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Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

 

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

NOVEMBER 10, 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
Maria Harris, Planning Manager

Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner

Derek Severson, Associate Planner

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

 

 

 

Absent Members:

 

Council Liaison:

None

 

Eric Navickas

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioner Marsh announced there is currently a vacant position on the Commission and encouraged anyone who is interested to submit an application.

 

Community Development Director Bill Molnar stated due to the upcoming holidays, the Commission will only hold one Study Session. He stated staff will contact them via email to determine whether a November or December Study Session is preferred.

 

CONSENT AGENDA

A.      Approval of Minutes
1.  October 13, 2009 Planning Commission Minutes

 

Commissioners Dotterrer/Blake m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 8-0.

 

PUBLIC FORUM

No one came forward to speak.

 

TYPE III PUBLIC HEARINGS

A.           PLANNING ACTION:  #2009-01151
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  545-555-565 Clover Lane
APPLICANT:  Clover Lane LLC/Holiday Inn Express
DESCRIPTION:  A request for a zoning map amendment to extend the “Freeway Sign Zone/Freeway Overlay District” from its current 700-foot radius to include two additional properties along the west side of Clover Lane.  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 391E 14AA; TAX LOTS: 3200, 6700 & 6800.

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

 

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact

Commissioners Blake, Miller and Dotterrer participated in the site visit; Commissioners Morris, Dawkins, Mindlin and Marsh drove past the site; Commissioners Dawkins and Rinaldi noted their involvement with the Freeway Interchange Design Committee; Commissioner Dotterrer noted he lives in the nearby neighborhood, but stated he has no bias.

 

Staff Report

Associate Planner Derek Severson presented the staff report for the planning application. He reviewed the current boundaries of the Freeway Sign Zone/Freeway Overlay District and clarified within this radius there is an allowance for signs to be placed up to 2,028 ft. above the mean sea level. He clarified the proposal before the Commission is to extend the current overlay zone to encompass the remainder of the Miguel’s property at 545 Clover Lane, the adjacent parking lot at 555 Clover Lane, and the Holiday Inn Express property at 565 Clover Lane. He stated if approved, this proposal would allow for the installation of two additional freeway signs in this area.

 

Mr. Severson reviewed the visibility problems associated with the Holiday Inn Express at the end Clover Lane. He noted the Applicant’s application points out that Clover Lane used to extend straight down, but back in the 1990’s the area was reconfigured and the street realigned, which affects the line of sight when traveling down Clover Lane. Mr. Severson stated in looking at the application, staff was not only concerned with the visibility problem, but also wanted to ensure impacts to the adjacent residential area were considered. He displayed photos of the views taken from the residential area and clarified the distance between the subject area and the neighborhood ranges from over 400 ft. to 215 ft. He added there is also a substantial elevation change buffering the two areas. Mr. Severson clarified the Holiday Inn Express does have existing signage that is focused on the freeway frontage; and with recent Sign Ordinance changes, there are opportunities for them to gain signage on the other frontages as well. 

 

Mr. Severson concluded his presentation and stated staff believes there is a change in circumstance that could justify a change in the overlay, and it does not appear amending the overlay district would create significant impacts to the residential area.

 

Applicant’s Presentation

Mark Knox/Applicant’s Representative/Clarified the Applicant could not be present because he is receiving an award for the improvements he has made to this property. Mr. Knox stated the Sign Code is unique to Ashland and changes should not be taken lightly; however the Applicant has raised valid concerns. He stated Clover Lane is very narrow, there are Dead End signs posted, and you can’t see the hotel because of the bend in the road. He added there is also heavy vegetation and the overall impact gives this street an uncomfortable feeling for someone who may be unfamiliar with the area. Mr. Knox stated the residents in the residential area will not be able to see the signage because of the fencing, vegetation and grade change. He added there is also a distance of 400-450 ft. between the two areas that mitigates this concern. Mr. Knox submitted suggested language for the Commission to consider which would only allow the map change to occur along this boundary. He stated when the overlay was first created they formed an indiscriminate circle, and this change would focus on the properties most in need and solve their problems. Mr. Knox stated the Holiday Inn Express caters to out-of-towners and he believes the sign overlay was developed with this in mind and was meant to help capture that business.  

 

Mr. Knox provided some clarification of his suggested language. He stated this would expand the overlay zone to include the most western 100 ft. of the three identified tax lots and addresses any precedence argument that may come forward in the future.

