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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING
MINUTES
JANUARY 13, 2009

CALL TO ORDER
Chair Michael Dawkins called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.

Commissioners Present:
Michael Dawkins, Chair
Mike Morris
Debbie Miller
Pam Marsh
Melanie Mindlin
Michael Church
Tom Dimitre
Dave Dotterrer
00 Staff Present:
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Amy Anderson, Assistant Planner
Richard Appicello, City Attorney
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant
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Absent Members:
None
Council Liaison:
Eric Navickas

ANNOUNCEMENTS
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the public hearing on the Water Resource Protection Zones Ordinance has been rescheduled to the March 3, 2009 City Council meeting. He also noted staff would be presenting a brief update of the Croman Mill Redevelopment Plan at the February 3, 2009 Council meeting.

Commission Chair Dawkins requested the Commission save a few minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss absenteeism on the Planning Commission.

CONSENT AGENDA

A. Approval of Minutes
1. December 9, 2008 Planning Commission Meeting
B. Approval of Findings for 232 Vista Street, PA #2008-01517

Commissioners Church/Mindlin m/s to approve the December 9, 2009 Planning Commission minutes. Voice Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Morris, Miller, Marsh, Mindlin and Church, YES. Commissioners Dimitre and Dotterrer, ABSTAINED. Motion passed 6-0.

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported by any of the commissioners in regards to 232 Vista Street.

Commissioners Marsh/Morris m/s to approve the Findings for 232 Vista Street. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Church, Marsh, Miller, Mindlin, Morris, and Dawkins, YES. Commissioners Dimitre and Dotterrer, ABSTAINED. Motion passed 6-0.

PUBLIC FORUM
Ron Roth/6950 Old Highway 99S/Commented on the increased amount of cigarette butts discarded on City streets now that smoking is banned in restaurants and bars. Mr. Roth recommended the City provide and maintain outdoor cigarette receptacles in the downtown area and stated these could be emptied each week along with the regular trash pickup.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

A. Greater Bear Creek Valley Regional Problem Solving Agreement
PLANNING ACTION: 2008-01984
DESCRIPTION:
Consideration of the City of Ashland entering into an Intergovernmental Agreement, the "Greater Bear Creek Valley Regional Problem Solving Agreement", (the "Agreement"), for the Bear Creek Valley Regional Problem Solving (RPS) Program, which provides for the participants to implement the Bear Creek Valley Regional Plan.
Mr. Molnar explained the task before the Planning Commission tonight is to determine whether the Participant's Agreement is consistent with the RPS statute, and issue a recommendation to the City Council on whether or not they should sign the Agreement. He provided a brief overview of the Regional Problem Solving process and noted five of the other communities involved have already signed the Agreement. He clarified that by signing, the City is not adopting the Regional Plan, but rather is agreeing to send the Plan through Jackson County's Comprehensive Plan amendment process. Mr. Molnar noted a recommendation from the Planning Commission is required because this is a land use decision and therefore needs to go through the City's normal process, which includes a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

Mr. Molnar provided a brief overview of the elements in the Agreement and stated it is Staff's opinion that the Agreement is consistent with the RPS statute. He noted the City did not identify any urban reserve areas and instead plans to accommodate increased population by utilizing existing lands within the Urban Growth Boundary. Mr. Molnar commented on his experience with the Ashland Planning Department over the last 20 years and noted the importance of Ashland being a participant in regional planning. He commented that Ashland's approach to planning has often been viewed as different from the rest of the valley, and noted at times there has been frustration within the community when the City's accomplishments are diluted by other actions occurring in the region. He stated this is Ashland's opportunity to not just influence change within our community, but also among the other jurisdictions in the valley. Mr. Molnar stated the Agreement represents the City's solidarity with the other participants in letting the Plan go through the County's process. He added there would be an opportunity for the City and the other participants to present comments and concerns during the County's land use process.

