JANUARY 22, 2008
CALL TO ORDER
Chair John Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. at The Grove,
John Stromberg, Chair
Cate Hartzell, Council Liaison, present (arrived at 7:20 p.m.)
Tom Dimitre, arrived at 7:10 p.m.
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Absent Members: None
Sue Yates, Executive Secretary
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Dotterrer/Dawkins m/s to amend the agenda to include the Public Forum.
o Dotterrer gave an ODOT Citizens Advisory Committee meeting report regarding rebuilding of overpasses, in particular Interchange 14. There are two pieces to what ODOT is doing: 1) The bridge upgrade and 2) the Area Management Plan and all the connections that go around the plan. The decision has been made that ODOT will not be replacing the overpass at Interchange 14. It is structurally sound enough that they can upgrade it. They are going to have a three-lane bridge with ten feet on either side of the travel lanes for bike lanes and an eight-foot sidewalk, making it significantly wider than it is now. With regard to the Area Management Plan, he sees the decisions we make around it, particularly the Croman property, will have an impact. ODOT will have recommendations to the City on short term traffic management changes immediately around the interchange area.
o Time Length for Planning Commission Meetings – The Commission asked Staff to bring them wording to modify the Rules of Conduct in order to carry the public hearing an additional half hour, when necessary.
o Stromberg is having Staff and the City Attorney approve a simplified version of the statement that is read before a public hearing.
o Black notified Stromberg of a discrepancy in the terms of office of the Planning Commissioners. She made her report, and the Commission authorized her to move forward by checking the information with the City Recorder’s office.
o There will be a City Council Study Session on February 4, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. at the Council Chambers to discuss the relationship between the Planning Commission and City Council. Later tonight, Dotterrer will talk more about this (Powers & Duties and Goals). Following this discussion, the Council is holding a Special meeting to deliberate the Land Use Ordinance Amendments.
PUBLIC FORUM - No one came forth to speak.
Adoption of Findings – PA2007-01939,
Ex Parte Contacts or Conflicts of Interest
Dimitre was absent and is abstaining from the vote. Fields had recused himself from the hearing (not present) due to a potential conflict of interest because he might possibly be involved in the construction of the buildings. He recused himself from the approval of the Findings. Black, Dawkins, Dotterrer, Stromberg, Marsh, Morris and Mindlin reported no ex parte contacts or conflicts of interest.
Marsh/Morris m/s to approve. Roll Call: The motion carried with Dawkins, Dotterrer, Stromberg, Marsh, Morris and Mindlin voting “yes,” Black voting “no” and Dimitre and Fields abstaining.
ARTERIAL SETBACK PRESENTATION by Maria Harris and Bill Molnar - Draft Ordinance Language
Molnar said this is the fourth opportunity for the Commission to talk about this. Hopefully the Commissioners and Staff have become better informed about the issues surrounding our Street Standards. There is a connection between our Street Standards document and some of our other design standards. They are all important and not necessarily in conflict. We are often faced with balancing multiple standards.
The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to review the rough draft ordinance language that is included in the packet. The approach Staff has taken could easily be applied to the other arterials if that is how the Commission wishes to proceed. Molnar recommended the Commissioners not get hung up on the exact wording but focus on content and whether or not Staff’s approach has addressed the issues that have been raised. When the City Attorney, Richard Appicello gets the ordinance, he will reformat it, reworks words but not disturb the content.
Staff took a little different approach with the draft. They are not proposing to repeal the 20 foot front yard requirement. Rather, they are looking at allowing some flexibility in that requirement (General Exception). If certain provisions are met, the Commission could grant a reduction in the requirement. It presents an option to a property owner. One option would be to build to the 20 foot requirement. The other option provides an opportunity to reduce the 20 foot requirement but still provides leverage to the community to insure that public improvements that are considered in the best interest of the community. For example, widening the street for the purposes of accommodating larger street tree grates in a larger sidewalk would allow a reduction in the setback. Staff has laid out three factors: 1) That the applicant reserve the space to accomplish the street improvement (sidewalk and street trees), 2) That often the applicant will be required to install the requirements to City standards, and 3) A requirement to enter into an agreement that acknowledges that the reduction or the general exception to the front yard setback is being allowed because of the reservation of space and the installation of improvements.
