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Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, October 09, 2007

 

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

OCTOBER 9, 2007

MINUTES

 

I.             CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order at 7:03 p.m. by Chair John Stromberg at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main Street, Ashland, OR

 

Commissioners Present:        

 

Council Liaison:

John Stromberg, Chair

Michael Dawkins

Tom Dimitre

 

Cate Hattzell, Council Liaison, absent due to quasi-judicial agenda items.

John Fields

Pam Marsh

 

 

Staff Present::

Mike Morris

Absent Members (excused):

Olena Black

 

David Stalheim, Community Development Director

Bill Molnar, Planning Manager

Angela Barry, Assistant Planner

Dave Dotterrer

 

Amy Anderson, Assistant Planner

Melanie Mindlin

 

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

 

II.            ANNOUNCEMENT

Dawkins gave thanks to Bob Plain, Ashland Tidings reporter, who is leaving Ashland to take a job in Ithaca, New York. 

 

III.          APPROVE AGENDA

               A.            Dawkins/Dimitre m/s to approve the agenda.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

               B.            Stalheim announced that the Systems Development Committee (SDC) that formed every year is looking for members.  Marsh has expressed an interest, but if any others are interested, contact Stalheim. 

 

IV.           CONSENT AGENDA

A.            August 14, 2007 Hearings Board Minutes

B.            September 11, 2007 Regular Meeting Minutes

On page 7 of the September 11, 2007 minutes, it was Marsh who called for the question, not Stromberg. 

Dimitre/Dawkins m/s to approve the Consent Agenda.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

 

V.            PUBLIC FORUM

COLIN SWALES, 461 Allison Street, thanked Bob Plain for his work on the Tidings, and to express the importance of the Daily Tidings to cover the activities of the Planning Commission meetings.  Recording the decisions of the Planning Commission is very important.

 

BRENT THOMPSON, 582 Allison Street, talked about Regional Problem Solving (RPS).  The last public meeting will be October 10th, 5:30 pm at the Talent Civic Center.  Thompson is President of the Friends of Jackson County, P. O. Box 1443, Phoenix, OR  97535.  The Friends of Jackson County was formed to protect farmland, forest land, open space and wildlife habitat, and to contain the sprawl of cities through infill programs.  RPS has attempted to deal with growth in a planned way.  We are getting to the point where a final plan will be approved.  Friends of Jackson County has testified mostly with regard to the fact that no city yet has a fully evolved infill program.  Thompson gave several examples of the densities per square mile of cities in Jackson County.  It takes 5000 people per square mile to insure that a public transit system will be economically viable.  Medford is of particular interest because they have one of the lowest densities in the county with about 2500 people per square mile.  Ashland has a density of about 2700 per square mile, and has an infill program with a commitment not to add to the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).  There is still a lot more Ashland can do with infill.

 

VI.           UNFINISHED BUSINESS

               A.            PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2007-00250

                       SUBJECT PROPERTY: 281 Fourth St

OWNER/APPLICANT:  Aaron Glover

DESCRIPTION:  Request for a Conditional Use Permit for a theater use and a Type II Variance to parking for a property located at 281 Fourth St. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION:  Employment ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 09BA; TAX LOT: 101

 

The public hearing and record have been closed.

Ex Parte Contact/Bias/Conflict of Interest/Site Visits

Dawkins and Morris had another site visit.  Morris talked to two people that had testified at the last meeting, but they discussed only procedures. Dimitre, Marsh and Fields had no ex parte contacts or site visits.  Stromberg received an e-mail last night from Ruth Alexander that he read to the Commissioners.  A letter was inadvertently included in the packet from Bill Welch, Deluxe Awning, 260 4th Street, discussing scheduling of events and Variance criteria.  The letter was received after the record was closed.  No one challenged the ex parte contacts.

 

STAFF REPORT

Stalheim referred to the Staff Report Addendum dated October 9, 2007, outlining what has happened since the last public hearing.  During the two weeks that the record was left open, the applicant met with Staff to work out strategies for the issues raised including noise, trash and security. 

 

Staff has proposed the following:    

1.            Serving of Alcohol - The applicant has amended their request to allow the serving of alcohol at the facility.  Staff is recommending a Condition prohibiting the service of alcohol except for catered events.  They can, however, apply for a Conditional Use Permit to allow for the serving of alcohol. 

2.            Hours of Operation – Staff is recommending weeknight shows end at 11:00 p.m. in order to reduce the impact on surrounding residential uses. 