 

Public Testimony

Robert Peffer/626 Sutton Place/Stated he has spoken with his neighbors and feels extending the zone overlay will set precedence. Mr. Peffer voiced his opposition to the Applicant’s proposal and stated approval would not only allow the Holiday Inn Express to erect a large sign, but also Pacific Western Oregon and possibly a new sign for Miguel’s. He stated the requested action seems like overkill for a solely Holiday Inn problem and voiced concern that if approved, this would set a precedent making it difficult to reject similar requests from properties on the east side of Clover Lane. He stated the way to solve this problem is to grant the Holiday Inn a variance and allow them to have a taller sign.

 

Applicant’s Rebuttal

Mr. Knox clarified you can not ask for a variance to the Sign Ordinance, and this was the only avenue one can take. He added going through the map amendment process is a difficult task and he does not believe this is a precedence setting situation.

 

Advice from Legal Counsel & Staff

Mr. Severson explained that in terms of the potential issue of setting a precedent for further expansion of the overlay, it should be noted that the Applicant’s had initially proposed an increase in the overlay’s radius at the pre-application stage. At that time, staff made it clear than an application of this nature must first demonstrate compliance with the Comprehensive Plan and that staff had fairly significant concerns that an expansion of the overlay would encourage more freeway-oriented businesses that may not meet the job-creation targets of the Comprehensive Plan (at least 10 family wage jobs per acre). Mr. Severson stated the current proposal was significantly modified based on these concerns and is now limited to the subject properties, where freeway-oriented businesses are for the most part already established and therefore there is little concern with job creation. Mr. Severson emphasized that if the proposal is approved, future applications to expand the overlay will still need to address not only aesthetic impacts and the proximity to the residential neighborhoods, but also the Comprehensive Plan issues of job creation; therefore staff does not believe that the setting of a specific precedent should be a concern.

 

Mr. Severson read aloud the suggested approval statement provided by Mr. Knox:

“The Planning Commission finds the proposal to amend the Freeway Sign Zone to include the most western 100’ of Tax Lots #3200 (391E 14AB), #6600 and #6700 (391E 14AA) meets the criteria for a Zoning Map Amendment as described in the Ashland Municipal Code, Section 18.106.060.B.1.b as there has been substantial changes in the circumstances since the existing plan designation was adopted in 1973 (36 years) which necessitates the need to adjust to the changed circumstances relating to the re-alignment of the southern end of Clover Lane which has created the existence of freeway-oriented businesses that do not have freeway signage visibility.

 

The Planning Commission also finds that the proposal to only include the most western 100’ of Tax Lots #3200 (391E 14AB), #6600 and #6700 (391E 14AA) balances the signage needs of freeway-oriented businesses and mitigates against the aesthetic impacts on the rest of the community and specifically the adjacent residential neighbors to the east which are currently screened by fencing, vegetation, buildings, a lower topographic elevation (between 14’ and 28’), and approximately 400’ of distance.”

 

Mr. Severson clarified the additional area to be included in the overlay zone is very specific and this proposal would not increase the size of the overlay “circle”.

 

Commissioner Marsh closed the record and the public hearing at 7:50 p.m.

 

Deliberations & Decision

Commissioner Miller spoke in favor of not expanding the overlay radius and questioned if the issues the hotel is having could be solved by better signage on Clover Lane instead.

 

Commissioners Dotterrer/Dawkins m/s to approve Planning Action #2009-01151 with the amended language read aloud by staff. DISCUSSION: Dawkins agreed that Clover Lane has issues and stated he would feel uncomfortable too if he wasn’t familiar with it. He added as long as they are looking at directing signs specifically along the freeway, he is comfortable with the Ordinance change. Blake stated he does not support the proliferation of signs along I-5; however in this case he feels this is a reasonable request given the situation. Dawkins commented briefly on development history for this area and noted this was essentially a rural interchange when the off-ramp went in. Dotterrer stated he does not believe this approval will set precedence and stated someone would have a lot of difficultly challenging the wording that is proposed. Rinaldi stated this is not a freeway signage issue, but a local streets signage issue; and questioned if they should recommend the new signs be placed at a lower height. Staff clarified a change in the height limit would need to be approved by the City Council. Additional comment was made that in order for the sign to be effective, it will likely have to rise to the allowed limit. Marsh stated if you have freeway businesses you need freeway signs, and voiced her support for this application. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Rinaldi, Blake, Dawkins, Mindlin, Morris, Dotterrer and Marsh, YES. Commissioner Miller, NO. Motion passed 7-1.

