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Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

 

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

JULY 14, 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:

 

Staff Present:

Michael Dawkins, Chair
Larry Blake

Tom Dimitre

Dave Dotterrer

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller

Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris

 

Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner

Richard Appicello, City Attorney

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

 

 

 

Absent Members:

 

Council Liaison:

None

 

Eric Navickas

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the first Croman Advisory Committee meeting would be held July 15, 2009, at 5 p.m. in the Community Development Building. He also noted the Council is scheduled to resume deliberations on the Water Resources Ordinance at their July 21 meeting.

 

CONSENT AGENDA

A.      Approval of Minutes
1.   May 12, 2009 Planning Commission

2.   May 26, 2009 Study Session

3.  June 23, 2009 Study Session

 

Commissioners Marsh/Dotterrer m/s to approve Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

 

PUBLIC FORUM

No one came forward to speak.

 

TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS

A.           PLANNING ACTION:  #2009-00551
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  426 A Street
APPLICANT:  Louis Plummer & Sidney Brown
DESCRIPTION:  A request for Site Review approval to construct a 3,992 square foot two-story mixed use building for the property located at 426 A Street.  Also included are requests for a Mixed Use Parking Credit, a Variance to the parking requirements, an Exception to Street Standards, and a Tree Removal Permit to remove five trees.  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION:  Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 09 AB; TAX LOT: 6507

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

 

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact

All of the commissioners declared site visits; No ex parte contact was reported.

 

Staff Report

Associate Planner Derek Severson presented the staff report for the planning application. He reviewed the condition of the existing structures on the property, displayed several photos, and explained the Applicant’s are proposing to demolish the house, shed, and garage, and construct a mixed-use building at the site. Mr. Severson stated the property is located in a Historic District, however the house is a non-contributing resource. He reviewed the site plan with the Commission and also commented on the landscape plan. Mr. Severson explained there are five trees on the site that the Applicant’s are proposing to remove. One of those trees is a large cedar that has been topped heavily and is currently growing into overhead power lines, while the other four are smaller trees. He noted the building is proposed to be constructed to LEED Standards, and indicated the most significant portion of this application deals with the parking variance. Mr. Severson provided an explanation of the parking requirements and indicated the total parking required for the proposal is eight spaces. He stated the Applicant’s proposal includes one handicap space and three standard spaces, and there is one on-street credit available, so the result is a shortage of three spaces. Mr. Severson commented on the parking availability in this area and stated in general staff has observed a 50% to 60% availability during business hours. He added that functionally there is an additional parking space available in front of the site on A Street, however this space does not count towards their parking total due the substandard width of A Street.

 

Mr. Severson stated staff is recommending approval of the application with noted conditions, however there are a few last minute modifications to the conditions outlined in the staff report:

1)       Condition 14d: Include that there is a small section of sidewalk along A Street that needs to be repaired;

2)       Condition 1 and Condition 14g: Revise to allow issuance of certification of occupancy if the Applicant meets the established criteria for LEED certification, with the final LEED certification to come after;

3)       Condition 13c: Revise to indicate the maximum lot coverage is 85%.

 

Comment was made questioning how the two trees proposed for removal impact the parking. Mr. Severson clarified any effort to move the parking further up would push the location of the building towards the street. He added if the trees are preserved they would impact the options for the site.

 

Mr. Severson also provided clarification on the City’s Demolition Ordinance and the process it entails. He stated the Applicant’s will have to go through a separate process to receive demolition approval and stated if someone wanted to challenge the demolition, the Demolition Ordinance provides more teeth for this type of challenge than the land use process.

 

Applicant’s Presentation

Christopher Brown/545 A Street/Applicant’s Representative/Mr. Brown presented images of the structures on the property and commented on their current state of decay. He stated the house is covered with black mold and a contractor assessor indicated it would cost over $400,000 to bring it up to a state of livability. Mr. Brown reviewed the site plan and explained the existing footprint is 1,855 sq. ft, and the footprint of the proposed mixed-use building is 1,998 sq. ft. He noted the two square footage amounts are comparable and stated they are not trying to do something excessive with the site. He stated the intention of the Applicant is to be very compassionate with the surrounding neighborhood and stated they see the two large Cedar trees on the corner to be a significant contribution and want to retain these. Mr. Brown noted the green roof system that will be installed and stated they will also be including permeable pavers, a permeable parking lot, and bioswales in the parkway. Mr. Brown commented on the proposed parking layout and noted the availability of on-street parking in this area. He stated in order to include the number of parking spaces required on the site, the parking lot would have to take up half of the total lot. He concluded by stating they do not believe this area needs more large parking lots.

