Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Minutes
Tuesday, August 28, 2012


ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
STUDY SESSION
MINUTES
August 28, 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
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Linda Reid, Housing Program Specialist
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
 
     
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery
 
 
ANNOUCEMENTS
Commissioner Heesacker announced he will not be present for the September 11 meeting. Commission Brown stated he will also be out of town. Commissioner Kaplan stated he will not be present for the November 13 meeting.
 
Commissioner Dawkins informed the Commission of the Council’s 4-3 vote to reinstate the Planning Commission’s recommendation for drive-thru windows. Council Liaison Dennis Slattery stated the Council was split on this issue, with some questioning why the banks were not the ones bringing this change forward and whether the amendment was really necessary. The Commission held a brief discussion about Council-Commission interactions and their desire to be more in tune with the Council. Several suggestions were made to improve communication, including holding joint meetings, incorporating the Commission into the Council’s goal setting process, and sending a Commission representative to the Council meetings.
 
PUBLIC FORUM
No one came forward to speak.
 
DISCUSSION ITEMS
A.      Draft Housing Needs Analysis.
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman and Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid presented the Draft Housing Needs Analysis to the Commission. Ms. Reid explained the draft was taken before the Housing Commission at their last meeting and it is now coming before the Planning Commission for review before staff begins the formal adoption process. Ms. Reid pointed out Statewide Planning Goal #10 “To provide for the housing needs of the citizens of the state”, and stated in order to make this assessment the City completed the Buildable Lands Inventory (approved last year) and the second part has been using the Housing Needs Model to determine the housing needs of the City of Ashland. She explained the Housing Needs Model calculates the housing needs based on population changes, demographic changes, housing incomes, household sizes, vacancy rates, housing tenure, and housing costs. In addition to the Housing Needs Model, the Housing Needs Analysis utilized data from the U.S. Census Data, analysis of current market conditions, community and property owner/manager questionnaires, population data, coordinated population projections, employment data, housing and development data from Ashland and Jackson Co., the 2002 Ashland Housing Needs Analysis, and 2007 Rental Needs Analysis.
 
Ms. Reid commented on the public participation process that was used to gather data and provided a summary of findings contained in the Needs Analysis. Highlights of the findings include:

 
  • Ashland is growing, but relatively slowly
  • Growth has not occurred evenly in all age groups
  • Fewer households own housing in Ashland compared to other areas
  • The fastest growing employment sectors in Ashland do not pay enough for a household to afford fair market rents
  • The number of low-income households has decreased since 2000 after having increased between 1998 and 2000
  • Housing sales prices increased nearly 50% between 1998 and 2001 and have remained higher than the regional average
  • The median home sales price in Ashland is not affordable to households with median incomes
  • The largest dwelling unit gap exists for households earning less than 10,000 annually
  • Ashland has a large deficit of affordable owner-occupied housing units
  • Few multi-family units were built between 2001 and 2010
  • Ashland is falling short of providing the housing types identified in the 2002 Housing Needs Analysis
  • Ashland has a relatively small inventory of land zoned for multi-family housing
 
Ms. Reid stated the recommendations in the Housing Needs Analysis are to encourage more multi-family housing, and to encourage more affordable single-family housing types. She outlined the next steps in this process and stated: 1) staff will finalize the draft, 2) the final document will be taken before the Housing and Planning Commissions for review and recommendation, and 3) the Needs Analysis will be taken before the City Council for formal adoption.
 
Ms. Reid asked if the Commission has any questions or comments before the formal adoption process begins. The Commission shared their general comments about the housing inventory in Ashland. The following is a summary of some of the questions and comments that were raised:

 
  • Have rents stayed flat or increased in the last few years? Ms. Reid clarified the rental costs have remained fairly flat. Comment was made that housing costs have continued to decrease and renters may be frustrated that their rates are not going down as well.
  • Can the City require people to build rental housing instead of housing that is for sale? Mr. Molnar stated there are some legal issues that would need to be addressed with this scenario, however the City was able to do this with the Croman Mill zoning district and required housing to be a mix of rentals and for purchase units.
  • It seems that most of the parcels identified for multifamily housing are too small to accommodate this type of housing, is that correct? Mr. Goldman clarified multifamily residential is more than one unit on a property. He stated while there are not a lot of large lots that could accommodate five or ten units, there are a lot of opportunities for second units.
  • Comment was made supporting the finding that it is not possible to build affordable housing without subsidies, and questioning what the City can do to encourage the public sector to participate. Additional comment was made to reduce or remove the 60-year restriction on affordable units to motivate more people to build affordable housing.
  • Suggestion was made to lessen the current zoning restrictions so that it is possible to do more things in the zone, such as pocket neighborhoods.
  • Suggestion was made to outright permit accessory residential units and to raise the threshold for requiring an additional parking space. 
  • Comment was made that there are other things aside from affordable housing that keeps families in the community, such as a strong school system, child care and after school programs, and maintaining and attracting businesses that expand the City’s economic base. 
  • Comment was made voicing support for manufactured housing and potential changes to policies to encourage this type of housing.

Mr. Molnar thanked the Commission for their feedback and reminded them to not lose sight of the accomplishments this community has made in terms of affordable housing. He stated the City set a goal of 10% of new housing stock to be affordable units and we have exceeded that; and have also provided subsidies to defer and waive fees for affordable units.
 
B.      Business Retention & Expansion Survey Update.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar addressed the Commission and provided a brief presentation on the Business Retention and Expansion Survey. He explained the City contracted the Ashland Chamber of Commerce to conduct this survey and explained the survey gathered information in several areas, including: size and age of businesses interviewed, businesses past changes and future expectations, skill and training needs by occupation, areas of occupational training difficult to access in Ashland or the Rogue Valley, future business expansion needs, and interest in conservation activities. Mr. Molnar also shared the top ten items that were learned from the survey:

 
  1. The advantages of doing business in Ashland are: quality of life, natural and cultural assets, and small-town feel. The disadvantages are: a small labor pool, lack of specialized/technical skills, and limited market for products and services.
  2. Most businesses maintained or increased sales during the recent recession.
  3. Local businesses take pride in their employees, loyal customers, and “weathering the storm” during the recent recession.
  4. Difficulties centered on hiring qualified and skilled workers, and the need for more technical, sales, and marketing training.
  5. Over the past three years businesses increased purchases from regional sources and increased their sales to external markets.
  6. Businesses were optimistic, expecting gains in employment, sales, customers, and profits over the next three years.
  7. Nearly half of the businesses expect to expand physically over the next three years, but had concerns about expanding in their present location due to zoning restrictions or lack of space.
  8. Businesses urged a streamlining of the local land use process and felt the effort would support future business development.
  9. Interest in sustainable business programs and practices was prevalent across businesses.
  10. Businesses were interested in deepening their connections with regional companies and institutions, particularly with SOU, RCC, and SOREDI.
 
Mr. Molnar explained the next steps will include other entities in town conducting activities, and stated staff was concerned about some of the comments about the perceived inability to expand and would like to meet with some of the businesses that had these concerns. He added the Unified Code Project the Commission is currently working on will streamline the decision making process, although it will not streamline approvals.
 
ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

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