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Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, April 08, 2008

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

APRIL 8, 2008

 

CALL TO ORDER

Chair John Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main Street, Ashland, OR.

 

Commissioners Present:

 

Council Liaison:

John Stromberg, Chair

Dave Dotterrer

 

Cate Hartzell, Council Liaison, absent for quasi-judicial item, arrived at 8:25 p.m. for Type III PA

Tom Dimitre

 

Staff Present:

Mike Morris

 

Bill Molar, Community Development Director

John Fields

 

Maria Harris, Planning Manager

Pam Marsh

 

Derek Severson, Associate Planner

Melanie Mindlin

 

Richard Appicello, City Attorney

Absent Member:  Michael Dawkins, excused

 

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Molnar said the Council passed the Ashland Land Use Ordinance amendments (second reading) and the ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2008.  The Council also passed (second reading) of the Planning Commission’s Powers and Duties. 

 

Molnar announced that Sue Yates will be retiring at the end of April.

 

The Commissioners will be receiving an e-mail with three possible dates for the May retreat.  Choose a date and return the e-mail.

 

APPROVAL OF AGENDA – Dimitre/Dotterrer m/s to approve the agenda.  Voice Vote:  The agenda was approved.

 

CONSENT AGENDA

Approval of Minutes

March 11, 2008 Planning Commission Meeting - Fields/Dotterrer m/s to approve the minutes.  Voice Vote:  Approved.

 

PUBLIC FORUM

COLIN SWALES, 461Allison Street, discussed the Downtown Design Standards concerning the Administrative Variance for balconies.  He showed a photo of the old Ashland Hotel from 1911.  It had a balcony/arcade all along the front of the building.  It is similar to what is seen in Jacksonville.  The historic balcony/arcade extends out into the public right-of-way, assuming the front of the building is the property line.  He believes this would be a great way for the City to make use of the valuable public right-of-way space and enhance the Downtown.  He recommended the Commission look at the Sanborn map for Downtown for 1911 to see how the Downtown developed. He would like to have this type of development reviewed if there is any chance of amending the Downtown Design Standards.  Not only does the arcade/balcony enhance the possibilities of upper story restaurants or sitting out over the street, but would also provide shade and a covering in the rain for pedestrians.   

 

TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS

PLANNING ACTION:  2008-00182

SUBJECT PROPERTY: 500 Strawberry Lane

APPLICANT:  McLellan, Robert & Laura

DESCRIPTION:  Request for Outline Plan Approval to allow a six-lot, five-unit subdivision under the Performance Standards Options Chapter for the property located at 500 Strawberry Lane.  The application also requests a Physical & Environmental Constraints Review Permit for Development of Hillside Lands, a Tree Removal Permit to remove 13 trees six-inches in diameter at breast height (d.b.h.) or larger, and an Exception to Street Standards to allow the applicants to end street improvements at the driveway of Lot 5 rather than extending them to the southern boundary of the project.

 

The hearing was closed at the last regular meeting, deliberation continued, and the record was left open for seven days at which time the applicant was given seven days to submit a response to any written submissions.      

 

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

Fields walked all the way up and around the property.  He noticed the public trail system and the slope of the land.  Morris reported that Mrs. Dimino asked him who did the cabinets in the McLellan house.  Dimitre, Mindlin, Marsh, Dotterrer and Stromberg had no site visit or ex parte contacts.

 

STAFF REVIEW OF ISSUES

1.             On-street parking on Hitt – The number of homes to be accessed from Hitt Road will increase from five to eight.  There is a parking demand generated by users of the trail system who currently park in the private driveway near the existing gate and along Hitt Road.  (Refer to Staff Report Addendum dated April 8, 2008 for more details.)  Staff believes there are options readily available to address the additional parking demand.  The applicant has offered to provide an additional visitor parking space on each of the proposed lots.  Staff believes the Commission could require the applicants provide for additional on-street spaces with parking bays between the driveways for Lots 2 and 4 and/or near the proposed relocated gate.  A Condition has been proposed to require that the Final Plan submittal identify additional on-street parking spaces on Hitt Road.