Mr. Molnar introduced City Councilor Kate Jackson, who is also the Chair of the RPS Policy Committee. Councilor Jackson elaborated on her involvement with regional planning and expressed her hope for the City to continue its current level of involvement. Jackson explained tonight's decision is whether the City should sign the Agreement and remain a participant with the project. She noted the Regional Plan will need to go through the County's land use adoption process, and individual cities that have identified urban reserves will need to take those changes through their own Comprehensive Plan amendment processes. Jackson clarified this Agreement would coordinate these land use changes into a standard timeframe.

The Commission opened the discussion and shared their preferences and concerns regarding the signing of the Agreement.

Miller applauded Councilor Jackson for her efforts, but expressed concern with the wording "agree to abide by a Plan" which is contained on page 3 of the Agreement. City Attorney Richard Appicello clarified the Planning Commission is charged with reviewing the Agreement for consistency with the RPS statute. He stated the Agreement does not adopt the Draft Plan, but it does agree to submit it through the County's land use process and agrees that Ashland will abide by and make consistent Comprehensive Plan amendments to what is adopted by the County. Jackson added that any group or City can testify for or against the elements of the Plan at the County's public hearings. If the adopted Regional Plan is found to be unsatisfactory to a particular City or group, they can appeal the County's decision under the standard land use law.

Council Liaison Navickas noted the comments that were submitted by the City Council in November 2007 and expressed his disappointment that they have not received a response. Councilor Jackson indicated the Council's comments were addressed and are available for review on the Rogue Valley Council of Government's website.

Dawkins questioned what would happen if Council signs the Agreement and the City ends up disagreeing with the outcome. Mr. Appicello clarified the City has not designated any urban reserves, and signing the Agreement empowers the City to have a place at the table and a say in the process. He stated if the City signs the Agreement, we will need to participate in the public hearings in order to protect our point of view. He added participation in this process is the only way the City will be able to influence what is going on in the other jurisdictions.

Dimitre noted "Section XII: Termination of Participation" on page 15 of the Agreement. He stated the City of Jacksonville decided not to sign the Agreement and asked for clarification of that decision. Councilor Jackson indicated the City of Jacksonville took the position that the Agreement did not need to be signed until after the Regional Plan is adopted. She provided a brief overview of how the Agreement was developed and stated a signed Agreement is necessary at this point to identify which groups are participating. She added it is her belief that this is the best way to submit the Plan to a public process and to make further adjustments.

Comment was made that because Ashland did not identify any reserves, they have nothing to lose. Navickas disagreed and stated if the City ever wanted to expand its Urban Growth Boundary, they could not do so without going through an amendment process.

Miller noted the Council has already expressed their support and asked if there was any legal reason why this Agreement had to be signed prior to the Plan being developed.

Trish Bowcock/705 East C Street, Jacksonville/She stated she does not oppose Regional Problem Solving or the draft version of the Plan, but opposes the process. Ms. Bowcock said the City is being asked to sign a legally binding contract and at this point nobody knows what the Final Plan will be. She stated if they do sign the Agreement and are unsatisfied with the Final Plan, the only way to avoid implementing it is to abide by Section XII, which subjects the City to strong disincentives. Ms. Bowcock claimed the statue does not suggest that this Agreement needs to be reached before the Plan is finalized, but rather is only needed prior to the adoption of the Plan by the Land Conservation and Development Commission. She added if a Participants Agreement is needed at this stage in the process, a much simpler agreement should be drafted.

Ron Roth/6950 Old Highway 99S/Expressed concern with the City signing the Agreement and questioned what they were agreeing to. He disagreed with the inevitable doubling of population and stated the Agreement before the City is too vague. Mr. Roth voiced his appreciation for Staff's optimism that Ashland's values would rub off on the rest of the County, but does not think this will happen. He stated regional planning is conceptually a good idea, but does not believe it is a good idea for Ashland to sign the Agreement.

Brent Thompson/582 Allison Street/Allocated his time to Greg Holmes.

