Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14, 2013

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: 
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Richard Kaplan
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Tracy Peddicord
Staff Present:
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Dawn Lamb


A. Approval of Minutes.
1. April 9, 2013 Regular Meeting.
2. April 23, 2013 Study Session.

Commissioners Miller/Kaplan m/s to approve the Consent Agenda with changes. Voice Vote: Commissioners Brown, Dawkins, Kaplan, Mindlin, Peddicord, and Miller.all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.


A. Unified Land Use Code Ordinance Discussion of Procedure and Green Development Evaluations

Staff Report

Recap of April 23rd meeting was given Positive feedback from the evaluations: the procedural side of the code is meeting and exceeding state requirements in terms of timing and noticing area; and on the green development side when comparing the existing code to the LEED Neighborhood standards, the current code addresses most standards already. This has been a really positive outcome. At the last meeting the Commission asked for continued discussion on the topic. Three issues in particular have been brought back for further information. One was to discuss the procedure type for economic development applications from Type 1 administrative review to Type 2 public hearing review. Two; under the Green Development piece more discussion was requested for solar orientation standards. And three was the addition of cottage housing standards to the ordinance.

Site Review Procedure:
Commission reviewed map showing the Site Review Zones showing the four design zones: Downtown, Detail, Basic, and Croman Mill. These are the four different areas used for site review and they are based on location.

Downtown Design Standard: Before the 2008 amendments the downtown site reviews requiring public hearing were for large- scale development described as 10,000 sq ft or greater, or more than 100 feet in width of depth and in the detailed site review zone. Those thresholds were lowered to 2,500 sq ft or larger. Buildings at 150 Lithia Way and 11 First Street would not have required a hearing, but now does require a hearing.

Basic Site Review Zone: Before 2008 there was no size threshold and there was no design zone so there was no requirement to have a public hearing. Now if it is larger than 10,000 sq. ft. it requires a public hearing. The building at 210 Hersey Street, the Darex building, was about 45,000 sq. ft. and under current ordinance it would require a hearing, but not before 2008 because of the zone. Buildings at 705 – 709 Washington Street are areas that are separated from downtown and nestled in residential zoned as light industrial. Modern Fan buildings are about 18,000 sq ft buildings with warehouse with some office. First phase was approved in 2005 and was done through administrative approval but second application was after 2008 and required annexation which triggered a public hearing. Oak Street Tank and Steel at 789 Jefferson Street, a 20,000 sq. ft. building would not have required a hearing but now it does.
Detailed Site Review: No major changes have been made to the zone. 10,000 sq. ft. requires a public hearing.

Green Development:
Solar Orientation Standards: Staff amended ordinance to include language from Melanie Mindlin:
·           Layout streets for solar orientation so that longer sides of the buildings are facing south.
·           Building designs that preserve south sidewall for passive solar access.
·           Locating primary living space for south side.
·           Preserving area of south facing roof for solar collection.
Staff recommends that these are most applicable to single-family developments. Council goal that generated the Green Development Standards evaluations talked about incentives included in the ordinance as recommendations rather than requirements. Preferred Mindlin’s language from the LEED-ND, it is more straightforward. The issue with LEED ND is that it is not geared toward small towns like Ashland, rather assumes developing a lot of area. Ashland typically is developing a parcel of land already situated in an area that is not that large and it has streets on either side that you need to connect to. Infill developments such as Ashland Village had to connect to existing Munson Drive on one side and Mountain on another. The lots that were already developed needed to be worked around limiting options to making the streets go in a certain direction.

Cottage Housing: Key considerations in terms of talking about adding it to the ordinance. The definition of cottage housing is a group of small, detached homes that are clustered around a common space.
Laid out 4 key considerations:
·           Where to allow cottage housing: Other cities utilize multi and single-family zones. Staff suggests single-family zones because multi-family zones already support the housing density and design standards and single family has much more surplus land in the city limits. Single-family zones are where the opportunity lies for Ashland.
·           Number of Units: Generally an ordinance has a 2:1 ratio. So if you are allowed one single-family house, you can do 2 cottages instead of that house. The assumption is that smaller units make less impact. This correlates to 7 to 14 units per acre. Ashland's single-family zones range from 2.4 to 7.2 units per acre, but offer a density bonus to increase density up to 60%.
·           Size of Units: Generally other codes support 750 to 1000 sq ft with height regulation of 1.5.
·           Design standards: In all the codes and examples there is a trade off for increased density that the houses are required to meet a higher quality design with specific design features. That is the trade off for the cottage housing approach. A list of those standards is included in the memo included in the packet.