 

Comment was made that this looks like a modern building and it was questioned how it fits into the Historic District. Mr. Brown commented on the elements taken from the adjacent Craftsman style homes and incorporating the heavy industrial influence of the Railroad District. He stated their intent was to create moderation between these elements and noted the Historic Commission’s approval of the design. 

 

It was questioned why the office space is not delineated on the plan. Mr. Brown responded that the owners are hoping to stay flexible at this point in order to accommodate the future tenant. Mr. Severson clarified one of the conditions proposed by staff requires the breakdown to be provided at building permit submittal.

 

It was questioned if the Applicant is working with the Public Works Department regarding the proposed storm drainage system for the alley. Mr. Brown asked the project’s engineer, Tom Sissel, to come forward and respond.  

 

Tom Sissel/3501 Excel Drive, Suite 240, Medford/Clarified they have been in contact with the Public Works Department and the City’s Associate Engineer has come out to the site. He stated they have discussed taking some of the water drainage from the alley and directing it onto the proposed parking area and to an on-site detention facility; from there it would flow into a bioswale and to a catch basin at the corner of 3rd and A Streets. Mr. Sissel stated the City’s Assoc. Engineer indicated that the standard alley requirement is to have everything drain to the center and would not commit to whether they would allow this to be changed. He stated if staff does not allow this to be changed, they will request to improve the existing drainage and catch basin.

 

Commissioner Mindlin commended the Applicant for their efforts and hopes they will be able to implement this system.

 

It was questioned what level of LEED certification are they shooting for and Mr. Brown clarified that they are on track to receive Gold Certification.

 

Public Testimony

Philip Lang/ A letter from Philip Lang was read into the record by Commissioner Dawkins. The letter voiced opposition to the proposal, specifically the demolition of a 100-year old, historic Railroad District house. Lang recommended that the property owners be asked to rebuild/reconstruct the property, preserving its authentic beauty and historic presence.

 

Collin Swales/143 A Street/Stated the building design is fine, but is disappointed another one of Ashland’s small, historic homes will be removed. Mr. Swales commented on the variance request and stated being located in a Historic District in itself is not a sufficiently unique or unusual circumstance to qualify for the variance. He voiced his approval for the energy efficiency of the building, but stated the fact that the Applicant is choosing to make it energy efficient should not qualify them for the variance. He added approving the parking variance because they are getting a green building is not currently the law.

 

Anne Golden/247 Third Street/Stated she lives up the block from the proposed project and while she appreciates the efforts of the Applicant, has concerns with the parking. Ms. Golden commented on the reduction from 8 parking spaces to the Applicant’s proposal of just 4 off-street spaces, and stated the on-street spaces mentioned by the Applicant are being used. She noted the residences that use on-street parking on Third St. and stated it is a faulty assumption that the residences will leave during the day and leave those spaces vacant for the office/retail use. Ms. Golden suggested the building design was too large for the lot and stated a more modest size building would be a more appropriate scale for the neighborhood. She thanked the Applicant for their green design, but requested 2-3 more parking spaces be provided on the site.

 

Rebuttal by the Applicant

Christopher Brown/Stated they were aware parking was going to be an issue. He stated the Palace Café and Noble Coffee businesses have created some congestion in the area; however at 10 a.m. this morning not one car was parked on the street. Mr. Brown voiced his concern with limiting the potential of this site because of the ownership of automobiles and added that this area is not zoned residential; it is an E-1 district. He commented on the necessity to create a commercially viable building at this site and stated at some point something is going to get built on this corner. He stated his clients are trying to find a solution that benefits the neighborhood, and noted the letter of support submitted by the neighboring property owner. Mr. Brown concluded by stating in addition to the parking spaces they are providing on the site, there is potential for 5-6 cars to be parked on Third Street, and 3-4 cars on A Street.

 

Letter of support submitted by Tom Bradley, 266/268 Third Street, was read into the record by staff.

 

Commissioner Dawkins closed the record and the public hearing at 8 p.m.