3.            Number of Patrons – the parking standards are based on the seats and event.  In this case there are no seats, so Staff based it on total occupancy.  The total occupancy allowed would be 150 people, allowing for about 30 performers or staff and 120 patrons. 

4             Limit large events to a seven.  Smaller events could be more frequent.

5.            Monitor noise with an independent authority on a complaint basis. 

6.            Staff clarified that the Variance is for 13 spaces.  The applicants are asking for a 50 percent reduction with on-street parking credits for two spaces.  They talked about amending the Variance request to allow the shared parking to be further than 200 feet from the facility so they can consolidate the parking in one location.

 

The Commissioners have been given a modified set of findings for approval should they choose to approve the action. 

  • Condition 13 reads “That the applicant shall provide staff to patrol all areas within 200 feet of the premises for one hour past the end time of any event.  This staff shall observe and report to the proper authorities, vandalism, outdoor use of alcohol or drugs, or other illegal activities, and shall be available to the public during these patrols to discuss any nuisance issues related to the theatre use.” 
  • Condition 14 reads “That security will be provided by an independent firm contracted by the applicant for all events that result in a total building occupancy of more than 100 people.”

 

Marsh asked who the “proper authorities” are.  Barry thought the Ashland Police Department or the Code Enforcement Officer. 

 

Marsh wondered what governs the operation at catered events.  Stalheim said the OLCC gives out licenses and they have to be approved by the City.   The real controlling factor will probably be the number of events allowed. 

 

The owner of Deluxe Awning suggested 8:00 p.m. as a starting time for events. Stalheim said this is an Employment zone.  He thinks Deluxe Awning is concerned about parking.  The parking that is available has to be timed to the events.  The parking should be able to be controlled through the parking agreements.  Stalheim added that there is an overall parking issue in the Railroad District.  The question is:  Do they meet the criteria for this particular application?  It is a little easier for Staff to support a 50 percent parking variance in the Historic District.  They tried to condition the application so when the shared parking agreement is granted, that the hours are identified that parking is available.

 

Dimitre said at the last meeting the Commission was told this was an incomplete application.  He is concerned whether or not the burden of proof has been met for the CUP.  Stalheim said it has been challenging for Staff to evaluate this application.  However, since the last hearing and their meeting with the applicant, and getting the applicants to submit information in writing as to what the applicants plan to do, it has become clearer and more supported by Staff.  He will leave it to the Planning Commission to decide if it meets the burden of proof, the CUP criteria and Variance criteria. 

 

Dimitre questioned if there is parking for staff (approximately 30 staff).  Stalheim said there should be, but the parking standards are tied to the seats, not the staff. 

 

There is no limit for the number of events drawing under 50 people. 

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DISCUSSION AND MOTION

Dimitre would like to see this project go forward.  However, he is having a hard time seeing how the Variance criteria have been met.  Dawkins said he is looking at the reality of the parking situation in the Fourth Street area.  Through his own observation, there is plenty of parking available at the times the applicants want to schedule events - this would fit into an unusual circumstance.  For years we’ve wanted activity in the Railroad District and by being overly restrictive with this request, we tend to get way too caught up in the legality of it.  We have given approval to several projects that are in the same neighborhood without any of the restrictions. Examples include: Unitarian Church and Roasting Company.  There is reality and there are the rules.

 

Stromberg added that this is the type of use that has been conceived for the area if it meets the criteria for a CUP.  Because of the historical nature of the area, it doesn’t have the parking capacity it would have if it were a new building project.  That is the unusual circumstance.  Staff has offered a viable solution by expanding the distance that people would walk to the event by opening up larger commercial parking lots that would not be in use at night. 

 

Morris is concerned because in the Railroad District, we have denied applications for lack of one parking space.  It’s a stretch to authorize a Variance for this many spaces.  We don’t yet have the spaces.  It could be on multiple lots.

 

Fields said any decision on one planning action does not set a precedent for another.   

 

Marsh has an easy time with the parking variance because it probably fits the criteria for an Administration approval.  Staff raised the question of whether in the Historic District this application met that threshold because the building was built in 1957.  She read the code and interprets it to being tied to the Historic District, given that buildings in the area are built next to each with no room for parking, and we want to keep those buildings instead of encouraging people to tear them down and change the nature of the street. 

 

Fields/Marsh m/s to approve with the 17 attached Conditions (as modified). 

 

Marsh commented that Condition 11 seems excessive (notifying neighbors of events).  It was agree that it would be permissible for Mobius to e-mail neighbors. 