 

OTHER BUSINESS

A.      Croman Mill District Plan.

Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a brief review of the public hearing package and the project timeline. She explained the public hearing package will include: 1) a new AMC chapter titled “18.53 Croman Mill”, 2) the Croman Mill District Standards which will be integrated into the Site Design & Use Standards, 3) miscellaneous revisions to the Ashland Land Use Ordinance, 4) amendments to the Comprehensive Plan map and Zoning map, and 5) will adopt the Croman Mill Site Redevelopment Plan as a supporting document. In regards to the project timeline, Ms. Harris explained the Croman Advisory Committee will hold their final meeting on November 18, 2009; on November 30, staff will provide an update to the City Council, and in December the Commission will hold their public hearing on the Croman implementation package. She added the Planning Commission’s recommendation from their December meeting will be forwarded to the City Council, who are scheduled to hold a public hearing in January.

 

Ms. Harris requested the Commission focus tonight’s discussion on the Croman Mill District Standards, which are comprised of the following sections: 1) Street Standards, 2) Development Standards, and 3) Sustainable Development Standards.  Ms. Harris clarified the draft Standards document handed out at the beginning of the meeting has not been changed since their last discussion on September 29th; and clarified the highlighted sections mark the new language that is not a carry-over from the existing Site Design & Use Standards. Ms. Harris noted the “Dimensional Standards Matrix” that will be inserted at the end of AMC 18.63, and clarified this chart addresses lot size, yard requirements, landscaping coverage, height, solar access, floor area ratio, residential density, and employment density.

 

Street Standards

Ms. Harris briefly reviewed the central boulevard, local commercial streets, accessways, and multi-use paths. She clarified the accessways are somewhat flexible and are intended primarily for pedestrian and bike access. Ms. Harris reviewed where the multi-use paths would be located and clarified the path adjacent to the railroad will be wider in anticipation of higher volumes of bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

 

Design Standards

Ms. Harris explained about half of the language in this section was pulled over from the current Site Design & Use Standards document. She stated the existing standards cover orientation and scale, parking and on-site circulation, streetscape, building materials, architectural standards for large-scale building, landscaping, and lighting. She stated the new language was taken from the Crandall Arambula plan and address: active edge streets, street wall height, residential buffer zones, transit facility, freight rail spur easement, commuter rail platform easement, open space, and compact development.

 

Sustainable Development

Ms. Harris stated this section is essentially all new material that was suggested in the Crandall Arambula plan, and addresses green streets, stormwater management, and green surface parking. Additional sustainable standards that are included in this section speak to: conserving natural areas, creating diverse neighborhoods, minimizing construction impacts, practicing low-impact site development, and sustainable development bonuses.

 

Staff put forward the following questions to the Commission: 1) Are the land uses in the land use matrix consistent with the goals and objectives of the redevelopment plan? 2) Do the design standards seem consistent with the employment center envisioned in the redevelopment plan? 3) Do the sustainable design standards go too far, not far enough, or seem just about right? 

 

Commissioner Mindlin asked if they are done discussing the land use distribution. She noted she had made a motion at a previous meeting that did not pass, however no other motion was approved. Commission Marsh clarified the Commission has not made any final decisions, and the times they reached consensus it was merely agreement to include those items in the implementation package that goes to the public hearing. She stated the input they gain from the public may necessitate further changes, and at the conclusion of the public hearing the Commission will issue their final recommendation to the City Council.

 

Staff clarified Crandall Arambula has been asked to provide input on a possible revision of the proposed street alignment. Mr. Molnar clarified staff has been working on this internally, and have forwarded this onto the consultant team who prepared the original Croman Mill Redevelopment Plan to review the changes and provide feedback on what the tradeoffs might be. He stated staff is working with them to get this back as quickly as possible.  

 

Commissioner Marsh asked if staff would be holding a neighborhood meeting prior to the public hearing. Mr. Molnar stated there are several neighbors who have been following the plan and staff will offer their attendance if the neighborhood wants to put something together. Ms. Harris noted staff is gearing up to notice the public hearing and the notice area will be quite large at 200 ft. from the boundaries of the entire Croman study area. Mr. Molnar added staff has also collected a fairly extensive email mailing list and notices could be sent to these individuals as well.

 

Commission Dotterrer requested clarification on the active edge concept. Ms. Harris explained the idea is to have these along the central boulevard and around the central park. She stated these areas should have a strong pedestrian orientation since it is the Croman District’s “front door”, and buildings in this area will be closer to the sidewalk in order to create a boulevard space.