Staff is offering another item that would allow them to consider, in some cases, not only reducing the 20 foot setback only to allow for the accomplishment of the street trees and the wider sidewalks, but in some instances, to allow for less than a complete reduction in order to preserve some public spaces. For example, when there are no other public spaces within a block.
Staff is hoping tonight to get some direction to move forward to a public hearing with some draft language. Molnar asked the Commissioners to remember, that even if there is a public hearing, other issues can come out and hearings can continue to subsequent meetings.
Harris said other issues that came up during Planning Commission discussions were existing language referring specifically to the setback from the front property line. The Council made an interpretation in May of 2006 that in a Downtown Design Standard zone that corner lots, regardless of which lot line was technically the front property line by definition, that the front property line on an arterial would be considered the front lot line. In this draft Staff has eliminated the front property line language and changed it to “yards” to capture side yards as well as front yards. To go further, there are some cases where there are rear yards on arterials. Harris said the other issue is the commercial parkrows. They have added draft language concerning how wide a commercial parkrow is supposed to be. They suggested five feet; the standard tree grate width. Staff believed that was the intent of the original ordinance.
Marsh referred to an e-mail sent by the Chair this week referring to bike lanes on
Mindlin thought the main intent of this process was to set a desirable design standard that we would pursue and that everything should be set back 15 feet. It seems we are stepping back from that now with the exception process. Once again we are in a place where there could be a couple of different standards and we aren’t clean about which we are trying to do. Why did the original intent change?
Molnar said they heard different views from Commissioners. They could have just repealed the language, however, Staff thought some Commissioners were concerned about using the 20 foot setback as leverage to insure the improvements are reserved and installed according to the City’s standards. Oftentimes the projects we are seeing are infill projects. Along
Fields is hearing Staff say that we are trying to retain our setback and allow us to have some flexibility. Stromberg added that by retaining the 20 foot setback requirement, we can do an agreement that says we will let the applicant out of that portion of the 20 foot front yard in exchange for the applicant dedicating the full 15 foot sidewalk and parkrow.
Harris said the required street improvement has to be proportional to the impact the development is going to make. By making it a volunteer option and working it out through an agreement, we don’t have to deal with Nolan/Dolan issues.
Molnar reminded the Commission we are just talking about
Dawkins wondered why the Jasmine building, the Elks and Trinity Labyrinth don’t seem to follow the same standard that has been required for other developments. Molnar said the Elks landscaping was not a planning action. The
Mindlin asked about “Definitions – Back of curb” (page 1). Harris said generally the parking bays take the place of the parkrow. If there is a parking bay, extend an imaginary line from the back of curb through the parking bay and measure from there. Molnar said this would be easiest to put in a plan view.
Fields referred to page 7, Section 7 – Plaza or public spaces. What is a public plaza and where are they? Is the Trinity Labyrinth public space or the area in front of the Jasmine building? He sees a need to identify all the existing public spaces. There are certain areas where we will want public spaces and several issues involved in how we get those.
Molnar said there is a lot of redevelopment potential along
Black asked what goal in the Comprehensive Plan is addressed. Molnar said the adopted Downtown Plan speaks to the merits of having public spaces or small stopping off spaces and identifies a number of places. The Comp Plan has general wording giving the merits of how these spaces add to a downtown, but doesn’t get to the specifics of identifying any on the north side of
Dotterrer asked why with regard to plazas and public spaces the word “may” was used instead of “will” or “shall.” Harris said they were trying to provide flexibility for the Planning Commission to look at the issues. Staff was concerned if a plaza already existed on the block, would we want another one? If there are two properties next to each other that were vacant or re-developable, there might be an opportunity for a shared plaza between lot lines.