 

Deliberations & Decision

Commissioner Marsh/Dotterrer m/s to approve PA #2009-00551, with the corrected conditions as noted by staff. DISCUSSION: Marsh stated she is comfortable with the variance and commented on the need to look at the parking situation in the Railroad District and the entire City as whole, and not on a case by case basis. Dotterrer concurred with Marsh’s statement and stated he is comfortable with the variance; however, he warned that building a LEED certified structure is not a criteria for the variance and should not have been referenced in the staff report. Blake commented that anytime you introduce a new building into a Historic District you face challenges. He noted the proposed building materials and voiced appreciation for the way the building steps back and keeps with the scale of the historic houses in the neighborhood. Mindlin stated the fact that A Street is too narrow to award an on-street parking credit is a circumstance beyond the Applicant’s control and therefore qualifies for the variance. She noted the way the parking has been laid out off the alley, which minimizes the pavement surfacing is also a reason to support the proposal. Dimitre commented if the required parking cannot fit on the site, this tells him that the building is too big. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Marsh, Dotterrer, Blake, Dawkins, Miller, Mindlin and Morris, YES. Commissioner Dimitre, NO. Motion passed 7-1.

 

TYPE III PUBLIC HEARINGS

A.           PLANNING ACTIONS:  #2009-00817
APPLICANT:  Southern Oregon University
DESCRIPTION:  A request for adoption of the Southern Oregon University Campus Master Plan 2010-2020 as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  (This plan replaces the previously approved 2000-2010 Campus Master Plan.)  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION:  Southern Oregon University; ZONING: S-O

 

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact

Blake recused himself from the public hearing due to his affiliation with Southern Oregon University. Dawkins indicated his father was a teacher at the college and he attended SOSC. Mindlin stated she had received a communication from Rivers Brown through her work with Transition Town, and noted this document has been distributed to the rest of the Commission and made part of the record. She also indicated that she performed a site visit. Morris stated he lives a few blocks from the University, was a student at SOSC, and also donates time to ScienceWorks, which is located on University property. Marsh stated she performed a site visit, was a student at the University, and also lives a few block away. She added that she had read the recent newspaper articles and had a brief conversation with Matt Marr regarding the placement of the faculty housing, however no new information was shared in that conversation. Miller stated she has also read the newspaper articles and frequently walks by the campus. Dimitre stated he had performed a site visit.

 

Staff Report

Community Development Director Bill Molnar addressed the Commission and provided a brief overview of the land use process for this type of application and previous SOU Master Plan updates. He explained the University is required to go through this process every ten years and this plan outlines the direction the University would like to take over the next decade (2010 through 2020). Mr. Molnar stated the Commission’s duty is to ensure that the proposed plan is consistent with the Ashland Comprehensive Plan from a land use standpoint. He added this is a Type III hearing and the Commission will take public testimony and forward a recommendation to the City Council, who will ultimately make the final decision.

 

Mr. Molnar delivered the staff presentation on the SOU Master Plan 2010-2020 Update. The presentation focused primarily on the proposed University housing outlined in the plan, but also touched on campus parking standards and the need for Transportation Demand Management strategies. Mr. Molnar displayed several photos of the various areas planned for future development and presented the following staff recommendations:

1)       SOU Faculty Housing at Ashland Street and Mountain Ave.
Staff Recommendations: a) Project be subject to a conditional use permit, b) Adopt additional design standards addressing building scale, bulk, coverage, articulation, etc., and c) Conduct a Transportation Impact Analysis prior to final design.

2)       SOU Housing on Henry Street.
Staff Recommendations match those outlined above for Item 1.

3)       SOU Faculty Housing on Walker Avenue.
Staff Recommendations: a) Adopt additional design standards addressing building scale, bulk, coverage, articulation, etc., and b) Conduct a Transportation Impact Analysis prior to final design.

4)       SOU Mixed Use Housing on Ashland Street.
Staff Recommendations: a) Project be subject to Detail Site Review and Large Scale Development Standards, b) Conduct a Transportation Impact Analysis prior to final design, and c) Adopt a Pedestrian Safety Plan and timeline for implementation.

5)       Campus Parking Standards.
Staff Recommendations: a) Promote the use of alternate modes of transportation, and b) Refine campus parking requirements.

6)       Transportation Demand Management (TDM).
Staff Recommendation: Require TDM strategies and a timeline for implementation.

 

Applicant’s Presentation

Craig Morris, Vice President, SOU Finance and Administration Dept/Mr. Morris introduced the University’s consultants for this project Eric Ridenour, SERA Architects and Greg Covey, Covey Pardee Landscape Architects. Mr. Ridenour stated the University’s Master Plan is the long range vision of where they would like to go in the next 10 year period. He explained projects are generally identified in the Plan, and there will be a level of specific site planning that comes later. 