 

Staff provided some clarification on the building height possibilities. Senior Planner Brandon Goldman explained the height bonus is based on the LEED Certification Program, and will allow additional stories for each level of LEED Certification achieved. However even with a LEED height bonus, each zone has a maximum height limit that all structures must adhere to. (Height Maximums: Neighborhood Commercial – 4 stories, Mixed Use – 4 stories, Compatible Industrial – 6 stories, Office Employment – 7 stories). In terms of height, Commission Marsh asked what the FAA has said about this plan. Mr. Molnar clarified as the buildings get taller, there will likely be restrictions added. He added staff has requested a FAA representative come to Ashland and review the Croman plan before it goes through the public hearing process.

 

Commissioner Mindlin asked why the height limit for the Neighborhood Commercial zone was so low, and stated she had imaged something a little more dense. Staff clarified 2.5 stories is what is allowed now, so they kept this figure as the base; and while the Crandall Arambula plan suggested 4-6 stories, staff has proposed a 4 story limit out of respect for the abutting area and to provide an appropriate transition to the district. Mr. Goldman noted the residential buffer area encompasses much of the Neighborhood Commercial area and under the LEED standards, the height bonus is not applicable to areas within the residential buffer. He added if the Commission wants taller buildings in this area, the buffer will need to be reduced in size.

 

Comment was made questioning if staff had considered other incentives for LEED development within the residential buffer area. Additional statement was made asking if the residential buffer area would be able to accommodate 60-units per acre if buildings are only 2.5 stories tall. Staff cited the Lithia Lot proposal as an example, and it was noted the 60-unit per acre figure will compel builders to provide smaller units, which is the intent. It was also clarified that 60-units per acre is currently the allowed density in the downtown area as well.

 

Staff clarified the employment density numbers are guidelines and came straight from the Crandall Arambula plan. Mr. Molnar noted staff has been researching other communities to see if they provide anything besides guidelines for enforcement purposes, but since projects are often phased out over a period of time, employment density numbers likely won’t be met during the initial phases. He stated this needs to be taken into consideration and the guideline approach may be best.  Commission Dotterrer commented that it would be difficult to ask applicants to give a firm number, since business activity and employee numbers fluctuate.

 

Commissioner Mindlin voiced concern that the employee targets will prohibit local businesses from moving to the Croman site. Ms. Harris noted staff did review local industrial employee numbers and cited Blackstone Audio and Dreamsacks as two local businesses who would meet the proposed targets. Commissioner Morris commented that the only way to pay for all the infrastructure is to have a higher number of employees per acre. Councilor Navickas commented that the minimum square foot lot size seems to be pushing toward a model that precludes small, locally grown industrial businesses. Ms. Harris clarified the intent was to accommodate existing local businesses that are growing and are in need of a larger space, as well as accommodating new businesses coming to town.

 

Commissioner Marsh suggested they turn their discussion to the Sustainability Standards. Commission Dawkins commented that these should be called “Environmental Development Standards” instead, and stated he does not see anything in this section that is sustainable and they seem to be more environmentally oriented. Comment was made that the term sustainable development is the standard term that is being used within the industry.

 

Mr. Goldman provided a brief summary of the Croman Advisory Committee’s discussion of the rainwater catchment issue. He noted at that meeting Commissioner KenCairn voiced concern with requiring 25% of the irrigation to come from rainwater, since there is no rainwater during certain months of the year. She had also recommended instead of making rainwater catchment a recommendation, to have a requirement for a certain percentage to be retained on the site for either graywater or irrigation use. Several comments were made voicing support for KenCairn’s recommendation and to make rainwater catchment a requirement. Suggestion was made for staff to consider separating the recommendations from the requirements in Section VII-C-7 and put them into two separate paragraphs.

 

Commissioners Mindlin/Rinaldi m/s to continue the meeting to 10:00 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 8-0.

 

Commissioner Mindlin asked about the parking standards and questioned why all of the zones don’t have the opportunity to reduce their parking through the implementation of alternative parking management strategies. Mr. Molnar stated this was a good question and staff will look into it.

 

Comment was made questioning if they could roll back the height limit in order to persuade people to build LEED certified structures and get the height bonus. Ms. Harris indicated there may be some legal issues with rolling back what someone could build currently; additionally, she noted the importance of balancing the goals of the plan in terms of employment generation and environmentally sensitive development. Commissioner Marsh suggested they continue to brainstorm to come up with other incentives for building LEED structures in addition to the height bonus. FARs, height and lot coverage, and parking requirements were all mentioned as possible options for staff to consider.

 

ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 9:45 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

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