Dotterrer wondered what happens if the Planning Staff was giving one direction to an applicant and the Planning Commission asks for another direction. Is that a concern? Molnar said it is a valid concern. Harris said to keep in mind the way this is written is to preserve the 20 foot standard unless there is an agreement that can be reduced for some reason and one of those is meeting the new set of plaza requirements.
Stromberg asked if the Historic Design Standards apply to
Stromberg noted in the Street Standards we typically specify minimum and maximum width for parkrows and sidewalks. But it seems every time it is applied, we always do the minimum. What are the criteria by which we can determine whether the minimum or maximum or something in between is required? Molnar said just the range is given in the Street Standards. There are no criteria specified. He thinks the range is given to maintain some flexibility to accommodate for different types of commercial streets. In some instances along
MARK KNOX, 700 Mistletoe Road, Suite 204, said the way he’s seeing this now, it seems like we are still asking for the 15 feet of pedestrian way and still saying there is another 20 foot requirement along
Questions & Suggestions:
- What is the definition of street furniture? Does that include newspaper racks, planter beds, bench seating, etc.?
What is the special baseline setback (page 2)? Is it from the centerline of the street? What if the centerline is not in the center of the right-of-way?
- Properties abutting arterials (page 2) – the wording is too confusing. He’s reading it as “all four yards.”
- Under “Plans required” it states everyone must get a survey if they require a planning action or building permit. What if someone wants to upgrade their HVAC system that would require a building permit? Would that person have to get a survey?
- He likes the intent under II-C-2g (page 6) regarding the public spaces. It seems very discretionary. If we had a map that shows where plaza spaces are needed, it would be a lot easier for the property owner and planner to design something a particular way. He doesn’t want the applicant to be subject to redesigning.
- Is the requirement for additional plaza space in addition to the ten percent required for large scale development?
Knox will forward his notes to Harris for her review.
COLIN SWALES, 461 Allison Street, sees that vision, light and air and protecting arterials have been scrubbed from the amendment.
Questions and Suggestions:
- Definitions –Part of the Siegel Report said the Definitions should all be in one place. The draft ordinance is another set of definitions in this one section. If they apply in this section, they should apply throughout the code. For example the word “adjacent” has been used in different places. In this draft it means “abutting.” It was redefined at one time to mean it could involve properties that are spread out down the block.
- Dedication of private property to the public – With any residential subdivider, sometimes 20 percent of a small lot is dedicated as public right-of-way. It is good through this process to get some dedicated public right-of-way where it is currently lacking.
- When the ordinance says there should be no building or improvements within the reserved space, does that include basements underneath the surface?
- What is a side yard and what is a front yard on a corner lot?
- What is a side yard and what is a front yard? (Used DeLuca project as an example.)
- Incorporate changes into R-1 and also multi-family zones.
ERIC NAVICKAS, 363 ½
Stromberg commented that when we have good planning processes, then we create something that is not only good for the public but it is good for commercial interests. As our elected official, Stromberg said to Navickas that he will be giving the Budget Committee his assumptions and guidance soon and he can push for the Downtown Plan as Navickas probably has more influence than the Planning Commissioners.
Hartzell thought schematics for the draft ordinance would be useful. She would like an explanation of the dimensions of how the sidewalk café table ordinance will get protected in this proposal.
Dimitre said, assuming someone came in for a planning application and there is a 20 foot setback from the property line, what is it we would be getting from a developer for us to give up 20 feet? Molnar responded that if there was property that followed Dimitre’s scenario, we wouldn’t be getting anything. It would be an exception
Dimitre asked the mechanism to get a sidewalk to 15 feet. Molnar said the most common way to make it standard, would be for the applicants to dedicate any additional right-of-way so that the entire sidewalk improvement from the curb to where it ended is either in public right-of-way or public easement.
