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Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

 

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

SEPTEMBER 15, 2009

 

CALL TO ORDER

Chair Pam Marsh called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.

 

Commissioners Present:

 

Staff Present:

Larry Blake

Michael Dawkins

Dave Dotterrer

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller

Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris

John Rinaldi, Jr.

 

 

Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner

Richard Appicello, City Attorney

Adam Hanks, Project Manager

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

 

 

 

Absent Members:

 

Council Liaison:

Tom Dimitre

 

Eric Navickas

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Community Development Director Bill Molnar noted Jackson County has begun the process to update the Economic Element of their Comprehensive Plan. Additional information is available on their website at www.co.jackson.or.us. Mr. Molnar also announced the City Council will be reviewing two ordinances that deal with proposed changes to the Council Rules and adopting uniform policies and operating procedures for City commissions, committees, and boards. He stated the two ordinances were emailed to the commissioners earlier this week and the Council will hold first reading on October 6, 2009. Commissioner Marsh requested this topic be tentatively placed on an upcoming agenda and requested staff prepare a brief summary of the proposed changes.

 

CONSENT AGENDA

A.      Approval of Minutes
1.   July 28, 2009 Study Session Minutes

2.  August 11, 2009 Planning Commission Minutes

3.  August 25, 2009 Study Session Minutes

 

Commissioner Blake requested the following correction be made to the July 28, 2009 Study Session minutes: On Page 1 under Announcements, it should read: One neighborhood meeting has been scheduled for October and the Master Plan Update will likely return to the Planning Commission later this fall.”

 

Commissioners Dotterrer/Morris m/s to approve the Consent Agenda with the noted correction. Voice Vote: All AYES. Motion passed 8-0.

 

PUBLIC FORUM

No one came forward to speak.

  

TYPE III PUBLIC HEARINGS

A.           PLANNING ACTION:  #2009-00784
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  615 Washington Street
APPLICANT:  Ron Rezek
DESCRIPTION:  A request for Annexation and Zoning Map change from Jackson County zoning RR-5 (Rural Residential) to City of Ashland zoning E-1 (Employment) for an approximately 1.02-acre parcel located at 615 Washington Street. The application is for a warehouse facility to serve the adjacent Modern Fan business at 709 Washington Street. The application includes a request for the Site Review Approval for the 17,650 square foot warehouse building and associated parking areas and landscape installation. A Tree Removal Permit is requested to remove twelve trees greater than six inches diameter at breast height or greater. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; PROPOSED ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 14 AC; TAX LOT: 200.

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

 

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact

Commissioner Morris asked to be excused from the hearing. He stated he recently completed a project for the Applicant and also has ties with the business across the street.  Morris left the meeting at 7:13 p.m.

 

Commissioners Blake, Dawkins, Dotterrer, Marsh, Miller, Mindlin and Rinaldi all declared site visits; no ex parte contact was reported.

 

Staff Report

Associate Planner Derek Severson presented the staff report on the planning application. He explained this application is for an annexation and zone change which would bring the property into the City as E-1 employment zoning. The application also includes site review approval to construct a 17,650 sq. ft. warehouse building, and a tree removal permit to remove 10 of the site’s 17 trees. Mr. Severson stated the property is located near the intersection of Washington St. and Jefferson Ave and noted the wetland area on the adjacent property to the north.

 

Mr. Severson reviewed the site plan and explained the proposed structure would be built to the north of the existing Modern Fan building. He noted landscaping will be installed between the building and the street, parking will be located along the north property line, and there will be a pass-through between the two buildings. In terms of parking, staff has observed that the existing parking lot, which has 18 spaces, is typically empty and are proposing the light manufacturing parking requirement be applied instead of the warehouse parking demand. This would allow for a reduction in the parking requirement from 18 spaces to 6 or 8 spaces.  Mr. Severson clarified the Applicant’s proposal does not involve adding additional employees.

 

Mr. Severson reviewed the Tree Removal and Protection Plan and commented on the wetland area to the north. He explained this wetland is fed by rainwater runoff from the drainage ditch adjacent to Washington Street. Staff has contacted the Department of State Lands regarding this and while they have indicated the piping of this drainage would not adversely affect the wetland, they want assurance that stormwater runoff flows are maintained in the ditch at the current levels in order to continue feeding the wetland. Mr. Severson noted staff has drafted a condition to address this.

