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Planning Commission Mtg

Minutes
Tuesday, August 14, 2012



ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING
MINUTES
August 14, 2012
 
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Melanie Mindlin called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
 
Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Eric Heesacker
Richard Kaplan
Pam Marsh
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
 
     
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery, absent
 
 
ANNOUCEMENTS
Commissioner Heesacker announced he will not be present for the September 11 Planning Commission meeting.
 
Commissioner Dawkins noted he attended the last City Council meeting and stated the motion to approve the drive-ups amendment failed for lack of a second. He stated following the meeting he spoke individually with four of the city councilors and each member indicated the applicant failed to make a strong enough argument for the change. Commissioner Marsh stated as a planning commissioner she does not feel in tune with the City Council and does not feel like they are working on the same team. She noted the lack of feedback they receive from the City Council and recommended more contact or joint meetings so that they are not acting in isolation from one another. Commissioner Miller agreed and stated it would be nice if the Council could provide an explanation of their decision. Community Development Director Bill Molnar noted there is a process that allows for the motion to be put back on the floor at the next meeting, and believes this will occur. He added the Commission could get the additional feedback they desire at the next Council meeting. Commissioner Dawkins requested Mr. Molnar speak with the Planning Commission’s council liaison and encourage him to come to regular meetings in addition to the study sessions.
 
Mr. Molnar announced the City Council passed second reading of the RPS ordinance and changes to the keeping of chickens ordinance, and also discussed the potential legalization of short term vacation rentals. He stated the Council directed the vacation rental item to be looked at further, and this will come back to the Planning Commission in the next few months. Lastly, the City Council will be discussing the completion of the railroad property clean-up at an upcoming meeting.
 
CONSENT AGENDA
A.   Approval of Minutes
       1.  July 10, 2012 Regular Meeting
       2.  July 24, 2012 Special Meeting
 
Commissioners Miller/Kaplan m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
 
PUBLIC FORUM
No one came forward to speak.
 
 
UNFINISHED BUSINESS
A.      Approval of Findings for PA-2012-00740, 160 Lithia Way.
 
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported.
 
Commissioners Marsh/Heesacker m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2012-00740. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Brown, Dawkins, Heesacker, Kaplan, Marsh, Miller and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 7-0.
 
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARING
A.   PLANNING ACTION: PA-2012-00981
SUBJECT PROPERTIES: 541 Strawberry Lane & 48 Westwood Street
APPLICANTS: Paul Conflitti and Doug Irvine, property owners; Mark Knox of Urban Development Services as agent
DESCRIPTION: The application involves a request for a Variance to the lot coverage limitations of the Rural Residential zoning district for the property located at 541 Strawberry Lane.  The maximum lot coverage allowed for the RR-.5 district is 20 percent, and a 24.7 percent coverage is requested.  As part of the request, the owner of a contiguous property located at 48 Westwood Street has agreed to deed restrict their property’s allowed lot coverage with a commensurate reduction to offset the additional coverage requested for 541 Strawberry Lane. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Rural Residential; ZONING: RR-.5-P; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 08BD; TAX LOT #: 541 Strawberry Lane is Tax Lot #104; 48 Westwood Street is Tax Lot #102.
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
 
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Heesacker, Miller, and Kaplan reported site visits. No ex parte contact was reported.  
 
Staff Report
Planning Manager Maria Harris stated the application before them is a variance request to increase the lot coverage from 20% to 24.7%, and to offset the increase 48 Westwood has agreed to reduce its lot coverage by 4.7%. Ms. Harris displayed photos of the site and explained the proposal is to develop a single family home; the house, garage, and pool would be impervious, and permeable pavers would be used for the driveway, parking area, and the area around the swimming pool.
 
Ms. Harris reviewed the variance criteria and the information put forward by the applicants.
 
Criterion #1: There are unique or unusual circumstances which apply to this site which do not typically apply elsewhere.
Ms. Harris stated the applicants assert the unique or unusual circumstance is a hazard that is created by the street and lot configuration and the lack of traffic control or caution signs. She stated the application states the 90° bend where Westwood turns into Strawberry, the intersection of Strawberry and Birdsong across from the property, and the location of the lot on the curved portion of Strawberry all contribute to this hazard. For these reasons, the applicants have proposed a driveway with a turnaround area so that drivers can pull out of the driveway in a forward manner so as to be able to see oncoming traffic. Ms. Harris stated staff is cautious about using street and lot configuration as a reason for a variance, as there are some unusual street and lot configurations in Ashland, but there are not very many streets that have a 90° bend, plus a curvature in the road, plus an adjacent intersection. She stated for these reasons, staff believes the Planning Commission could make a finding that this is a unique situation.
 
Criterion #2: The proposals benefits will be greater than any negative impacts on the development of the adjacent uses; and will further the purpose and intent of this ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan of the City.  
Ms. Harris stated staff believes the use of permeable pavers and the decrease in lot coverage for 48 Westwood will negate any negative impacts to the surrounding area. In addition, staff looked at the issue of character and believes the proposed home will fit it with the surrounding area.
 
