanNess and Helman. Tour buses park on Helman and it will be made worse because of the added traffic from this development. 

 

Molnar said this is a classic infill project.  It is an underdeveloped site in the midst of a high value National Register historic neighborhood.  Communities across the U.S. are now dealing with this type of development or in other words, the intensification of land use and how to appropriately transition between uses.  Though Staff rarely disagrees with the Historic Commission, they do in this case.  Looking at this property in the context of the whole neighborhood, Staff feels one of the contributing elements is the establishment of a curb, planting strip, sidewalk, some sort of planting strip and then building façade keeping it consistent with the six-block area.  With the residential buildings, there is generally a platform stepping up to the building.  One rarely walks down to a residence.  It would be up to the applicant’s design team to pull the building back. 

 

Harris said Building 1 is mostly a two-story volume with only a small three story portion.  Balancing the volume and mass of the building with the smaller setback seems reasonable.  

 

Rebuttal – Knox said Pyramid Juice will still be in production in Ashland.  The building or buildings, whether one or two, meet the requirements of 50 percent or the 65 percent ratio. They can raise the building on the VanNess side and that could reduce the ceiling height by a foot.  They can have a five foot sidewalk.  They can take a certain amount of the square footage and go into a parking space.  McKechnie added that the building meets the 50 percent rule.  They wanted each piece of the building to set back so it would reflect the neighborhood. 

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DISCUSSION AND MOTION

Black/Morris m/s to accept PA2006-00612 with the existing Conditions. 

 

The Commission discussed the two issues raised by Staff.  This is a designated historic neighborhood and the Commission has a responsibility to look at how that sidewalk setback continues down the street and mirrors in a similar way the residential neighborhood across the street. 

 

The majority of the Commissioners favored the applicants coming back with other drawings that show the building relating to the Helman Street grade with the door accessible at street grade on the Helman Street side.  This is also in keeping with the historic neighborhood.  Along with this issue, some of the Commissioners expressed concern over the bulk and scale of the building

 

Stromberg/Black m/s to extend the meeting to 10:30 p.m.  The motion was approved.

 

Marsh said she would be willing, if the applicant comes back with pictures of the new grade, to do some compromising with the three foot setback on the Helman building.    She believes a strip of landscaping is needed along the Building 2 façade.  She would be willing to leave the building wall where it is with the sidewalk narrowed to five feet and three feet of landscaping between.  If the developer simply cannot move the building back three feet, then she would be willing to go with three feet of landscaping and a narrower sidewalk and the building at street level. 

 

Black rescinded her motion. 

 

Batzer came forward.  The Commissioners asked if the applicant would agree to a continuance.  He agreed and agreed to a 60 day continuance of the 120 days. 

 

Marsh/Dawkins m/s to continue this action to the next possible meeting and ask the applicant to address issues of grade in relation to Helman Street and the issue of façade at Building 2, and the addition of landscaping alongside the building.  Also, that they address the issues of bulk and scale that may be created by pushing back the façade at Building 2. The intent is that they maintain the same scale as it now appears on Helman Street.  Some of the members have strong feelings that the façade needs to be pushed back three feet and do not feel as strongly about pushing it back. 

 

Dimitre thought the Commission should be very specific in what they want.  Do they want the three feet or not?  He would like to be able to give the applicants clear direction.  By a show of hands, Dimitre, Stromberg, and Dawkins wanted to see the building moved back three feet.  Marsh would like to hear them respond to the issue.

 

Roll Call:  Marsh, Dawkins, Morris, Dimitre, Mindlin, Stromberg voted “yes” and Black voted “no.”