 

Mr. Severson commented on the proposed street improvements and explained annexation requirements call for a half-street improvement to be provided. He stated Washington Street is classified as a commercial collector and a minimum right-of-way of 63 ft. is necessary to accommodate the improvements. As such, staff is recommending the Applicant dedicate an additional 9 ft. of right-of-way in order to accommodate these improvements. Mr. Severson suggested the Commission consider amending Condition 5b to allow the Applicant to bond for the required improvements along their frontage. He stated rather than having the Applicant install the improvements at this time, this would allow the City to comprehensively plan the street improvements along that frontage and the bond would support their installation at a later date once the issues on the street have been dealt with.

 

Mr. Severson noted questions were raised about possibly retaining the multi-trunked Elm tree that fronts Washington Street, and stated the Commission could consider modifying Condition 6a to require this tree be retained and incorporated into the final landscape/irrigation plan. He added if these condition modifications are made, Conditions 6b and 6d would also need to be updated to keep the language consistent. Mr. Severson concluded his presentation and stated staff is recommending approval of the application with the conditions outlined.

 

Questions of Staff

In response to whether it is necessary to have a sidewalk on the side of the street nearest the drop-off, Mr. Severson clarified City standards call for this, but there may be a better way to address this in a comprehensive manner.

 

Commissioner Dotterrer commented on Condition 4 and suggested staff provide a clear definition for “office space.” He also commented on Condition 6a and questioned why a certified arborist is required to prepare the Tree Preservation and Protection Plan. Mr. Severson explained the Applicant did not submit a typical tree inventory that identified the types of trees on the site and their condition, which is what staff uses to evaluate whether the condition of the tree merits its removal or whether the species or condition of the tree is sufficient to accommodate the proposed development. Because of this, both staff and the Tree Commission are recommending verification from an arborist that the trees can accommodate the proposed development and no additional measures are necessary to ensure their survival. Dotterrer asked about obtaining the solar setback calculation in Condition 6i and received clarification that it would not be difficult for the Applicant to demonstrate compliance with Solar Setback B. Mr. Severson also clarified Condition 6j was included at the request of the Building Division to ensure that any excavation to construct the new building would not undermine the footings for Modern Fan 1.

 

Commissioner Rinaldi suggested the arborist inspect the multi-trunk Elm tree at the front of the property and determine whether it is suitable for saving. He also suggested Condition 5b be clear that the entire parkrow needs to be irrigated, not just the trees.

 

Commissioner Mindlin asked whether the multi-trunk Elm tree and cattails would be in the public right-of-way and requested they include a condition requiring this area to be maintained.

 

Commissioner Blake asked about the Stormwater Drainage Plan listed in Condition 5a and asked how these are normally accomplished for commercial developments. Mr. Severson stated this is typically accomplished through engineering and noted the City’s Engineering Division has asked for revised plans that will ensure post development peak flows do not exceed pre-development levels.

 

Applicant’s Presentation

Bruce Abeloe/827 Alder Creek Drive, Medford/Applicant’s Representative/Addressed the question about stormwater drainage and stated it is standard to meet pre-development flows with control structures. He stated the water will be stored in a pipe before it flows into the wetland and this enables them to have control over it. He acknowledged his submittal regarding this was preliminary and stated it will be taken care of when the engineering building plans for the project are finalized. Mr. Abeloe thanked staff for reducing the initial parking requirement, but stated he would like to hear from the City’s Fire Marshall on whether this would affect fire truck access. He added given this change he would also like to move the trash area closer. Mr. Abeloe stated the Elm at the front of the property will need to be evaluated by an arborist and they will have the Oak tree in the back evaluated as well. He clarified the Landscape Plan will be modified to include the drainage swell and the Elm tree, and suggested some type of pathway be installed from the existing sidewalk to the front door and driveway. Mr. Abeloe concluded his presentation and voiced his support for staff’s recommendations.

 

Public Testimony

None.

 

Advice from Legal Counsel & Staff

Mr. Severson noted he had spoken with Fire Marshall Margueritte Hickman about the fire truck access and she had indicated if the paved area is extended to the landscape bay, that would be sufficient for fire access as long as the landscaping did not impair a firefighter’s ability to get through that area on foot. Mr. Severson stated the Fire Marshall’s other concern was ensuring access via an easement to the rear parking lot of Modern Fan 1.