For reference a map showing single-family zones is in the packet to show cottage housing opportunities for a better perspective.

Next steps: After commission finishes discussion of evaluations, an action plan will be introduced with amendments and what parts of the code they would affect. This will fold into the final draft for review. Staff is gearing up for the public meetings for the first or second week in June.

Commission Discussion:
Site Review Procedure- Kaplan asked what the driver was for the Type 2 hearing changes in 2008. Molnar recalled that it was a period of extensive code revisions mostly driven by a new Community Development Director David Stalheim. Molnar vaguely remembered a discussion once regarding the changes to the downtown design standards being reduced to 2500 sq feet. The lots in this zone are small enough to never trigger the threshold of 10,000 sq. ft. but they tend to be high profile projects in the downtown corridor. These buildings are subjected to the Historic Commission review which generally would bump it to a public hearing anyway and maybe the applicant would even request a public hearing to save time. That may have been the basis for tightening the threshold in the downtown zone. The one that is a real question is the basic site review because that almost seems to be a tighter threshold then the detailed site review zone. The detailed site review zone exists along visible corridors. The basic tends to be back away from public visibility in light industrial zones. These buildings tend to be warehouse type of relatively basic design and use. Do these types of applications need to be public hearings or can they be administratively reviewed.

Miller questioned the outcome of the 2008 changes; is there better overview of applications or is it less effective. Has the design improved overall because it is going to be subjected to a panel? The design standards have not changed. Harris reflected that since they are the basis of the decision making process, I don’t think I could make a judgment. The changes passed right before the recession creating another difficulty in qualifying success. The two downtown buildings would have required a hearing regardless of the change. We don’t have a thumbnail reference. The downtown is a cherished part of the community and it is obviously a Historic District too. If you look at the Council's goal which focused on economic development projects, it is really focused on family wage jobs and trying to support those in green businesses in Ashland in a variety of ways. But if the idea is to make the process timely and predictable it is more correlated with the type of buildings in the basic site review zone. Miller questioned if there is a reason to change. Harris suggested remembering that the recommendations are written by a consultant who looks at the City from a distance and taking an objective view of the ordinance while comparing it to other jurisdictional ordinances. There is an expectation that the Community will tailor to Ashland’s needs. Mindlin recollects that the 2008 reviews moved a lot of other items out of public hearing and into administrative approval. Other changes were completed to streamline. The Hearings Board was done away with at that time. Molnar stated that the option to have a Hearings Board still exists. There was a time saving to have them combined with the Planning Commission. Molnar seems to feel that more items have been put to public hearing since 2008. Harris gave the example of a conditional use permit being unchanged. If it is an existing building and it is involving 3 units or less it is a Type 1, anything else is a Type 2. That did not change at all. Variance thresholds also stayed the same. Harris feels that nothing was really relaxed by the process changes. Molnar reiterated that this is hard to test because the bottom fell out right after the adoptions. There have only been four approvals and two were large and required public hearings. Miller suggested postponing another three years to see the outcome. Miller did agree that the downtown needs scrutiny. Mindlin is not hearing a move to change it including staff. Seems that it is acceptable the way it is.