 

2.             Application of lot coverage – The flexibility inherent in the intent of the Performance Standards Options can be applied to lot coverage in terms of the subdivision site as a whole in order to protect natural features of the site while providing architectural creativity.  Staff believes this application of lot coverage provides for the greatest protection of the natural environment. 

 

3.             McLellan’s participation in the LID (issue raised by Dimino’s).  Severson met with Jim Olson, Interim Public Works Director, and found the McLellan’s participated for a two lot potential and paid $8,280.  According to the City Attorney, this cannot be reassessed by the Planning Commission’s Condition because ORS specifically prohibits reassessment. 

 

Staff still believes the application is relatively straight-forward.  The Commission will need to determine what degree any increase in on-street parking demand generated by the subdivision needs to be addressed in the Conditions and at Final Plan submittal.

 

Mindlin questioned the 22 foot road width and 20 foot clear.  Molnar said eventually, if the Fire Department sees a need, No Parking signs will be installed.

 

Severson tried to leave some flexibility in the Condition (5j) to allow the applicants to submit a proposal after they look into all the options at Final Plan submittal to demonstrate the most efficient way of providing additional parking.  Stromberg summarized that the Staff Report Addendum has proposed five spaces (one on each lot), four spaces (two in each parking bay).  Severson reiterated that the applicant needs to explore that number and placement and review at Final Plan.  There may be other options available to the applicant.  Molnar said they are also looking at adequate fire protection for that area.  Severson noted that the property beyond the improved road is City property and one private lot that is an extremely sloped lot. 

 

Dimitre wondered how many parking spaces are needed to meet adequate City facilities.  Severson did not have a specific, but thought in addition to the five additional private spaces the two bays would be adequate.  He reminded the Commission an Exception to Street Standards has been requested.  Molnar explained that each house is required to have two spaces and the applicants are adding a third.  There is no specific requirement for on-street parking in this zoning district.

 

Stromberg said there is a limitation on the amount of on-street parking for those who drive up to that area to use the trail.  What is the City’s responsibility?  Severson said that is the balance the Commission has to find.  Molnar said the trailhead exacerbates the potential for a problem, but Staff does not believe they can place that burden on this applicant. 

 

Morris wondered why we were allowing the road to end at the driveway and not bring it up to at least to the end of Lot 5 with half street improvements to the start of the open space.  Severson said in evaluating it, the cut slopes would be impacted by sidewalk improvements.  If the Exceptions are merited on one set of slopes, it’s equally merited in this area.  He did not see a reason to have the road come up further.  He thinks the applicants are proposing to have the road go a little past the drive to allow either parking or turnaround.

 

Dotterrer noted the whole issue seems to revolve around safety and adequate access for fire apparatus.  Appicello said that’s why the code acknowledges the use of bays and specifically where they are safe to locate.  Equal or superior transportation will be provided with this Exception. 

 

Dotterrer said a Condition was added to accept the Tree Commission’s recommendation.  Do we have the authority to ask the applicant to take care of mistletoe in the oak trees?  Severson does not think we can require mitigation on every tree.  We can require mitigation of the 18 inch tree that is to be removed and when Lot 5 develops we would look at the tree removals proposed as part of the Hillside Development Permit and look at mitigation based on the entire disturbance proposed.  With regard to the mistletoe, Severson said the Condition states “…where consistent with City standards.”

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DELIBERATIONS AND MOTION

Mindlin believes the Commission should require as much parking as they ca get.  If there are areas that aren’t as steep and bays will fit in, we should ask for it.  Marsh agreed.

 

Dotterrer did not feel extending the street beyond Lot 5 makes good sense.  He would go along with a couple of parking bays.  The applicant didn’t create this situation.