Criterion #3: The circumstances or conditions have not been willfully or purposely self-imposed.
Ms. Harris stated the unusual circumstance stated in the application is the street configuration and the location of the lot, and these items are not self-imposed.
 
Ms. Harris concluded her presentation and noted the minor corrections to the proposed conditions of approval that were distributed at the beginning of the meeting.
 
Questions of Staff
Staff was asked to clarify why some of the lots on Birdsong have more than 20% coverage. Ms. Harris explained in performance standards subdivisions the total site is looked at rather than calculating lot coverage per lot, and open space above the minimum required can be allocated back to the lots. 
 
Comment was made questioning whether the pavers would stay in place on a slope. Ms. Harris noted the conditions of approval require a licensed engineer to confirm the system will work in the subject location and for certification to be provided that they have been installed properly. It was questioned if the pavers will be 100% permeable as claimed. Ms. Harris stated this would be a good question for the applicant.
 
Staff was asked to comment on the Hitt Road action that came before the Commission a couple years ago. Ms. Harris explained the application for Hitt Road that came before the Commission in 2010 was approved with 47.47% lot coverage. This figure included a shared driveway that ran through the property and with it removed the coverage was approximately 36%.
 
Applicant’s Presentation
Paul Conflitti/Applicant and Mark Knox/Applicant’s Representative addressed the Commission. Mr. Knox explained their variance request is based on the following reasons: 1) the sharp intersection of Westwood and Strawberry, 2) the intersection of Birdsong and Strawberry, 3) the curvature of Strawberry, and 4) the slope of the property. He explained the house is intended to sit back from the street and because of the slope it will be below street grade. He stated it will not be easy to back out of the driveway and see oncoming traffic and because of these factors the owners would like to be able to enter the roadway in a forward manner. Mr. Knox explained the property to the north will be deed restricted to limit its lot coverage and this was done to mitigate the proposed coverage increase for 541 Strawberry. Regarding the 100% permeable claim, Mr. Knox requested some flexibility with this item. He also noted the neighborhood meeting that was held and stated those in attendance were positive about this proposal and the design of the home. 
 
Comment was made that the outdoor spaces seem small compared to the house. Mr. Knox stated when they first drew up the plans there was more patio space and the coverage amount was 28%, but as they went through this process they tried to mitigate and request as minimal a variance as possible.
 
Public Testimony
Catherine Dimino/423 Strawberry/Read aloud a prepared statement and submitted it into the record. (See attached Exhibit #2012-01)
 
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mark Knox/Stated this is a unique circumstance, there is justification for this request, and cited the four issues mentioned in his presentation. He stated lot coverage is arbitrary and you do not always achieve the best results by having a fixed number. He also explained that 48 Westwood would likely develop as a two-story house with a shared driveway. He stated they believe they have justified the variance straight up, but have included the reduction of lot coverage for 48 Westwood in order to better their chances of approval.
 
Commissioner Mindlin closed the public hearing and record at 8:10 p.m.
 
Deliberations/Decision
It was questioned if the transfer from 48 Westwood would make that lot smaller than the minimum lot size. Staff clarified they are only transferring coverage, and therefore the lot will still comply with the requirements.
 
Commissioners Heesacker/Marsh m/s to approve the variance for lot coverage and to deed restrict 48 Westwood.  DISCUSSION: Commissioner Heesacker stated the variance request is weak, but he supports the two neighbors working together. Commissioner Marsh stated she would be willing to exclude 48 Westwood from this approval, but believes the transfer of densities is a reasonable way to proceed. She also commented on lot coverage and stated in other communities this only applies to the building. Commissioner Dawkins stated he supports the application and the home will fit in with that neighborhood, but does not find the variance argument put forward by the applicant very compelling. Commissioner Brown noted two typographical errors in the revised conditions of approval (2.d “That a deed restriction shall be prepared…” and 2.f.iii “…for installation of the driveway apron by the Public Works Department”) and Heesacker and Marsh approved this as a friendly amendment. Commissioner Miller voiced her agreement with Heesacker and said she is not convinced by the applicant’s argument for the variance, but likes Westwood having a smaller footprint and likes that the owners are working together. Commissioner Mindlin stated it is not appropriate for them to apply pervious pavers as a mitigation factor when this measure was specifically rejected by the City Council a few years ago. She stated the applicants should be looking at other ways to mitigate on site and she is unconvinced by their unusual factors argument. Mindlin stated it appears the commissioners are not convinced the applicants have met the criteria, but support the trade-off between the lots, and asked if there was a way for the findings to capture this. Commissioner Marsh stated she is uncomfortable with this discussion and in order to approve this request they must find the applicant has met the criteria. She stated it is not the strongest argument she has seen, but believes the street layout is unusual, the benefits will be greater than the impacts, and the conditions have not been self imposed. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Kaplan, Marsh, Brown, Miller, and Heesacker, YES. Commissioners Dawkins and Mindlin, NO. Motion passed 5-2.
 
Request was made for staff to put lot coverage and permeability back on the agenda for further discussion. Ms. Harris clarified this is on the list of discussion items for the Unified Code Project.
 
ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
 
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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