 

Dimitre asked if the review in a year of the CUP and Variance is mandatory or optional.  What is the mechanism to make it happen?  Stalheim said the intent it is mandatory and in a year it will be noticed to the neighbors to let them provide comment and see how the applicants are performing to the Conditions.

 

Fields/Dawkins m/s to call for the question.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

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

 

APPROVAL OF FINDINGS:  Marsh /Dawkins m/s to approve the Findings.  Roll Call:  The Findings were unanimously approved.

 

               B.            PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2007-00980

                              SUBJECT PROPERTY: Westwood/Strawberry 391E 08BD Tax Lot #102      

                              OWNER/APPLICANT: City of Ashland

DESCRIPTION:  A request for a Land Partition approval to create two parcels, including one flag lot for the property located near the intersection of Strawberry Lane and Westwood Street.

 

Ex Parte Contact/Bias/Conflict of Interest/Site Visits

Dawkins and Morris had a site visit.  Stromberg, Dimitre, Marsh and Fields did not have a site visit. 

 

STAFF REPORT

Anderson reviewed the Staff Report dated August 14, 2007.  The application was administratively approved in July 2007 and called up for a public hearing by a neighbor expressing concern about mitigating the impact to the neighborhood.  There are no criteria addressing this. 

 

The proposal is to create two one-half acre properties.  The application appears to satisfy the criteria for a Land Partition and Staff is recommending approval. Anderson suggested two additional Conditions.  1)  That applicant’s Exhibit G shall be recorded concurrently with the survey plat so it is recorded onto each parcel when they are created, and 2)  (4.b)  That the driveway curbs cuts be permitted, installed and inspected in accordance with the standards of the Public Works and Engineering Division. 

 

PUBLIC HEARING

BRANDON GOLDMAN, Housing Specialist, City of Ashland, 51 Winburn Way, noted that the City is held to the same standard as anyone else from the public.  This application is not asking for any variances, exceptions to existing standards or anything out of the ordinary.  Goldman reviewed the application that has been made part of the record. 

 

The call-up letter did not articulate what adverse impacts the neighbors anticipate with conditions of approval.  Goldman noted the points that go above and beyond the requirements of a Minor Land Partition.  According to the Fire Department, the existing fire hydrant is within an adequate distance of the proposed flag drive, therefore, interior sprinkler systems would be required.  However, the neighboring subdivisions have requirements for fire sprinklers in their Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R’s), therefore, that requirement has been added to the deed restriction to insure these homes would have fire sprinkler systems installed.  To address compatibility issues with the surrounding neighborhood, the City imposed other CC&R-like limitations through the deed restriction (Exhibit G).

        Outbuildings should be architecturally compatible with the primary house that is developed.

         RV’s cannot be stored within 30 feet of an adjoining property, and no trailers other than camping trailers or heavy equipment are to be permitted or stored on the lots.

        No outside repair of vehicles.

        The removal of rubbish and weed abatement is addressed.

No limitations or size requirements have been added in order to make the property as marketable as possible. 

 

KEN BARNES, 523 Strawberry Lane, President of the Strawberry Meadows Homeowners’ Association, said the deed restrictions are a result of ongoing dialogue to be responsive to the previous neighborhood and in an effort to create a very special place.  The Association is requesting the deed restrictions be strengthened.

        - Continue the deed restriction in perpetuity, not just for eight years.

        - Clarify and strengthen the language concerning RV storage.

        -  Language to preserve the natural night lighting by using downward directed lights.

        -  Add architectural design standards.

        -  Address drainage.  The City has deposited dirt on some of the land and the area of           slope and drainage has shifted.

        -  Confusion about land swaps.

                                                           

CATHERINE DIMINO, 423 Strawberry Lane, explained that her concern is that they maintain the unique character and the rural atmosphere of the neighborhood.  She would like to see:

-          Separation of lots with landscaping strategies, not fences.

-          No expiration for the deed restrictions, or it should not expire while the Strawberry Meadows Homeowners’ Association is effect.  The reason for the deed restrictions at the initial partition that it be part of Strawberry Meadows. 

-          What is the time period for RV parking – 14 days over the course of one year, leave for one day and bring it back for 14 days?

-          Make it part of the Strawberry Meadows Homeowners’ Association.