 

Morris said even though the applicants have proposed moving the gate up 20 feet, he thinks 50 to 60 feet up the existing road (and widening the road for turnaround area) would be appropriate.  He can’t remember a time when there was just a road that ended.  Fields said there is no way to put a 30 foot cut up that road.  It’s just too steep.

 

Severson said he thought the applicants would be widening Hitt Road to the gate to match the existing improvement to the gate.

 

Morris/ Fields m/s to approve PA2008-00182, with wording to Condition 5j as follows:  That in addition to the third off-street parking space proposed to be provided on each of Lots 1-5 by the applicants, the Final Plan submittal shall also identify four parking bay spaces to be provided on Hitt Road near the relocated gate and between driveways 2 and 4.   The gate will be moved to the end of the improvements and Hitt Road to the southern extent of the street improvements. The gate needs to be located sufficiently beyond the bay for the parking space to function as a parking bay.  Hitt Road shall be widened to the gate.  Roll Call:  The motion carried unanimously. 

 

Approval of Findings – Morris/Marsh m/s to approve the Findings according to the approved motion. Roll Call:  The Findings were unanimously approved.

 

The Commission took a five minute recess.  Councilor Cate Hartzell arrived at 8:25 p.m.

 

TYPE III PLANNING ACTION

PLANNING ACTION:  PA2007-01318

SUBJECT:  An ordinance amending the Ashland Municipal Code Land Use Ordinance concerning special [arterial] setbacks and associated street standards.

APPLICANT:   City of Ashland

DESCRIPTION:  The proposed amendments to the Special Setback Requirements expand the exception from the 20-foot front yard requirement for properties abutting arterial streets to include all properties abutting Lithia Way.  The current ordinance has an exception to the 20-foot front yard requirement for properties zoned C-1-D which applies to the lots on the south side of Lithia Way.  The proposed amendment would also include the lots on the north side of Lithia Way in the exception from the 20-foot front yard requirement.  Additionally, the proposed amendments to the Street Standards Handbook specify that the minimum width for a commercial tree well is five foot by five foot, and that the minimum required sidewalk with on arterials in the Downtown Design Standards Zone is ten feet.

 

STAFF REPORT

Harris did a brief slide show that explained the information in the Staff Report.  The proposed amendments have two pieces:  1)  Review to Special Setback Requirements, and 2) Some revisions to the Street Standards.

 

1.             Special Setback Requirements – Currently there is an Exception to the 20-foot front yard requirement for properties in the C-1-D zone.  The new language expands that to the C-1 properties abutting Lithia Way.  That means the Exception will apply to both sides of the street. 

2.                    Revisions (or clarifications) to the Street Standards

a.                    Commercial parkrow minimum width is five feet.

b.                   Tree grate size of five feet by five feet.

c.                    Structural soil required in hardscape parkrow

d.                   Ten-foot wide sidewalk is minimum width on arterial streets in the Downtown Design Standards zone.

 

What does this mean?  Harris showed a photo of Lithia Way.  Under the proposed ordinance, as new buildings developed on the south side of the street, the required sidewalk and tree well improvements would be required.  On the north side (Post Office side), a 20 foot setback to the building from the property line would be required.  Staff has estimated the property line is approximately seven feet back from the curb line.  Both sides of the streets should match so the buildings could be placed adjacent to the back of the sidewalk with a standard and commercial parkrow installed.

 

Harris showed some photo renderings to help the Commissioners visualize what the ordinance would mean.  The result of the amendment is to get a Main Street development pattern on the north side of Lithia Way.  The official downtown boundary is established in the Downtown Plan adopted in 1988.  That includes both sides of Lithia Way.  That was reaffirmed during the Downtown Designs Zone development in 1998.  

 

Benefits of the amendment: 

·         Support the urban principles currently captured in the Comprehensive Plan and the Site Design and Use Standards. 

·         Preserve downtown character by maintaining the continuity in the established building pattern.

·         Provide consistency with the Site Design and Use Standards, Transportation Element and TSP.