Molnar suggests a slight change in the Basic Site Zone for threshold from 10,000 sq. ft or a 20% addition requires a public hearing in a Basis Site Review Zone. That might deserve attention. Kaplan commented that it seems that the downtown needs public involvement and a chance to comment while the Basic Site Review areas are out of the way enough that unless there is a unique feature, they could be handled by a Type 1 review. Brown agrees that general seems to be too stringent for the light industrial areas. You could be looking at a 50% change to the size or shape of the building or land coverage/ usage. A 20% threshold seems incredibly low. Because of the type of usage it should not be same as downtown. Hold for light industial frontage would show on street so that second 20% is too light it needs to be much larger for these building types. Other than that it is good the way it is. Dawkins reflected that Modern Fan possessed a unique parking situation and if not for that it would have been a Type 1. The requirement was for a lot more parking but by bringing it in front of the commission we were able to reduce the impervious surface. There are times when things come up and another 14 eyes look at it differently. Miller observed that different areas of the Basic Site Review zone are more publicly visible then others. Hersey and Clear Creek are close to town and perhaps there would not be enormous buildings but it is an area close to residential and that might justify a lower percentage. Peddicord asked how much time in regards to an industrial building is added when it comes before the commission. Harris responded with three and a half months at the outside. Molnar approvals are tracked and Type 1 average 43 days this year, Type 2 take 80 days and 120 days on the outside. Sometimes it is the perception of an applicant on how long it takes. Dawkins raises a good point, that there are things that changed like the code amendments to pedestrian places and review of off street parking creating more flexibility that was applicable to the Modern Fan application. Those types of changes have helped us find other codes that do not correspond. Brown supported that observation and that there is always an option 
for the applicant to come before the Commission for a public hearing to resolve issues. It adds time for coordination of the meetings and it becomes more than it needs to be for what we are trying to accomplish. I think the new codes staff should be allowed to review light industrial to have a different standard than the downtown central corridor. Mindlin voiced that there are considerations on both sides if this. It is up to owners to bring it to public hearing, but the Council charged us with looking at ways to specifically improve the speed and predictability of the economic development applications. I think we should give them something. I think we could give a reasonably positive move to increase the level of our standard somewhat. Harris asked for clarity: we are not changing the initial new building square footage, we are talking about additions being raised from 20% to 50%. Mindlin also added the size of new buildings in the basic size review zone from 10,000 to 15,000. Harris will bring this back as a draft ordinance for another review prior to going to Council for public hearing and adoption.

Solar Orientation – Mindlin feels including these standards as recommendations is a good way to introduce them. Including the information in an application packet for developers is enough at this time. Brown agreed with Mindlin, the standard requiring the long side of building to be face south should never be a requirement. Not many existing lots could accommodate this and we should support best practice of land usage. If it is a smaller lot it could be facing the wrong way. Use light language including wording like "when appropriate or where feasible, or when not appropriate". Mindlin doesn’t’ recall that wording from the Croman language. Harris reviewed and the words "when permitted" were left out. As long as it is qualified it is supported. Molnar clarified that the Commission wants these presented guidelines when written. Orient street layout needs to be added to language. Give developer other options to help design. Harris said it would be refined to say, "where conditions exist orient the long side of the building to the south" and during the application the developer would address why it wouldn’t’ work in their situation. Molnar iterated that Oregon law wants relatively clear and objective standards that are delineated between a guideline and mandatory standards but you can have a relatively objective standard with some nuances.

Cottage housing – Brown supports the idea. Problems he foresees are the Type 1 single-family residential districts it is more a conceptual design than a functional problem and that is the ideas of neighbors and what expectations are in a neighborhood. I have also seen it successfully done. He feels the community is well open to it and that the city can support it.