Greg Holmes/235 NW 6th Street, Grants Pass/1,000 Friends of Oregon/Expressed concern with the process and the Agreement itself. Mr. Holmes voiced his objections to agreeing to the outcome of a process that has not been completed yet, and noted once the Agreement is signed, they would not be able to remove themselves from the process without sanctions being imposed. He noted two other RPS processes in Oregon that made it further along in the process than they are now, and neither one had an agreement in place before they started their hearings. He indicated there is nothing in the statute that states the Agreement needs to be signed at this point in the process, and stated they can go forward with the regional planning process without this Agreement in place. Mr. Holmes stated there are significant flaws in the Agreement and feels that it incorporates the Regional Plan. He stated the goal is not to try and stop RPS, but rather for the public hearings to be held before the participants agree to abide by what is ultimately decided.

Mr. Holmes clarified his belief that the statue indicates agreement needs to be reached by the participants prior to the Plan being adopted by the Land Conservation and Development Commission. He also claimed some of the cities who have already signed the Agreement did so because they would be getting things out of this Plan that they would not get from the normal process.

Councilor Jackson disagreed with Mr. Holmes assessment that the Agreement does not need to be signed until the Plan is ready for adoption by the Land Conservation and Development Commission. She clarified this Agreement sets forth the "how" and the structure for implementation, and the details of the Plan will be decided through the County's land use process. She added any City can and likely will appeal the County's decision if they do not find it satisfactory.

Commission Chair Dawkins closed the Public Hearing at 8:30 p.m.

Comment was made questioning when the Policy Committee anticipated individual cities would hold their public hearings. Mr. Appicello clarified the official process is the County's land use process, and the City could hold hearings at any time to decide what they would like to present at the County hearings.

Commissioners Dotterrer/Morris m/s to recommend the City Council approve the RPS Participants Agreement. DISCUSSION: Dotterrer clarified the Regional Plan will only address the three problems that have been identified. Miller expressed her concern that the Agreement is too binding on the individual jurisdictions and feels the Plan should be finalized before they agree to it. Dotterrer commented that this is a two-way street, and voiced his support for the City being involved in this process. He stated he agrees with the intent of the Agreement, and noted the need to have general consensus before you enter a planning process. Marsh voiced her support for regional planning and although there is some risk, she stated Councilor Jackson's involvement with this process provides her a level of comfort. She recommended if the Council approves the Agreement, that they schedule a public hearing in order to gather input on the Plan, and that they insert into the regional process an affirmation by the participants at the end. Dawkins noted his opposition to the draft Plan in regards to the City of Central Point. Church noted that each city is giving up some level of autonomy and stated it makes sense to have this type of Agreement in place at this point in the process. He added the process needs to have some momentum going forward and thinks this process would self destruct at the end if they all waited until the Final Plan was completed before they agreed to participate. If the Agreement is signed, Morris encouraged the City to push their concepts, otherwise Ashland will be stuck with what everyone else decides. Dimitre stated he has a problem agreeing to this because it is not clear what they are agreeing to. He stated he is not against the idea and the process, but feels this Agreement is premature.

Commissioners Marsh/Dotterrer m/s to amend motion to include recommendation that the City Council hold a public hearing on the substance of Plan in order to prepare input for County's planning process, and that the Council recommend to the Regional Planning Process that they incorporate a process for explicit affirmation by the participants at the end of the process. DISCUSSION: Marsh clarified the public hearing would be for citizens to provide input on the substance of the Plan itself. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dotterrer, Dawkins, Morris, Church and Marsh, YES. Commissioners Mindlin, Dimitre and Miller, NO. Motion passed 5-3.

Roll Call Vote on Motion as Amended: Commissioners Dotterrer, Marsh, Morris and Church, YES. Commissioners Miller, Dimitre, Mindlin, and Dawkins, NO. Motion failed 4-4.

