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Planning Commission

Minutes
Tuesday, March 08, 2011

 

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING

MINUTES

March 8, 2011

 

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

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller

Melanie Mindlin

 

Bill Molnar, Community Development Director

Derek Severson, Associate Planner

Michael Piña, Assistant Planner

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

 

 

 

 

Absent Members:

 

Council Liaison:

John Rinaldi, Jr.

 

Russ Silbiger, absent

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioner Marsh announced the upcoming TSP joint meeting dates.

 

CONSENT AGENDA

A.      Approval of Minutes

  1. February 8, 2011 Planning Commission Minutes.

Commissioners Miller/Mindlin m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.

 

PUBLIC FORUM

No one came forward to speak.

 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

A.      Approval of Findings for PA-2010-01622, 163 Hitt Rd.

 

Ex Parte Contact: No ex parte contact was reported by the commissioners.

 

Commissioner Mindlin questioned the finding that states the Hitt Road frontage along a portion of the subject property meets the City’s street standards. Associate Planner Derek Severson clarified this lot does have some frontage on a street improved to standards. Mindlin also questioned the statement on page 5 which reads “the Commission finds that the original application materials explicitly recognized that building envelopes did not identify building footprints and that the lot coverage is limited to 20% per lot”, and does not believe that they found this. She felt the Commission found the materials to be unclear and did the best they could with the problem as it was presented. Marsh noted this was a statement that was included in the staff report and was not challenged during the hearing. Mindlin recommended striking “and that the lot coverage is limited to 20% per lot” from that statement.

 

Commissioners Mindlin/Dawkins m/s to approve the Findings for Planning Action #2010-01622 with the modification as noted. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.

 

TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS

A.      PLANNING ACTION: #2010-01611     

SUBJECT PROPERTY: 260 First Street

APPLICANT: Melissa Syken

DESCRIPTION: A request for a Conditional Use Permit and Site Review to convert an existing, non-contributing 614 square foot home into a 599 square foot retail store, with a 447 residential addition to the rear of the property located at 260 First Street. In addition, the applicant is seeking a variance to reduce the number of required parking spaces to allow for an on-site ADA parking in front of the home. 

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Low Density Multi-Family Residential; ZONING: R-2; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 09 BA; TAX LOT: 1500.

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

 

Ex Parte Contact

Commissioners Miller, Mindlin and Marsh reported site visits. Commissioners Dawkins and Blake stated they are familiar with the site. No ex parte contact was reported.

 

Staff Report

Associate Planner Derek Severson provided the staff report and explained the application before them is a conditional use permit and site review to establish a retail use at 260 First Street. He stated this action includes a parking variance and an administrative variance to the Site Design and Use Standards for a reduced landscape buffer in the front yard. Severson stated the applicant’s proposal is to demolish a portion of the existing home, add a second story addition to the rear of the building to accommodate the residential use, and use the front of the building for a retail business. He noted this property is located across the street from the Ashland Food Co-op, and is in a transitional area near the edges of the R-2 and E-1 zoning districts. Severson reviewed AMC 18.24.030 which speaks to the retail space being operated by the occupant of the dwelling unit and clarified the business owner would be occupying the site in the rear unit. He commented on the applicant’s site plan and stated their proposal would greatly enhance the building’s presence and streetscape. Severson reviewed the parking variance and stated the applicant’s have identified two parking spaces to be installed on the site, and are requesting a variance to install the required ADA space on the street. However, the City’s Building Division has expressed concern with locating the handicap space on the street and would generally require the ADA space to the located on the subject property.

 

Mr. Severson stated in reviewing the application, staff believes the proposal involves significant improvements to the building and its relationship to the streetscape; but noted the bigger issues regarding the character of the neighborhood and whether the addition of a retail business would negatively impact that. He stated the Historic Commission has reviewed this application and are recommending approval. The Commission indicated this block has a strong commercial character and the proposed business would serve the same customer base as the Food Co-op and therefore create less of a parking impact. Additionally, the Historic Commission stated using the front yard for parking spaces seems consistent with the pattern of that neighborhood.

 

Comment was made questioning if the required ADA space is a City regulation or a federal rule, and whether there is flexibility in where it can be located. Severson stated there are ADA requirements included in the Ashland Land Use Ordinance, but there are also state and federal requirements that are enforced by the City’s Building Division. He explained the Planning Commission can waive the requirements in the land use ordinance, but they do not have the authority to waive the state and federal requirements. In order for this application to move forward, he stated the Commission would have to approve a variance for two spaces, rather than one.