 

Rebuttal – Goldman said the deed restriction is not part of the approval criteria.  The eight year term probably originated because some of it is tied to the development of the property.  They can look at an extension.  With regard to night lighting, there are no statements in the deed restriction to address a dark sky.  It’s usually been street lighting that has been modified to be directed downward.  Architectural standards are outside the realm of a Land Partition.  Homeowners’ associations are created to maintain common facilities.  There are no common facilities or spaces to maintain with this application.  Storm water drainage from both of the proposed lots would be directed to Westwood Street through the public utility easement provided on the south side of the proposed flag lot.  Flag drives are required to be screened with a fence or sight obscuring vegetation at the time of development.

 

Goldman said the deed restriction has been drafted but a new one will have to be drafted and taken up with the Mayor and Council.  The Commissioners wondered if they have the ability to make recommendations to the Council.

 

Fields/Marsh m/s to approve this planning action with the four attached Conclusions and Recommendations and the two added Conditions recommended by Staff.   Roll Call:  Unanimously approved.

 

APPROVAL OF FINDINGS:  Morris/Dimitre m/s to approve the Findings for PA2007-00980.  Roll Call:  Unanimously approved. 

 

Dimitre moved to recommend to the Council to remove the language in the first paragraph in the deed restriction (Exhibit G) “…until the last day of December of the year 2015 A.D.,” making it a perpetual deed restriction.

 

Stalheim talked with the Assistant City Attorney and there should be some kind of contractual time, perhaps in the 30 year range.

 

The motion failed for lack of a second.  Stromberg would add his name to Dimitre’s comments.  Stalheim will pass the Commissioner’s comments along.

 

VII.         TYPE III PLANNING ACTIONS

A.                  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENT

               DESCRIPTION:  Amendment to the Ashland Comprehensive Plan amending the Economic Chapter and adopting an Economic Opportunities Analysis (EOA) as a technical appendix to the Comprehensive Plan. 

 

Molnar said this is the first public hearing that will ultimately lead to a legislative action by the Council to amend the Comprehensive Plan.  As background, the City received a grant from the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development to conduct an Economic Opportunities Analysis.  The consulting work was done by ECONorthwest out of Eugene.  The grant was part of changes under Statewide Goal 9 that deals with economic development, amending the Administrative Rules to create a standard format for which cities compile economic information, culminating in looking at employment projections that would lead to looking at a city’s land supply.  It’s similar to what is required of cities for residential development; that in a 20 year planning period, they are required to have enough land in their UGB to account for the employment need over the next 20 years.

 

The City finished the grant work and submitted it to the state.  The EOA is currently being used to determine long-term economic development in the interchange areas, particularly the Croman property.  The master plan for Croman needs to be consistent with what came out of the EOA as well.

 

Molnar showed PowerPoint slides that were shown previously, to refresh the Commission’s memory of the details of the EOA.   He is looking for the Commission to make a motion as follows:

 

Move to recommend that the City Council amend the text of the Ashland Comprehensive Plan – Economy Element – to include language recognizing the need to conduct studies and produce technical reports and adopt by reference the 2007 Economic Opportunities Analysis (EOA).

 

Last week, Marsh said, the Commission talked about the Regional Problem Solving report and the adoption of the 1400 figure for population growth that is included in the EOA.  She has a concern about adopting as part of the Comprehensive Plan, a document memorializing the lower population figures, given we are unclear the derivation of those figures.  Molnar said there are a couple of ways to approach that issue.  The consultant was bound when doing the EOA to use the report adopted by the County as part of their Comprehensive Plan.  He said there are two places in the plan – the appendices (A-23) and in the population – where they added a paragraph commenting on assuming a countywide average annual growth rate of about one percent.  He would recommend deleting the next two sentences that discuss “Ashland, by contrast, has an assumed annual average growth rate of about .28 percent.  This lower than average growth rate reflects the tighter land supply and higher housing costs relative to other cities.”  Molnar said if those two sentences are deleted, the next sentence reads:  “It is likely that Ashland will experience greater population growth than the county has forecasted.  The City should monitor population growth over the next five years to determine impact of actual population growth on land needs.”  Molnar believes that statement is relevant.

 

Fields said he is not certain what some of the other things in the report mean.  HeeHeH realizes the adopted statistics and the trends can change, but he is concerned the conclusions are just a snapshot.  It seems there needs to be a summation of anything the Commission disagrees with.  Molnar said the City has many other reports that are referenced as supplementary documents.