Commissioners Dimitre/Mindlin m/s to recommend the City Council not sign the RPS Participants Agreement. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Dimitre, Miller, and Mindlin, YES. Commissioners Church, Dotterrer, Marsh and Morris, NO. Motion failed 4-4.

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B. PLANNING ACTION: 2008-01986
SUBJECT PROPERTY: 2915 Highway 66
APPLICANT: Myles Comstock
DESCRIPTION: A request for a Modification of a previously approved Site Review (PA#2008-01315) for a Variance to exceed the maximum 20-foot height limitation in the Airport Overlay Zone. The proposed structure is 26.5 feet in height. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR'S MAP #: 39 1E 13B; TAX LOT: 2005

Dawkins read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported by any of the commissioners.

Staff Report
Assistant Planner Amy Anderson presented the Staff Report. She explained in September 2008, Staff administratively approved a request to construct a 3,000 sq. ft. single-story building, which was proposed to be 20-feet in height. This is a modification of that approval to allow the building to have an average height of 26.5 ft. Ms. Anderson noted all other aspects of the previous approval will stand, however there would be a few small changes to the storefront entry in regards to the doors and windows. She explained the height limitation imposed by the Airport Overlay Zone is 20 ft., however the City's Airport Master Plan and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would allow for a much taller structure in this location. She noted the City's Airport Commission has reviewed this modification and their letter of approval is included in the record. Ms. Anderson stated Staff feels the height modification would result in a positive change to the buildings design and they are recommending approval of the request.

Ms. Anderson provided a brief overview of the FAA's calculation for building heights, and clarified this is determined case by case based on the structures height, elevation and proximity to the runway. Community Development Director Bill Molnar commented briefly on the Airport Overlay Zone and explained this provision has not been revisited since the Municipal Code was codified in 1982. He noted the original intent may have been for the 20 ft. height restriction to only apply in an approach zone, but this clarification no longer exists in the Code. He added it may be beneficial to modify this section of the Code to make it more site specific and calculated closer to the way the FAA does it.

Applicant's Presentation
Steve Shapiro and Myles Comstock addressed the Commission. Mr. Shapiro explained this site is the location of Valley Equipment Rental and the modification to the buildings height would allow them to store their taller equipment in a safer environment. He noted the Staff Liaison to the Airport Commission indicated that based on the FAA calculations, they could have a 40 ft. building at this location. He stated this property is 2,000 ft. from the runway and they are nowhere near where the planes circle. Mr. Shapiro clarified the nearby towing company could have a building height of 35 feet and the building adjacent to this property has a building height of 28.5 feet.

Dawkins closed the record and the Public Hearing at 9:30 p.m.

Public Testimony
None

Deliberations and Decision
Commissioners Dotterrer/Mindlin m/s to approve Planning Action #2008-01986. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Morris, Church, Mindlin, Dimitre, Miller, Dotterrer and Marsh, YES. Motion passed 8-0.

Commissioners Marsh/Morris m/s to approve the Findings for Planning Action #2008-01986. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Church, Dawkins, Dimitre, Dotterrer, Marsh, Miller, Mindlin and Morris, YES. Motion passed 8-0.

Commissioners Dotterrer/Church m/s to continue to meeting to 10:00 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

OTHER BUSINESS

A. Discussion of possible changes to the City's Sign Code based on the Downtown Task Force Recommendations.
Commissioner Dawkins noted there are two components to the Downtown Task Force's Recommendations: 1) possible Sign Code revisions, and 2) issues with public right-of-way encroachments. He clarified the Planning Commission will not be discussing the right-of-way issues and this will be handled by the City Council. Community Development Director Bill Molnar noted tonight's discussion will include an overview of the proposed Sign Code revisions, and the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and make a formal recommendation to the City Council at a subsequent meeting.