 

Dawkins re-opened the public hearing.  He announced the hearing will be continued to the November 14, 2006 Planning Commission meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

 

TYPE III PLANNING ACTION

PLANNING ACTION 2006-01696

PROPOSED LAND USE ORDINANCE AMENDMENTS TO THE MULTI-FAMILY ZONING DESIGNATIONS (R-2 AND R-3 ZONES SECTIONS 18.24.030J AND 18.28.030J). THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS MODIFY THE CRITERIA OF APPROVAL FOR THE ISSUANCE OF A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT FOR CONVERSION OF EXISTING RENTAL UNITS INTO FOR-PURCHASE UNITS (CONDOMINIUM CONVERSIONS).  THE PROPOSED CHANGES WOULD ESTABLISH A REQUIREMENT THAT HALF OF THE UNITS IN AN EXISTING APARTMENT COMPLEX ARE TO BE RETAINED AS RENTALS UPON CONVERSION. IN THE EVENT THE APPLICANT CHOOSES TO CONVERT ALL OF THE APARTMENTS INTO FOR PURCHASE HOUSING, THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE WOULD MAINTAIN THE CURRENT REQUIREMENT THAT 25% OF THE TOTAL NUMBER OF UNITS BE DESIGNATED AS AFFORDABLE HOUSING.   A SEPARATE PROPOSED RESOLUTION WILL ALSO BE PRESENTED FOR REVIEW THAT WOULD ESTABLISH TENANT RIGHTS FOR RESIDENTS FACING DISPLACEMENT DUE TO CONDOMINIUM CONVERSIONS.  FOLLOWING THE PUBLIC HEARING THE PLANNING COMMISSION WILL FORWARD ITS RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE CITY COUNCIL FOR CONSIDERATION WITHIN 45 DAYS OF THE HEARING. THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE AMENDMENT AND TENANT RIGHTS RESOLUTION IS AVAILABLE ON THE CITY WEBSITE AT  OR CAN BE OBTAINED AT THE ASHLAND PLANNING DEPARTMENT AT 51 WINBURN WAY.

APPLICANT:  CITY OF ASHLAND

 

STAFF REPORT

Goldman summarized the proposed ordinance amendment and resolution pertaining to tenant’s rights as outlined in the Staff Report. 

 

Black/Dimitre m/s to continue the meeting to 11:00 p.m. The motion was approved.

 

Staff has suggested a change from what was presented in the packet.  Under Conditional Uses ((2) at the bottom of page 3 of the Staff Report) for the conversion of rental units and for purchased housing (18.24.030), strike “four or more” in order to insure that when rental units are converted, at least 25 percent are affordable. 

 

Tenant’s rights would be enforced by the Planning Department.  Goldman added that the City does not currently have a way to collect vacancy rate data. 

 

PUBLIC HEARING

RICH ROHDE, 124 Ohio Street, is representing Oregon Action, a statewide social justice organization.  A recent statistic stated 30 percent of the people in Jackson County are paying over 35 percent of their income for housing.  Medford was only more affordable than San Francisco and San Diego in comparing incomes to housing costs.  This conversion ordinance is an important ordinance because it focuses on the preservation of rentals and preservation of affordable housing.  Oregon Action believes this is a balanced approach.  They also support the Tenant’s Rights Resolution.

 

MARK DIRIENZO, 320 East Main Street, said it is difficult and confusing to understand and apply the term “affordable housing.”  The lowest cost housing on the market in Ashland is converted condominiums.  He does not see it as much a rental cost problem as a housing cost problem.  We will be doing fewer conversions by adopting a more restrictive ordinance.  That means there will be fewer housing units available for sale at a low cost.  Ashland is on the tail end of conversions.

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DISCUSSION AND MOTION

Richard Appicello, Assistant City Attorney, reviewed the ordinance and resolution and does not see a problem with the wording.  However, it is not immune to challenge.

 

This action will be continued at the Planning Commission Study Session on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. 

 

OTHER – Dawkins stated he would like to have 30 minutes at the Study Session where the Commissioners can just talk about setting aside a time at each Study Session to talk about specific issues.  He will e-mail the other Commissioners his ideas on this.  Marsh asked if Dawkins could explain the Staff expectation.

 

ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 11:10 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted by,

Susan Yates, Executive Secretary

 

 

 

 

 

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