 

Applicant’s Presentation

Carlos Delgado, Melissa Syken and Patricia Way/Ms. Syken shared her desire to open a small retail store offering eco-baby goods that would be made by local residents. She stated this type of business would be an asset to Ashland and stated most families are purchasing these types of items online or in larger metropolitan areas because there is no place locally to get them.

Syken stated the railroad district is a very walking friendly area and she anticipates lots of pedestrian business. She noted this has always been a high traffic area because of the Food Co-op, and noted the growth of the Co-op property and the other businesses that have recently opened in this neighborhood.

 

Mr. Delgado clarified there are two existing parking spaces on the site and they are asking for a variance for the third required ADA space. Delgado listed other businesses in the neighborhood that were not required to provide ADA spaces on their property, and stated if they were allowed to place their ADA space on the street it would serve the entire block of businesses. He stated placing the ADA space within a block or two of the business is acceptable under state and federal guidelines, and stated if it is mandated to be placed on this site it would not be accessible to the public and would only be for the use of this private party. He noted the proposed retail use is an approved use under the CUP process, and the question before them is the variance for the side yard buffer and the parking variance. Delgado clarified this site is located in a transition zone and there is a real commercial feel to this street.

 

Public Testimony

Philip Lang/758 B Street/Stated he is opposed to this project because: 1) it does not meet the permitted R-2 Zone uses, 2) it does not meet the conditional uses allowed in the R-2 Zone, 3) the project cannot provide adequate parking and will further worsen a bad parking situation, and 4) it will adversely affect the livability in the area. Mr. Lang noted he has owned the adjacent home for 25 years and it has always served as an affordable housing unit. He stated the more properties that are granted variances, the more the character of this neighborhood changes.

 

Jim Little/234 N. First Street/Stated the Food Co-op already has more customers than parking spaces and people often idle in the street waiting for spaces to open up. Mr. Little noted many people make illegal turns into the alley and the two hour parking limitation is often not adhered to. He stated he is not opposed to this application, but stated the parking problem needs to be straightened out before another retail space goes in.  

 

Richard Katz/125 Orange Avenue/Stated he is the general manager of the Ashland Food Co-op and acknowledged there is a parking problem in this neighborhood. Mr. Katz stated he likes the proposed structure, the improved streetscape and the concept of selling organic baby items, but is concerned about any adjacent development that would limit street parking access for his customers and increase the density of this busy neighborhood. He stated the proposed lot is already non-conforming and expressed concern that the applicant’s are proposing more than this small lot can accommodate. He added although an accessory unit would be built to serve as the home of the occupant/operator of the business, he does not believe this meets the CUP criteria.

 

Cathy Lemble/347 Beach Street/Stated she has been an Ashland resident for over 10 years and picked Ashland expressly to raise her family here. Ms. Lemble voiced support for a local business that would provide organic baby goods and noted the current void in Ashland for these types of products. She stated the proposed business keeps with the character of the railroad district and believes the Co-op and this business would serve the same customer base. Ms. Lemble stated the improvements to this property are a step in the right direction and does not believe this business will have a significant impact on traffic or the parking situation.

 

Amanda Rockwell-Higgins/2050 Butler Creek Road/Stated she is a small business owner in Ashland and stated in terms of parking, Ashland should be thankful to have such a thriving local economy, especially in this area. She stated this business would fit well into the neighborhood and voiced her support for this business.

 

Commissioner Marsh noted several letters were submitted and asked the Commissioners to read them aloud. Letters from Peter Hoyt, Farinaz Wadia, Karen Rae Ferreira, Steve Lanusse-Siegel, Monique Manning, Jacob Gouge, Melissa Giersbach, Lorie Fleischman, Jenny Mikolichek, and Michelle LaFave were read aloud. All ten letters voiced support for this application.

 

Applicant’s Rebuttal

Carlos Delgado/Clarified their proposal is to have a 599 sq. ft. retail business with a 447 sq. ft residence. He commented on the Maximum Permitted Floor Area for this lot and stated they are talking about a fairly small footprint for this operation. Delgado acknowledged that the Building Division is generally not supportive of ADA spaces on the street, but disagreed with the claim that an on-street space would not provide accessibility to this site. He added there is a simple modification they could make to the curb cut by having a rolling swale which would enable wheelchairs to easily get up onto the sidewalk.