Mr. Molnar provided a brief summary of the charge given to the Downtown Task Force, which included addressing concerns raised by local business owners. He stated a number of recommendations came out of the Task Force meetings, however there was general consensus that the Sign Code has been a benefit to the City. He noted Ashland's downtown area is a nationally registered historic district and it is common to have regulations for signs in these districts. Mr. Molnar clarified the Planning Commission is being asked to focus on the Sign Code recommendations, and the second phase to this process which includes review of encroachments on public property will be handled by the City Council at an upcoming meeting. He noted the goal is for the Commission to have a recommendation ready for the Council by March so the Council can hear these two issues jointly.

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman provided a presentation on the recommendations that came from the Downtown Task Force. These recommendations included amending the Sign Code to permit the following:

An additional exempt incidental sign allowance (3 sq. ft)
Small three-dimensional (3D) signs in the Downtown area (3 cubic ft.)
Larger 3D signs outside the Downtown area (20 cubic ft.)
Portable sandwich boards and pedestal signs
City installed identification signs
Increased projection distance for signs

The Task Force also recommended the Sign Code include a definition for "public art", and allow additional business frontages.

Mr. Goldman's presentation provided examples of different sign types, as well as further clarification of exempt incidental signs, the 3D sign provision, and the portable sign provision. He also clarified how the proposed ordinance would treat signs consisting of block letters or irregular shapes and stated the square footage would be determined by measuring the entire area within the perimeter of the sign.

Dimitre requested Staff provide examples of what the maximum signage amount looks like now, and what it would look like with the proposed revisions. Mindlin questioned if there was any deviation from the Task Force recommendations to what is proposed in the draft ordinance. Mr. Goldman noted George Kramer, who was a member of the Task Force, had spoken to him earlier this evening and indicated it was his recollection that if a business wanted a 3D sign in the Downtown area (3 cubic ft.), this would be subtracted from their incidental sign allowance.

Brent Thompson/582 Allison Street/Written statement was read into the record by Commissioner Dawkins. Mr. Thompson's concerns related to additional frontages and he asked the Commission to cease the discrimination to businesses that have their main entrance on the 3rd or 4th side of a building.

John Stromberg/252 Ridge Road/Provided input from his service on the Downtown Task Force and commented on how the Commission should link the work of the Task Force to the Council, so that the City Council does not have to start over when this issue comes before them. Mr. Stromberg suggested they ask George Kramer to provide input during their discussions and also recommended they conduct a walking tour so that they can get a good picture of the issues they are dealing with. He listed some specific businesses that have signage issues and stated he has come to the conclusion that different areas of town deserve different treatment. He shared his hope that the Commission will look into these issues in detail so that they can feel confident with their recommendation to the Council.

Mr. Molnar clarified staff is attempting to keep a fairly expedited timeline and the goal is to have these amendments in place before next summer's season. Comment was made that the Sign Code can be very difficult to understand and requesting Staff provide ideas of how they would illustrate the requirements. It was stated that the City should have a user's guide, or something that makes these provisions easy for people to understand.

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B. 2009 Hearings Board Assignments
Mr. Molnar clarified the Hearings Board no longer meets every month and only convenes when needed. Commissioners Dawkins, Dotterrer, Mindlin and Miller all volunteered to serve on the Hearings Board when needed.
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C. Planning Commission Attendance
Commissioner Dawkins noted the attendance provision in the "Planning Commission Rules" and requested the Commission's input on how strictly they would like these requirements enforced. He noted Commissioner Church is planning a four month vacation and asked how the group would like to handle this situation. Dimitre commented on his absences in 2008 and indicated this will change. Marsh stated that she is not bothered by the occasional absence, and because there are nine Planning Commissioners, even if some are absent they still have enough members to carry on. She stated that Commissioner Church's situation is a legal issue and should be left to the Mayor to decide. City Attorney Richard Appicello suggested the Planning Commission consider amending the Ordinance to allow the Commission to excuse absences that exceed the 2/3 attendance provision. Comment was made that they may also want to further define "excused" and "unexcused" absences. Dawkins requested the commissioners submit any further thoughts on this topic to staff.

ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

 

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