·         Provide clear direction for land use application process.

 

Staff Recommendation:  That the Planning Commission recommends approval to the City Council. 

 

Harris noted that when they talked about this in January, Staff had presented a different draft ordinance package.  They heard quite a few concerns during and after that presentation about that approach being complex and confusing.  Tonight’s draft is more straight-forward.

 

Marsh asked what Staff’s sense is of the other arterials that have been left undiscussed.  Ultimately, Harris believes it would be good to look at Ashland Street because it, along with Lithia Way, has the highest percentage of undeveloped lots.  She reminded the Lithia Way process has taken about nine months.  Marsh believes it is important not to lose sight of how we were going to look at all the arterials and we go back and pick it up where appropriate. 

 

Stromberg referred to Page 22 of the Street Standards under Street Design Standards concerning the parkrows.  It states seven to eight feet on both sides, hardscape parkrow with street trees planted in wells shall be used in commercial areas.  It doesn’t say anything about reducing the size of the parkrow.  Harris said she believes the intent was to use the City specification for the tree grate all along.  It used to be four by four feet and recently changed to five by five feet. 

 

Dimitre asked how the sidewalk on the south side of the street compares to what is proposed.  Fields said the width in front of the Jasmine building is ten feet, six inches from curb to building.   Dimitre said the five-and-a-half feet remaining does not give pedestrians much room to pass.  Harris said the ten foot measurement is from the commercial parkrow to the face of the building so that would be a clear ten feet in width in addition to the parkrow.

 

Dimitre asked if we approve this amendment tonight, how does this impact previously approved projects that may not have been built out yet?  Harris said this amendment would not apply to an already approved project.  Dimitre further asked if there is a way for applicants to come back and ask for an amendment to an earlier approval.  Molnar said we are talking about one of the first applications on Northlight that set the building back roughly 27 feet from the curb.  They could propose a modification to their design through a public hearing according to the ordinances on the books. 

 

Molnar said the Design Standards encourage public spaces in front of the building.  Through the process we might be looking at a transitional setback if the contrast in the building line along Lithia Way is too stark. 

 

Molnar reflected on what we did before we created the Street Standards (before 1999).  There were just two provisions in the code (Subdivision and Performance Standard) that referred to a couple of street standards with a footnote “standards variable based on specific situations.”  Streets were done internally between Public Works and Planning by looking at the order of the street such as zoning, how much parking, etc.  There were no Exceptions ever needed because it was done through discussions with the professional engineering staff.  Then we adopted the section that provided for Exceptions.  We’ve gotten hung about where street improvements were built to what was on the books at the time.  As we have redevelopment, how do the new standards apply?  For a couple of years, there was some learning how to work with the new process.  Molnar said it was never anyone’s intention to do anything intentionally.

 

PUBLIC HEARING

COLIN SWALES, 461 Allison, said neither the Zucker Report nor Siegel Report led the Council to ask the Planning Commission to deal with this issue.  He does not know why the Planning Commission is dealing with this now.  Stromberg said the Planning Commission has the independent authority to initiate changes in the Land Use Ordinance.  The direction the Council gave was to form a committee that Fields, Morris and Stromberg were on to only process those parts of the Siegel Report that were non-policy items. 

 

The drawings in the PowerPoint presentation showed a 15 foot parkrow and sidewalk throughout the Lithia Way corridor.  Swales said the whole of the street wall on the south side of Lithia Way has been moved forward right up to the property line with an inadequate sidewalk.  The Commission did point out that to move the curbs would be a multi-million dollar job.  The curbs on the front of the Northlight property have been removed this week and he doubts this was a multi-million dollar job.

 

The ordinance provision reads:  “In order to protect and benefit the health, safety and welfare of existing and future residents of the City, it is necessary to modify the setback as relates to certain arterial streets, namely Lithia Way.  It’s apparent from the Staff Report that the reason this is being changed is to allow more development on the north side of Lithia Way, specifically for the Northlight property.  Swales thought it should read:  “In order to protect and benefit the wealth and profits and welfare of the existing and future private developers of the City…”  He cannot see a downside if the ordinance change is not approved. 