 

Mr. Ridenour delivered a presentation on the Master Plan Update and outlined the following key elements of the Plan:

1)       Renovate and expand the Theatre Arts building;

2)       Upgrade the Science building complex;

3)       Upgrade the McNeal Pavilion area and build a better visual connection;

4)       Expand residential capacity by creating more housing for students and faculty on the north side of campus.

 

Mr. Ridenour’s time expired before he was able to complete his presentation. Before he concluded he clarified the faculty housing is proposed to be built around the existing park lot, the earlier proposal to move the community garden has been abandoned, and there will be no attempt to build housing next to Beach Creek.

 

Public Testimony

David Schieber/586 Glenwood/Stated he lives 100 ft. away from campus property and has a son who attends the University. Mr. Schieber stated the University’s adoption of green building practices is great, but expressed concern with the lack of neighborhood participation in the development of this plan. He stated the data is mixed as to whether faculty housing would work and stated any new buildings should fit into the existing neighborhood and not dwarf the surrounding structures.

 

Marcia McNamara/1007 Ashland/Stated the previous plan called for classroom buildings to be constructed in these areas and likes the idea of faculty housing instead. Ms. McNamara stated she has a 2-story house and there are others in her neighborhood as well, and to say any new structures have to be single story does not take into account what is currently there. She voiced her support for daylighting Beach Creek and stated she has been favorably impressed by what has been presented tonight.

 

Mary Margaret Modesitt/540 S. Mountain/Voiced concern that the only way she was aware of this plan was because a citizen who opposed it contacted her. Ms. Modesitt recommended the University speak with the community before embarking on this plan. She commented that there used to be housing along Mountain before the University built a parking lot, and now they want to turn a parking lot back into housing.

 

Marilyn Briggs/590 Glenview/Noted she was a Planning Commissioner when the previous Master Plan was adopted and voiced her opposition to the amount of housing in the proposed plan. She stated student and faculty housing should be integrated into the community and the proposed isolation seems like the wrong approach. She added the mission of the campus administration should be providing education, not housing.

 

Carita Culmer/1069 Henry/Stated the thought of looking out her window at a multi-story monstrosity leaves her feeling cold. Ms. Culmer voiced objection to the idea of faculty housing and stated this would destroy her neighborhood. She stated the University already has a large number of houses and apartments that they rent out at lower rates, and if faculty cannot afford to live in Ashland, the University should offer a stipend to compensate for the higher housing costs. Ms. Culmer commented on the community garden and stated landscaping would only detract from its usefulness as an outdoor laboratory and the University should leave it be.

 

Colin Swales/143 Eight/Agreed with the staff recommendation for this property to be brought into the Detail Site Review Zone. He also stated the proposed conditions regarding the Transportation Demand Management strategies and the Traffic Impact Analysis are appropriate. Mr. Swales commented on increasing student housing on the north side of campus and how to handle the pedestrian traffic crossing Siskiyou Blvd. He stated there are creative options available and they have an opportunity to create a pedestrian friendly node. Mr. Swales stated this plan needs a lot more study and far more public input from the neighbors and the community as a whole.

 

Angie Thusius/897 Beach/Stated the Master Plan does have some sustainable approaches, but two of the elements are inappropriate. Ms. Thusius stated the faculty housing would dwarf private homes, and moving 800 students below Siskiyou Blvd would require them to cross this dangerous street to get onto campus. She stated the students are much safer in the area they are in now. She also stated that it appears this plan was done in a hurry and with little input from the community.

 

Commissioners Dotterrer/Miller m/s to extend meeting to 10:00 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion Passed 7-0.

 

Art Bullock791 Glendower/Stated this plan is not up to the sustainability standards we need from a 10-year plan. Mr. Bullock commented on the assumptions made in the plan and stated these may be drastically off a few years from now (including what type of housing students prefer). He agreed with staff that the transportation plan needs to be completed first since it will likely take time to make these types of changes. He stated allowing permitted uses in the plan removes the community’s option to check in and recommended all of the plan’s components be subject to the City’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) process.

 

Keith Spear/570 Glenwood/Stated if a 2-story building is built as proposed, their mountain views would disappear. He stated they paid a premium for their home because of the view and recommended the concept of viewscape be discussed. Mr. Spear stated he would have liked to have seen some sensitivity to the surrounding neighborhood and the University needs to do more interfacing with the neighbors on a human scale. He noted a letter submitted into the record by Randall Hopkins and recommended the City not sign away its power in regards to the CUP process.