 

Applicant’s Rebuttal

Bruce Abeloe/Voice his support for the conditions and modifications recommended by staff.  

Commissioner Marsh closed the record and the hearing at 7:52 p.m.

 

Deliberations & Decision

Commissioner Dotterrer commented on the parking requirement and stated he is not convinced this project requires any additional parking. He suggested the Commission consider removing the parking requirement and include a condition that preserves the area in case it is needed at a future time. Staff clarified this type of amendment would require a variance approval.

 

Commissioner Marsh noted this application requires two motions: 1) approval of the site design proposal, and 2) a recommendation to the City Council on the annexation.

 

Commissioner Dawkins/Blake m/s to approve the site design proposal for Planning Action #2009-00784 with the modifications discussed. DISCUSSION: Mr. Severson recited the modifications that would be included in this approval:

1)       Condition 5b – Modify to require the Applicant to post a cash deposit or similar approved security instrument for the outlined half-street improvements; for installation of the street improvements to be deferred in order to comprehensively plan the street system; and for the Applicant to provided a right-of-way dedication for the full 63 ft. necessary to improve the street to City standards.

2)       Condition 6a – Modify to require the Applicant to provide a Tree Preservation and Protection Plan for all existing trees; and for the multi-trunk Elm tree nearest the Washington St. right-or-way be retained and incorporated into the final landscape/irrigation plan (subject to the arborist’s recommendation).

3)       Condition 6b – Modify the number of trees approved for removal if the Elm tree can be retained.  

4)       Condition 6d – Remove the language “to Washington Street and for future improvements”. This would still require the Applicant to agree to participate in any future LID for improvements to the Ashland Street intersection.

5)       Condition 6e – Modify to require the Landscape/Irrigation Plan to address the landscaping for the frontage, ditch or swale, and walkway to the street.

6)       Condition 6a – Modify to require the arborist report address the Siberian Elm along Washington St.

7)       Condition 5b – Modify to read “irrigated parkrows” instead of “irrigated street trees.”  

Mr. Severson clarified the fire access issues are addressed in Condition 6k, and he would add the relocation of the trash enclosure to the Landscape Plan on Condition 6a. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Rinaldi, Blake, Dawkins, Marsh, Dotterrer, Miller and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 7-0.

 

Commissioners Dawkins/Dotterrer m/s to recommend annexation of this project to the City Council. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dotterrer, Mindlin, Dawkins, Blake, Miller, Rinaldi and Marsh, YES. Motion passed 7-0.

 

NEW BUSINESS

A.      Tolling and Extension Ordinance Initiation

Commissioner Rinaldi asked to be excused due to a financial interest in one of the projects that could be affected by these proposals.

 

Commissioner Marsh clarified this item was referred to the Commission by the City Council and asked that they not discuss the ordinance language, but deal with this on a conceptual level.

 

Mr. Molnar noted this issue went before the City Council in July and he provided a brief overview of the two proposals. He stated the questions before the Planning Commission are: 1) Should the Municipal Code include a provision that tolls or suspends approval timetables if a project is appealed to LUBA or Circuit Court, and 2) Due to the recent economic downtown, should the City enact legislation that extends the expiration date of land use applications that were approved between January 1, 2006 and July 1, 2009.

 

In regards to the first item, Mr. Molnar stated the Municipal Code is silent on this subject and when these situations occur staff has encouraged applicants to apply for an extension to protect themselves. He clarified site review approvals for commercial buildings are good for 12 months, and applicants can receive one 18 month extension. Approvals will expire if project construction has not commenced within that 30 month timeframe. Mr. Molnar noted LUBA appeals can take several months or more and an applicant’s approval could expire even if they prevail in court.

 

Mr. Molnar explained the second item stems from comments made by applicants about their inability to obtain financing for approved projects due to the economic downturn. He stated a list of projects that are in jeopardy of losing their approval status was handed out at the beginning of the meeting and noted the City of Portland recently adopted a similar ordinance. Mr. Molnar stated Project Manager Adam Hanks and City Attorney Richard Appicello are here tonight and can provide further information on these two proposals.

 

Mr. Hanks came forward and commented on the proposal to extend the approval period due to the recent economic downturn. He asked the Commission to discuss whether the changes in the economy and the commercial credit problems warrant a one-time, date specific extension, or whether applicants should have to resubmit their projects and go back through the approval process.