 

JEROME WHITE, 253 Third Street, is speaking as an architect and citizen.  He heard from a local builder that back in the 1960’s when this ordinance was created, they were trying to address light and air due to smog from logging trucks and mills in town.  The arterials were congested before the freeway went in.  He thinks this ordinance tried to address this problem.  We don’t have that problem now.  He is looking forward to clear standards – a standard that addresses the street front and an ordinance that doesn’t harken back to some former issue that no longer exists.  The Downtown Plans consistently have said to build to the property line.

 

Planners from the state came to Ashland to speak last year and told the attendees that it would be a disaster to have a 20 foot setback all along Lithia Way and to have the plaza space.  An occasional mid-block setback is a good thing.  He would like the Commission to approve the amended ordinance and move on.

 

RON ROTH, 6950 Old 99 South, stated he has worked in downtown Ashland for over 31 years and has been involved with different issues downtown.  He is supportive of this new ordinance.  It makes a lot of sense to have this setback.  The existing buildings such as the Post Office and the Copeland buildings were not set back 20 feet. 

 

GEORGE KRAMER, 386 N. Laurel, congratulated Staff on this change.  He applauded the Commission for jumping in and doing Lithia Way first.  This is a good change to make sure whatever gets built on Lithia Way will be the right thing.  The old language is old planning.  The 20 foot setback is a car oriented standard.  What we enjoy about North Main and the downtown has to do with the street wall and the zero setback. 

 

He works as a design consultant.  They design standards that require buildings to have zero setback.  People don’t like vacant land.  A couple mid-block plazas work.  Lithia Way needs to reflect a traditional downtown pedestrian core.  He is supportive of the proposed compromise.  It will provide the flexibility of building designs and still provides for adequate public amenities. 

 

MIKE HAWKINS, 500 Oak Street, Jacksonville, OR, asked for explanation of the setback.  Harris said currently the setback is 20 feet from the property line.  The proposed amendment says you don’t have to do a 20 foot setback from the front property line.  Hawkins had no other comments.

 

MARK KNOX, 700 Mistletoe Road, believes this proposed ordinance is a positive contribution to Ashland’s primary streetscapes.  He believes it will provide clear and objective criteria on which to base their decisions.  The current ordinance is a remnant from the automobile era and does nothing to enhance the pedestrian environment.  What is the goal of anyone opposing this ordinance?  The ordinance amendment is sound planning practice, not developer driven.  He would like to see an amendment to the Table 1 footnote allowing an option for a planter bed similar to East Main Street.  It provides a simple amenity and provides seating and additional landscaping and a more human scale experience.

 

Stromberg closed the public hearing.

 

COMMISSIONERS’ DELIBERATION AND MOTION

Marsh/Dotterrer m/s to approve the draft ordinance revisions regarding arterial setbacks on Lithia Way and refer them to the City Council.  Marsh said clearly there is a great deal of ambiguity and dysfunction around the current arterial setbacks. It’s the Planning Commission’s job to address those kinds of gaps in the ordinances and to make clear to applicants what we are looking for.   

 

Marsh continued that the change in the setbacks on Lithia Way have several distinct advantages.  They provide consistency on Lithia Way.  Inconsistency causes people to feel uncomfortable on the street.  The change will allow us to provide a pedestrian environment that feels safe and provides an enclosure to people using the street.  We will be implementing an appropriate commercial environment.  If we want buildings in the core of our downtown areas that relate to pedestrians and have retail uses in them that mimic the type of commercial development we have on Main Street, we need to allow those buildings to hug the public sidewalk.  Do we want offices in the bottom floor of the downtown core? 