 

Morris said nowhere does it say, for example, that Table IX is an exact science.  The consultants take their trends and current data and list the assumptions to extrapolate the information.  He does not see a problem with that as long as they quantify their numbers.  However, if the analysis goes to the Council and they take things out, then the document would be incomplete, leaving more questions.

 

Stromberg was hoping to add some commentary rather than altering it.  Molnar said we are coming through for the next stage of technical assistance grants for the next step of developing an action strategy.  Stromberg added we are starting to develop a rational framework that is fact-based.  We want to have a friendly, cooperative relationship with the consultants.  If we have concerns we need to find a tactful way to address them.

 

PUBLIC HEARING - No one came forth to speak and no written comments were received.

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DISCUSSION AND MOTION

Fields would like to call this the “Olena motion.”  Black (absent) has been begging for numbers in the direction of the Comprehensive Plan to create benchmarks to see where we are going and where we have been.  Fields noted that numbers are subject to spin, however, we’ve wanted to build this level of detail.   

 

Stromberg said if anyone else besides himself is interested in including comments he will try to make that happen.  He said “Economic Opportunities Analysis” is a provocative and stimulating title.  For example, he noticed the report talks about national and international trends of energy prices going higher and higher and being more volatile, and people changing their travel patterns as a result.  Ashland’s whole economy is driven primarily by something that depends on people’s travel patterns and the cost of transportation, particularly gasoline.  If we are looking at economic opportunities, he would like noted in the EOA the vulnerability in the economy because this is an issue he sees as something we need to move ahead with as soon as possible.  Stromberg gave another example of the railroad mentioned in the report.  To take it further, if we can find a way to run a light rail, we should be starting to work with that because that could be our salvation at a time when the economy could get clobbered. Additionally, the report mentions employment growth in the town with the City of Ashland as one of the largest employers.  The implication is that employment growth is good for the community.  But, employment growth for the City, increases costs of living and costs of doing business.  From an economic point of view, we need to make that distinction.  We shouldn’t just treat the City as if it is another business whose growth is an automatic thing.  Stromberg was drawn to the concept of the comparative advantage of Ashland.  We have unused capacity in lodging, restaurants and visitor oriented retail nine months out of the year.  This is something that is an economic asset.  The capital investment is there.  We can do more business if there is something that draws people here.  Put that together with SOU (struggling, but emphasizing areas of environmental studies – things that are getting close to sustainability).  Also, we have the Ashland brand.  We should consider becoming a model sustainable city to draw people here to see real world examples of this shift to a non-petroleum or lower petroleum base and of new ideas and practices.  It would strengthen our existing businesses and our university.

 

The public hearing closed.

 

Morris/Fields m/s to approve the motion language suggested by Molnar. 

 

Marsh/Morris m/s to amend the motion to add some type of notation or editing of the population statement as suggested by Molnar.  Voice Vote:  Approved. 

 

Roll Call vote on the original motion:  Unanimously approved.

 

VIII.        OTHER BUSINESS

Fields would like to have an agenda item to discuss the City’s relationship with planning staff and the Commission’s expectation of Staff’s role in the community.  Our job and our service are helping people understand the ordinance and how to actually get something done.  There is a conflict with being clear and objective versus using a value judgment.  What is staff’s role helping people come to terms with this very confusing subjective process?  Everyone should get a fair shake.  As we look at revising land use ordinances and as staff is changing, what is the role of planning staff, what is the Commission’s relationship with it and what is are our expectations of moving ahead into the future?  How do we make planning work again in Ashland?  We have to give direction or come to a public consensus of what we expect of our system.

 

Morris said the previous Planning Director, John McLaughlin, used to always say planning is an art.  It’s hard to regulate creativity.  The Councilor’s trainer is quoted on his website, “If all you know is what you don’t want, you are just going to get more the same.”  We need to define in the ordinance what we really want.  Now we don’t seem to know what we want.

 

Stalheim said he’s seen several applications that have put Staff in an awkward position.  The public criticizes Staff because they appear to be friendly to some and not to others.  There is nothing wrong with helping an applicant.  He has seen, for example, Variance criteria scrutinized heavily for one applicant, but not another.  That leaves Staff hanging, trying to provide advice to the customers.  Consistency and fairness is really important.  It’s a very organic process, but how you get there is to back and verify the vision and put the rules in format to make that happen.  Stalheim said his pitch is for a Hearings Officer.  The Planning Commission has to current planning off their plate and do planning.

 

Marsh and Dimitre also requested that the issue of staff involvement be discussed at another meeting.

 

IX.           ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 9:42 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted by,

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

 

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