 

City Attorney Richard Appicello stated the reason for development timetables is to not contract away the police power and stated timetables are necessary to ensure projects are built to the current laws. In regards to the proposal to extend timetables for projects that are appealed, he noted that he frequently gets calls about this and because our Municipal Code does not specifically speak to this, there is no such provision. He stated this is more of a policy question and stated if they agree with the tolling proposal, they may want to consider beefing up the timetable itself so it is more specific as to what is due when.

 

Comment was made questioning what would happen if the conditions for approval change. Mr. Hanks stated this is up for discussion, but currently in order to qualify for the 18 month extension, conditions must be the same or the applicant has to show how they meet the new conditions.

 

Comment was made that the extension for projects that are appealed to LUBA seems to be mixed in with the economic development timetable. Staff clarified this was not the intent and these are two separate proposals.

 

Philip Lang/758 B Street/Questioned where the timetable extension proposal originated from and stated it has nothing to do with LUBA appeals or residential construction. He stated this is a very bad idea and should be dropped from consideration. Mr. Lang stated in a year’s time, major changes can happen to City standards and this proposal would allow developers to build to the lower and older standards. He stated if older plans are reviewed for compliance with new standards, where are the fees and staff to support such a review, and how does the public know this will be done. Mr. Lang stated this proposal constitutes an indirect giveaway to developers and it is bad public policy.

 

Colin Swales/143 Eighth Street/Stated when the Commission approves a planning action they assume the building will be built and this is not always the case. He stated developers often try to maximize what they can place on their land and soon after Planning Commission approval is received you will see a “For Sale” sign on the property. Mr. Swales acknowledged the economic downtown, but stated developers do not want an extension so they can build the project, they want an extension so they can continue to market it. He recommended these projects come back through the approval process in order to ensure the proposal is in line with the current economic environment, which may mean downsizing if necessary. In regards to the tolling proposal, Mr. Swales questioned how many planning actions this has really affected and questioned the need for this provision.

 

Commissioner Marsh requested the Commission separate their deliberations for the two proposals.

 

Tolling Ordinance (LUBA/Circuit Court Appeals)

The commissioners shared their opinions on the proposed tolling ordinance. Dawkins stated this proposal seems fair to him and it is common sense for those projects to receive an extension. Dotterrer was surprised that the City of Ashland did not already have a provision for this and stated he views this as a clean-up measure. Morris agreed that the City should adopt a provision. Blake stated this is a fairness issue and if it is out of the applicant’s hands, there should be some adjustments to the timeframe. Miller stated it should be made clear to all parties what the situation is. Marsh agreed with the other comments that have been made and stated there is a fairness issue here and we should not punish the person who has been subject to the appeal. She stated there seems to be consensus from the Commission that the Council should proceed with this ordinance.

 

Extension due to Economic Downturn

The commissioners shared their opinions on the proposed extension ordinance. Dawkins stated does not know why they are considering this and does not see a problem with current process. Miller stated applicants should have their ducks in a row before they get started and feels the current 30 month timeframe is adequate. Dotterrer disagreed and feels the Council should take this up. He stated this proposal identifies applications approved during a specific timeframe and does not agree with the argument that this is a subsidy. He stated applicants would still be subject to any changes in the code and voiced his support for the Council looking into this proposal. Morris stated he could go either way, but feels this proposal has some merit and should be looked at further. Blake stated there are compelling arguments on both sides and given the difficultly to obtain construction financing there may be cause for the City to provide some relief at this time. Mindlin stated she is on the fence. On one side she is sympathetic to applicants who are ready to build, but can’t receive financing; but on the other side if an applicant has to go back through the City’s approval process, the bulk of the work (and expense for preparing the documents) has already been completed and it is just a matter of checking the application for consistency with the current code requirements. Marsh stated she believes these are extraordinary times and feels the Council should look into some sort of additional extension process. She added a lot of details would need to be worked out, but feels this proposal is worth pursuing.

 

Mr. Molnar stated he would report back to the City Council on these two proposals, provide the Commission’s comments, and get direction. Marsh clarified the Commission’s support for the tolling ordinance and stated while there is not overwhelming support to pursue the extension ordinance, the Commission would be willing to look at this further if directed to do so by the Council.

 

ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 8:56 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

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