 

Is the proposal a wide enough sidewalk?  She would like to get rid of the whole concept of a hardscape parkrow and move toward the kind of concept presented by the planners from the state.  She would like to see a width of sidewalk and within that sidewalk we have certain zones – furniture zone by the curb, passage zone in the middle.  We are looking at a 15 foot sidewalk with trees in it.  It’s a broader street than on Main Street and it’s hard to argue that it should be any broader than it is laid out.  We have a good proposal that we’ve discussed for a year, and Marsh hoped the Commissioners will join her in approving it.

 

Dotterrer appreciates White and Kramer filling in the history.  Two standards for two sides of the street are not balanced.  He likes the idea there is flexibility to applicants and yet still having a good streetscape.

 

Dimitre wondered how we get plaza areas if the buildings are less than 10,000 square feet.  Molnar said it’s not a hard and fast requirement but there is a standard that we encourage hardscape and people areas in the Detailed Site Review Zone in the Downtown.  It is identified as an amenity. 

Dimitre is more interested in deferring this ordinance change until we get a Downtown Plan, and will vote against the change.

 

Fields believes sidewalk width is a little too wide, but we can live with it.  He likes the sidewalks on the south side because it idiosyncratic and has character. Talking about developing better transportation systems, etc. means having densities that will support it.  We want to see concentrated commercial areas that have a mixed use of residential above them that encourage people to live, work and support public transportation that changes the way we move ourselves around and how we live.  What makes downtowns interesting is the urban part of our lives that create interest and excitement, economy and jobs.  What Staff has proposed is a simple solution and a tiny step.  He favors the change.

 

Morris would like to see this go forward.  Everywhere you go and anyone you talk to from downtown planners to Siegel to ODOT, the streetscape and activity is generated by the narrower sidewalks and the buildings built to the street.  He much prefers the energy created compared with walking in Medford where it is spread out and open. He believes we need to allow Staff to use the Downtown Design Standards to break up the masses. 

 

Stromberg has resisted doing away with the 20 foot front yard for a long time.  He has put a lot of time and effort into getting the City Council to do what he thinks is a badly needed Downtown Plan.  He has been discouraged by the City Council’s unwillingness to commit itself and commit the resources to do something the downtown and City greatly needs.  He can no longer in good faith hold out on the 20 foot front yard that he does not think is appropriate for this area.  He may still vote against it because he doesn’t want to shrink the sidewalk and parkrow as part of the deal. 

 

Molnar talked with Donn Todt, Parks Department.  He told him the Planning Commission had been discussing tree grates.  Todt told Molnar that soil amendments are what make the difference to trees.  The tree grate size won’t make that much difference.   

 

Stromberg said Siegel gave us language to fix the front yard setback.  Also, all yards abutting arterial shall be no less than 20 feet.  He believes we should make that correction.  And, recommend to the Council that they rescind the complex interpretation they made a couple years ago to deal with the problem.

 

Stromberg added that he did not understand in the Downtown Design Standards it says there should be a zero setback between the either the sidewalk or the property line.  He thinks it should be a zero setback from the sidewalk as prescribed by the Street Standards.  It seems we are perpetuating an ambiguity.

 

Molnar said that would be easy enough to clear up.

 

Mindlin asked if we want to allow for planter boxes.  Molnar did not think the standard precludes us from looking at that.  We need to come up with a standard to allow for those items that improve the pedestrian environments that could be included through a City encroachment permit

 

Roll Call:  The motion carried with Dotterrer, Marsh, Morris, Fields, Mindlin voting “yes” and Stromberg and Dimitre voting “no.”

 

Hartzell agreed with Stromberg that the Downtown Plan is important.  She wants to make sure we are stewards of the public space. In giving space to a private building, we must ensure that we are getting a quality of exchange on the public space that is left.

 

OTHER

There will be a Water Resources Protection Zone Workshop on April 22nd at 7:00 p.m. at the Council Chambers.

 

ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m. 

 

Respectfully submitted by,

Susan Yates, Executive Secretary

 

 

 

 

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