 

Melissa Syken/Stated parking in this area is already an issue, and she does not believe it should fall on this small business to solve the parking situation.

 

Community Development Director Bill Molnar asked if the applicant’s would be willing to connect the two uses with an interior door and Mr. Delgado clarified “Yes”. Molnar recommended the Commission consider adding this as a condition of approval.

 

Commissioner Marsh closed the public hearing at 8:40 p.m.

 

Advice from Legal Counsel & Staff

Mr. Severson commented on the criteria that requires the business operator to reside within the residential unit. He stated if approval is granted and the property is later sold, there is currently no condition limiting it to this use; however the Commission could consider adding a requirement that any change in business would trigger a new Conditional Use Permit (CUP). He added if the Commission grants approval and does not limit the CUP to this particular business, any new business owners would also be required to occupy the residential space.

 

Comment was made voicing concern with parking being located in the front yard. Severson clarified there is a provision in the code that allows for this, and because of the narrow width of the lot there is no restriction against the on-site parking.

 

Comment was made voicing concern that the proposal is for Patricia Way to live in the residential unit with her daughter Melissa Syken running the store, and questioning whether this complies with our ordinance. Severson read the code language aloud, which states “shall be operated only by the occupant by the dwelling unit and the equivalent of one halftime employee up to 25 hours per week”. He stated if the mother were residing on site and operating the business, and her daughter was a half-time employee, this meets the definition.

 

Commissioner Marsh closed the record at 8:50 p.m.

 

Deliberations & Decision

Dawkins recommended the Commission attach a condition for an interior door between the retail and residential uses. Additionally, he recommended a safeguard that any new business would have to meet the same requirements of this proposal. Marsh asked if they are, in general, supportive of this action. Dawkins stated he is supportive of this project. Miller stated it would improve the block and likes the design, but she is sensitive to the conversion of the railroad district to commercial. Mindlin stated she is supportive of local start up businesses, but is concerned with the level of activity proposed for such a small site. Additionally, she voiced concern with its proximity to residences and noted it is surrounded by residential property on three sides. Blake shared Mindlin’s concerns. He stated this is a zero lot line situation, there is no setback or screen for the property on the south, and with every conversion they are eroding the residential quality of the railroad district. Marsh stated she cannot support this application. She stated it is the diversity of uses that contribute to the vitality of the railroad district, and if you sprinkle in non-residential uses in a pattern that does not make sense you will undermine the residential qualities that stabilize the neighborhood. She stated this application would insert a non-residential use in the middle of a block that is fully residential, and because of the dynamics of a lot this size, she believes the retail use will overwhelm the residential use and does not believe this meets the intent of the ordinance.

 

Commissioners Mindlin/Blake m/s to deny Planning Action #2010-01611 on basis that the site design does not sufficiently meet the criteria. DISCUSSION: Dawkins voiced his disagreement with the motion and stated small start-up businesses are vitally important to our community. He stated that parking is a nice problem to have, and noted this area has always had a lot of activity and noise. He stated the residential character of this neighborhood has been lost over the years and has a hard time imagining someone would be happy with a residential home there. Marsh commented on rezoning that side of the block to employment, and stated this would be a more honorable path than eroding the residential zone bit by bit without a plan in mind. Mindlin agreed with Dawkins in that this is not a good location for someone to put in a nice residence. Mindlin stated she is being persuaded by Dawkins argument and suggested they allow the ADA space to be placed somewhere in the vicinity, grant the applicant’s a variance to put one parking space on the site, and add a nice buffer and walkway to the residence. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Mindlin, Blake, Miller and Dawkins, NO. Commission Marsh, YES. Motion failed 4-1.

 

Commissioners Dawkins/Miller m/s to approve Planning Action #2010-01611 with the following additional conditions: 1) an interior connection between the residence and business, 2) if the property is sold, the new owner/operator must live on the property and any changes would require them to go through the CUP process, and 3) stipulate that the ADA parking space required can be located within 2 blocks of the site. DISCUSSION: Miller voiced concern with parking in the front yard and voiced support for reducing the requirement to one on-site parking space. Friendly amendment was made to reduce the parking requirement by 66% to one space, and provide a landscape buffer; Dawkins and Miller agreed to this addition. The Commission discussed how this condition would be applied. Severson clarified this would require one space to be provided on-site and would provide the applicant some flexibility in terms of the ADA space. If the Building Division requires an on-site ADA space, the Commission is granting a variance for the other two spaces. If the applicant’s can satisfy the Building requirement by locating the ADA space within two blocks, the one on-site space would be a standard parking space.

Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Mindlin, Miller and Dawkins, YES. Commissioners Blake and Marsh, NO. Motion passed 3-2.

 

B.      PLANNING ACTION:  #2011-00043
SUBJECT PROPERTY: 400 Allison Street
APPLICANT: Heiland Hoff, Architect for owner Robin Biermann
DESCRIPTION: A request for a Modification of Planning Action #2010-00993, a Conditional Use Permit to exceed the Maximum Permitted Floor Area (MPFA) within a Historic District by nine percent or 173 square feet.  The original approval allowed demolition of the existing 1,144 square foot non-historic/non-contributing duplex building and constructing a new two-story 2,041 square foot single-family dwelling with a daylight basement and two-car garage in its place, along with a Tree Removal Permit to remove eight trees six-inches in diameter at breast height (d.b.h.) or greater.  The modifications proposed include the addition of dormers, changes to windows on all four elevations, a reduction in the size of the back porch, and some general dimensional changes while remaining within the originally approved floor area. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION:  Low Density Multi-Family Residential; ZONING: R-2; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 09 BD; TAX LOT: 14200.

 

Ex Parte Contact

No ex parte contact was reported.

 

Staff Report

Associate Planner Derek Severson presented the staff report and reviewed the changes to the previous approval for the property at 400 Allison. He explained the applicant has modified the building design as follows: 1) added dormers on the north and south elevations, 2) changed the windows on all four elevations, 3) reduced the back porch to allow a bigger and more useable backyard, and create a less confusing sense of entry, and 4) added minor adjustments to the exterior dimensions. Severson noted the Historic Commission has reviewed the proposed modifications and are recommending approval. They found the architect’s revisions have consistently improved the project throughout the design process, and the changes proposed are coherent with the overall design while representing a significant improvement in the previously approved design. He added staff believes the changes are relatively minor and are supportive of this application.

 

Applicant’s Presentation

Heiland Hoff/Provided a brief presentation and outlined the changes as reviewed in the staff report.

 

Public Testimony

Tim Kelly/100 Gresham Street/Stated when he purchased his property 10 years ago he was told he could not extend his house because of the City’s solar ordinance, and asked if this application relieves the restrictions placed on his property.

 

Mr. Severson clarified the solar ordinance allows a structure to shadow the property to the north no more than a 6 ft fence would. He added the shadow created by the proposed house would be in the right of way, and therefore does not violate the City’s solar ordinance.

 

Deliberations & Decision

Commissioners Miller/Dawkins m/s to approve Planning Action #2011- 00043 with the modifications as proposed. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.

 

NEW BUSINESS

A.      Support letter for North Normal Neighborhood Plan grant application.

Commissioner Marsh clarified the Commission is being asked to submit a letter in support of the Transportation and Growth Management grant to assist in the neighborhood planning of the Normal Avenue area within Ashland’s Urban Growth Boundary.  The commissioners shared their thoughts about planning for the development of the North Normal neighborhood. Miller commented on the importance of having a place for urban farms to assist in food security issues and stated this area has the best soil in town. She suggested at some point the Planning Commission have a discussion on how they are going to meet needs for locally grown foods. Marsh clarified that applying for the grant does not pre-empt them from studying the agricultural benefits of the land. Mindlin stated it is her understanding that the City does not have anything in our local ordinances or planning documents that designates urban agriculture land and sees this as a major gap. Mr. Molnar clarified agriculture is a permitted use in residential zones, but agreed that we do not have a separate zoning district for this use. Mindlin noted the City Council’s sustainability planning goal and stated urban agriculture is a primary objective of that project. Dawkins stated there is a conflict of interest in that by planning for the development of this area, the City’s Planning Division will receive the benefit of the development application fees. Marsh stated that creating a plan for this area allows them to confront what they want to do with this parcel. She noted there have already been pre-applications submitted for development in the study area, and stated they cannot avoid the subject by not doing the study.

 

Commissioners Blake/Dawkins m/s to endorse the support letter and authorize Chair Marsh to sign. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Blake, Miller, Mindlin, Dawkins, and Marsh, YES. Motion passed 5-0.  Commissioner Miller encouraged them to look at their inventory, and if they receive this grant look at densities, open space and agriculture land.

 

ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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