 

Jesse Miller/430 Ashland/Stated he has been gardening in the community garden for three years and brought in a sample of a new variety of garlic he has grown. Mr. Miller stated food security is becoming a bigger concern and community gardens allow for local control of our food supply. He spoke to the benefits of the community garden and stated this is a place where agricultural skills are kept alive in our community and the garden also serves as a community meeting place. He noted the new version of the plan says the garden will be spared, however it is clear that the garden is not a priority. Mr. Miller voiced concern with surrounding the garden with condos and is wary of the University’s offer to enhance the garden. He stated if they really want to enhance it, they should increase funding for it. He stated the current plan still moves the parking lot closer to the garden and it is unclear what is going to happen. He stated he is in favor of affordable housing for faculty, but there are other ways to accomplish this and faculty housing should be located on the north end of campus if it occurs.

 

Charles Culmer/399 S. Mountain/Felt that the plan has been kept secret and the neighborhood has not been informed of the University’s intentions. Mr. Culmer questioned if housing is built on the parking lot, how are they going to compensate for the loss of parking. He stated the parking lot is there for a reason and requested they be kept better informed.

 

Sylvain Brown/1067 Ashland/Stated he is a neighbor and student of SOU and should have been informed of this plan a long time ago. Mr. Brown commented on why he selected to attend SOU, including its small town feel and expressed concern that the plan seems to be shifting to the idea that bigger is better. He suggested there are more preferable options that would bolster the school’s image.

 

Rhianna Simes/433 Liberty/Stated she moved to her house because of the community garden and the feel of the neighborhood. Ms. Simes stated she is pleased to hear the condos will not be placed on the garden, but said there is still an air of mistrust and concern about what the plan actually entails. She commented on the benefits of the garden and stated the community and the students should be allowed to provide input on any type of future enhancements.

 

Abraham Bettinger/367 Bridge/Stated he lives close to the University and feels he has been kept in the dark about their plans. Mr. Bettinger stated he would have liked for the University to put more emphasis into educational programs, and while he agrees that some of the facilities could be improved, thinks building new housing is a waste of energy. He noted he works at the community garden and the garden could enhance the green image of the University. Mr. Bettinger stated he is concerned with the plan and feels it needs to be a lot more transparent and made clear to the community.

 

Alex Goldman/1153 Iowa/Agreed with the testimony previously delivered tonight and asked the Commission to not allow SOU to pave over the garden.

 

Commissioners Mindlin/Dotterrer m/s to extend meeting to 10:30 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 8-0.

 

Rivers Brown/1067 Ashland/Stated he owns a home right next to the University and requested clarification on what happens to his home in the plan. Mr. Brown stated he does a lot of interaction with the University, however he only heard about their intentions by reading an article in the newspaper. He commented on the various houses included in the plan that the University does not have ownership of, and noted how these homes were included in the plan maps detailing where development would occur. He commented that 2-3 story buildings would block views for residents and the stated the neighborhood does not want a faculty village placed here. Mr. Brown stated faculty housing is a flawed concept, but if it is built it should be placed on the north side of campus and commented on why this is a better location. He stated the University should work with what they have and try to enhance it instead of wiping everything out and starting fresh. He also commented on the lack of input that has occurred in the development of this plan.

 

Dawkins noted that this concludes the public testimony portion and due to the limited amount of time remaining suggested the Commission continue this item to the next regular Planning Commission meeting.

 

Commissioners Dimitre/Dotterrer m/s to continue the public hearing to the August 11, 2009 Planning Commission meeting. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

 

OTHER BUSINESS

A.           Election of Officers

 

Commissioners Pam Marsh and Michael Dawkins were nominated as Planning Commission Chair.


Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Blake, Dawkins, Dotterrer, Miller, Mindlin and Morris voted for MARSH. Commissioners Dimitre and Marsh voted for DAWKINS. Pam Marsh was selected as CHAIR.

 

Commissioners Dave Dotterrer and Michael Dawkins were nominated as Planning Commission Vice Chair.

 

Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Mindlin, Dawkins, Marsh, Dotterrer, Dimitre and Miller voted for DAWKINS.

Commissioners Morris and Blake voted for DOTTERER. Michael Dawkins was selected as VICE CHAIR.

 

Commissioners Larry Blake and Melanie Mindlin were nominated as Planning Commission Second Vice Chair.

 

Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Mindlin, Miller, Marsh, Dimitre, Dawkins and Blake voted for MINDLIN.

Commissioners Morris and Dotterrer voted for BLAKE. Melanie Mindlin was selected as SECOND VICE CHAIR.


ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 10:25 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

 

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