Dimitre asked what would happen if someone wanted to go 15 feet from back of curb and can’t meet the requirements listed (Exception to Street Standards - page 12), does this mean they could get an Exception? Harris noted on page 2, the last sentence of D1.a states it could be processed under the Exception to Street Standards. She said it is practical to have ways for people to come up with alternative designs.
Dimitre asked for specific examples “…no demonstrable difficulty in meeting the specific requirements of the Street Standards due to a unique or unusual aspect of the site…” Harris said there is a notation that this was an approach suggested in the Siegel Report. Molnar said this clause is like a relief valve. They are trying to give decision makers a method to weigh and balance the purpose. Is there demonstrable difficulty or is there a better approach to meet the standard?
Dimitre’s concern is that we may end up getting nothing from the applicants because they can go to the Exceptions section and do nothing. He would like to get something tangible, for example, affordable housing. He would like something to make it a more equitable transfer.
Marsh asked Dimitre what he thought we are giving up. Dimitre said we would be giving up open space for potential café seating or other space. Marsh said it would be private open space. Morris said the ordinance states “equally or better achieves” the stated purpose of the Street Standards.
Richard Appicello, City Attorney said Staff has explained the options. He added that Exceptions are a certain standard and Variances are another standard and if they don’t want to approve an Exception or a Variance, just state that.
Molnar said if the Commissioners wish to move forward, they will come back with draft language and visuals. If they insert the visuals they used a couple of months ago, it is very clear up front that the applicant has to agree to certain performance measures. Is it worth trying to consider public spaces by using a map or rework it to make it more absolute and less subjective? In addition, Molnar said they are trying to anticipate other long-range work items. This is coming to the point of making a decision.
COMMENTS & SUGGESTIONS FROM EACH COMMISSIONER
Fields is feeling ambivalent. All of it is subjective and we are in a place of not having a vision and not really knowing where we are going. If we do this piecemeal, we are going to create other problems. We are still stuck with discretion. Light and air does play a part. We don’t want to create canyons.
Mindlin said Fields’ comments make a lot of sense to her. What are we getting? What are we giving up? She was looking for something more definite so applicants would know what to do. She’s feeling like “why bother.”
Morris would like to at least see this go forward for a public hearing. Right now we are trying to control development so it happens a certain way. It’s odd to try and design a town this way. We are looking at trying to define everything on
Marsh would very much like to see this go forward, particularly for
Dotterrer would like to go forward with this. This is meant to be for guidance and not directive in nature. He likes the flexibility in that he doesn’t want it to be stamped out and cookie cutter. He agrees that
Dawkins does not object to going forward. He believes we have never really decided what
Dimitre echoed Dawkins comments. He has plenty of questions tonight and needs answers. He would support doing a Downtown Plan before giving up the 20 foot setback.
Black feels like “why bother.” We are trying to solve a piece of bureaucratic ordinance making a design problem we haven’t tackled. It has larger implications than just the setback. With regard to giving and taking, she believes we are giving applicants a vibrant community. By taking 20 feet from them is in the interest of a positive Downtown influence. She feels the 20 foot setback is holding the line to something. She believes we need to deal with light and air and how the north side of
Stromberg said we are past due re-conceptualizing what should be happening in this critical heart of town that runs from the park all the way to the Railroad property. If we could get a vibrant, creative conception for all of that, then the more technical details would have the right context and it would all work well. He feels the town needs to a new conception. He is willing to move this forward and not add any more complexity than needed. He would let go of the plaza and not put any more work into that. On the other hand, he would favor an 18 foot parkrow/sidewalk (the maximum our Street Standards envisions). He likes big street trees and sidewalks broad enough that allow some excitement and playfulness for people when they have some room. The positive option on the Exceptions is worthwhile, but he believes it would be an experiment at this time.
Morris/Dawkins m/s to direct Staff to move forward to prepare language for a public hearing.
There are no changes to the draft tonight. Any comments from the Commissioners will be considered by Staff. Molnar said they have heard a lot of comments. They will come back with another draft ordinance so the Commissioners will have options, for example, whether or not the public plaza is deleted.