Dawkins it would seem as though you would need a certain amount of land to create cottage housing. There is a number that makes it work. Not sure in our Buildable Land Inventory how much land really exists to make it applicable. Look at large swaths of area like between Siskiyou and Ashland but those are single lots. Dawkins doesn’t see it as neighbor issue but you need a certain amount of land to make it work.
Miller would like it to be encouraged if done as single family it would be near a collector street. On a quiet street the addition of large density would not be welcome to someone who wanted to live on an R1 lot for the expected privacy. It would affect their property values and their planned way of life. During the site visit, I did not see a lot of public space in the examples. All of these common space notions were not observed on the ground. That would be my concern, usable space. Harris thought in terms of the site visits being compared to cottage housing, none of the site visits were cottage housing, they were R-2 and R-3 zones; townhomes, apartments, single family, or multifamily. None were actual cottage housing. Miller saw it as a pocket neighborhood. Mindlin explained that pedestrian accessed housing was looked at, which is another aspect worth pursuing, but not the same. If we put cottage housing in the R1 zone they would have larger setbacks and more pervious surface. Mindlin really supports the limitation on lot coverage. Molnar explained further that if you generally have 6 units an acre it increases the density to 12 cottages. It still is the same lot coverage for the zone. Kaplan asked if examples exist in Ashland; one example off of Fordyce exists. The median single-family house size footprints over the last 5 years ranged from 1656 sq. ft. and 3 of the years it was above 1900. One way to think of it is that you would have coverage, but two smaller cottages that make up the footprint. In theory they are the same scale, bulk and impact.
Peddicord felt if we are talking about same lot coverage with same amount of residents. A development next door wouldn't impede the solar access or view so there might be a benefit to having a building that is of less bulk. Brown qualified that if a house has 2000 sq. ft. and next door is a cottage with 2 units of 2000 sq. ft., you have more people and density of the area goes higher. If someone develops the the smallest lot available in a neighborhood and adds on residence there is little impact to the neighborhood. The minute you put two in the place of one, you double the amount people and cars.
Brown is willing to move in the direction of cottage housing and review all the standards to see what would work. Higher density is a good concept. We need to consider lot coverage percentages, setback requirements, spaces between units, parking 
accommodations, all of these details that need to be a little more examined. Brown does not agree to making this an R1 addition, but open to discussing. Need to see photos and examples from other cities that are successful. Harris one thing is a spacing standard in an ordinance so that a model is established in single family and introducing a cap on the number of units. We need to fit that different model that gives reasonable units on the R1. Molnar suggested looking at minimum and maximum units to protect exiting neighborhood. Morris asked if this is applicable in R-1 0 or would this be too small to get setbacks, parking and lot coverage. Molnar look at properties at 3/4 or 1 acre in an R1 .5 the base density is 5 units, but that could be 12 units. There would need to be cluster parking or centralize parking. Look at areas where possible like N. Mountain north of E. Main, south of Ashland Street on Tolman, and lots that are deep enough. There are not a lot of neighborhoods that would support this type of development especially hillside developing and it could just fall out of some zones.
Mindlin stated that there is not lot of places to do this and we could get creative with our infill to meet goal for affordable housing goals. Regional plans are trying to add to the toolbox of potential developments. In some places it would be available if the developer bought more than one lot. Make our standards supportive of developing lots that will achieve the same R1 district. Miller it is not for one vacant lot, the need will be for 1 or 2 acres to make it work. Mindlin felt the most important standard would be limiting the lot coverage. Superficially making it the same as the underlying zone makes sense. The idea is that we are covering the same amount with house with less parking and driveway might be able to substitute it with more green space. Include that homes are not required to face the street. This is a sticking point around designing these. On page 4 of the handout a few bullet points up, orientation to the street needs clarification that not all are required to be street facing. Make the house sizes even more flexible; maybe 1200 sq ft. Designing for small housing is challenging. Experts seem to think that 20 homes make a nice co-housing community in terms of social interactions. Consider pushing the limit upward, 20 maybe 16.
Will we allow duplexes? Harris said that the majority of references came from code aspect. Looking at communities where it has been vetted through their public process and most are from Washington and seem to be detached. Houses are more similar to other single-family homes if detached. One code limited the size of footprint and allowed two stories. R1 generally allows duplexes and there is no reason not to. Mindlin supports the idea of maximum flexibility. To preserve natural area footprints can be varied and it just needs to be single-family unit which could accept duplexes. It is what will fit in the area. People consider cottages cute while duplexes are not so much. Kaplan could still be done with duplexes. Brown prefers the flexibility also. Molnar questioned how a duplex would affect the overall size and this could create incompatibility. There needs to be a formula to keep it from doubling the house size. Staff is going to put together a draft number for duplexes.

Miller reviewed the setbacks that were looked at during the site visit. Setbacks for R1 are 10' in the back 6' on the sides and I would like to keep those setbacks. There is not enough space to do anything in a 5 feet separation. Mindlin if both have 5 it becomes a 10 foot space. Six feet is allowed in other zones.
Storm water-Mindlin recalls hearing interest in storm water reuse, like rain gardens at the last meeting. Harris felt it was more educational and not part of the ordinance or code requirements.
Incentive Program - Mindlin spent a lot of time looking at recommendations around incentives program is that being dropped. Harris understood that the commission felt that it was a big undertaking and conservation staff felt it could overlap the Earth Advantage that is already used. The issue is duplication of Earth Advantage and who would run and administer the program. We fared well in the review of our Green code evaluation so it is better to fine tune and if the community was interested in expanding the Earth Advantage. If it is an interest we could look at it after the unified code changes because it is big enough and it is a resource issue. Mindlin wonders about neighborhood development because LEED and Earth Advantage are geared toward large or commercial developments and the standards are directed at large employers or large developments, but we don’t have these types of large developments happening. These are not geared toward smaller towns and we have done a great job with walkable neighborhoods and efficient land use patterns, and transportation choices.

D. Other Business

Meeting adjourned at 8:19 PM.

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