Dotterrer suggested the Commission review the changes before the next meeting and come prepared enough to make a motion, discuss and vote on any well-thought out changes.
Molnar said they are writing the ordinance specifically for
Dimitre/Black m/s to amend the motion to draft language for
Roll Call vote on the amended motion: The motion carried with Dimitre, Stromberg, Morris, Dotterrer, Marsh, Fields and Dawkins. Mindlin and Black voted “no.”
POWERS AND DUTIES
Dotterrer explained that a few months ago he, Fields and David Stalheim, former Community Development Director, went before the Council and presented their recommendations on changes to the Planning Commissioners’ powers and duties. They listened to the Council, and what is front of us tonight is based upon what they (Stalheim and Martha Bennett, City Administrator) believed they heard. It includes a lot of thoughts from many Councilors. There was no attempt during their discussion to have any consensus. It was just discussion. The general concern of the Council was that the draft the Planning Commission had put together gave too much direct power to the Planning Commission over land use planning without discussing the Council’s role. Dotterrer remembered when the Commissioners began writing the powers and duties; their goal was to tackle the overall land use issues of the City of Ashland. The question is: Do the words in the powers and duties still meet their goal while addressing the concerns of the Council? Dotterrer’s personal opinion is that he intends to stick to his views. If we think the new words don’t meet our goal and intent, we need to say so.
Stromberg said on February 4th, 6:00 p.m., the Planning Commission will talk to the Council about powers and duties as well as Planning Commission goals and Council goals. How is the relationship and delegation of power to work between them? He is hoping for a good conversation. He thinks the Council now has a better sense of who they are as a body and where they are going. Molnar has recapped the work plan into a goals format.
Morris does not find anything in the powers and duties document presented tonight that is worth spending time on. He is looking at the changes and it has been pretty watered down. The current powers and duties are probably adequate. It would be good, however, to have a discussion with the Council.
Mindlin thinks it makes some sense to meet with the Council to discuss their relationship. She does not see how changing anything in the powers and duties document changes what they can and cannot do. The relationship that’s been established between the Commission and the Council is historical. What’s written in a document makes little difference.
Fields said it’s just words. What happens is what individuals think we should do. It would be good to build a relationship with the Council. Who cares what the document says? He thinks we can accomplish what we want with or without the document.
Dimitre finds the changes troublesome. There are some things that can be salvaged such as sustainability and more involvement in regional planning. He is hopeful that it can give us some new direction
Black said her big issue is that the Comprehensive Plan is out of date. The relationship of the Planning Commission to the Comp Plan and the document is saying the Planning Commission is advisory to the ad hoc committees. The Council is not giving us the big plan and the larger policy issues the Council needs to be dealing with are not being addressed.
Marsh said this is about our desire to exercise leadership in the area of land use planning. Leadership and exercising leadership doesn’t emanate from a document. If we want to move forward on issues we can do that, at least until the Council tells them otherwise. In a bit of self reflection, we have spent the fifth meeting talking about the same issue (arterial setbacks) and the dominant sentiment is ambivalence about where we are. We have a ways to go if we want to be leaders.
Stromberg said the Planning Commission as he has known it, has primarily been a reactive group. He sees planning being a much more active thing. Part of our job is engaging the community in thinking about its future. The Croman Mill Redevelopment is an exciting opportunity.
Hartzell thinks the Planning Commission and Council have had a number of study sessions over time and those kinds of meetings are important. She would encourage the Commissioners that more than being concerned about the words, there is a good role for leadership at this level and she has seen it exercised in a number of ways. With regard to the Comp Plan, the Council is thinking about doing some things in advance about visioning. Before that happens, the community can do some shared learning on a variety of topics. The role of the Planning Commission is under state law and does give them the authority to do what they are doing.
ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.
Respectfully submitted by,
Susan Yates, Executive Secretary