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Planning Commission Mtg

Minutes
Tuesday, December 09, 2014


 
ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING
 MINUTES
December 9, 2014
 
 
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Richard Kaplan called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
 
Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Richard Kaplan
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Tracy Peddicord
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
     
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Mike Morris, absent
 
 
ANNOUNCEMENTS
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the second reading of the Unified Land Use Ordinance will take place at the next City Council meeting. Also on the agenda is the Planning Commission’s annual presentation.
 
AD-HOC COMMITTEE UPDATES
Normal Neighborhood Plan Working Group: Commissioner Kaplan stated the working group presented their recommendation to the City Council and the Council has directed staff to incorporate the suggestions into a final document. He stated staff will bring the final document before the Parks Commission, Transportation Commission, and Planning Commission for comment before it goes back to the City Council for final approval. Kaplan suggested a joint meeting and staff indicated this may be possible for the Transportation and Planning Commissions.
 
Downtown Parking and Multi-Modal Committee: Commissioner Dawkins stated the group has been meeting for over a year and the scope continues to expand. He explained they have formed an executive subcommittee to develop a template that will describe how they will go about looking at the various pieces that relate to the downtown transportation plan in an organized manner. He added there are competing ideological differences among the committee members that will need to be worked out.
 
PUBLIC FORUM
Colin Swales/95 Coolidge/Requested the City take another look at the medical marijuana dispensary ordinance. He stated the new dispensary on North Main backs up to a residential neighborhood and there are residential houses directly across the street. He added it seems unfair that these are being pushed out of the downtown and closer to residential neighborhood in order to not upset merchants and visitors.
 
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARING
  1. PLANNING ACTION:  #2014-01956       
SUBJECT PROPERTIES: First Place Subdivision, corner of Lithia Way & First Street
APPLICANTS: First Place Partners, LLC                                                                        
DESCRIPTION: A request for Site Review approval to construct the second and third phases of the First Place Subdivision for the property located at the corner of Lithia Way and First Street. 
• Phase Two is a request for Site Review approval to construct a new mixed use building (Plaza Central East) on Lots #2 and #3 at the corner of Lithia Way and First Street.  The proposal includes consolidation of the two lots and construction of a 32,191 square foot, three-story mixed-use building consisting of basement parking, ground floor commercial, and 15 residential units distributed between the ground, second and third floors.  The application includes requests to modify the common area landscaping and parking configuration to better accommodate the proposal, and Exceptions to the Site Design and Use Standards’ Downtown Design Standards to allow for balconies on the front of the building and to allow windows that are more horizontal than vertical.
 
• Phase Three is a request for Site Review approval to construct a new mixed use building (Plaza North) on Lots #4 and #5 at the northeast corner of the site, on First Street.  The proposal includes consolidation of the two lots and construction of a 9,607 square foot, three-story mixed-use building including ground floor commercial space and four residential units.  The application includes requests to modify the common area landscaping and parking configuration to better accommodate the proposal, and two requests for Exceptions to the Site Design and Use Standards’ Downtown Design Standards to allow for a staggered street setback and to allow two sets of windows to be more horizontal than vertical.
 
 • (Phase One, a three-story 18,577 square foot mixed-use building (Plaza West) consisting of basement parking, commercial and residential space on the first floor and residential space on the second and third floors was recently completed at 175 Lithia Way.)
 
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Commercial; ZONING: C-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 09BA; TAX LOTS:  10100, 10102, 10103, 10104 and 10105.
Commissioner Kaplan read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
 
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Brown, Dawkins, Kaplan, Miller, Mindlin, Peddicord and Thompson declared site visits. No ex parte contact was reported.  
 
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson addressed the Commission and noted the items that were distributed to the group, including an email from Colin Swales, a submittal from the applicants, and the Tree and Historic Commission recommendations. Mr. Severson explained the applicant has requested site review approval to construct the second and third phases of the First Place subdivision; Phase One (Plaza West) is a mixed use three-story building and has already been approved and completed. Mr. Severson provided an overview of the Phase Two and Phase Three development proposals. Phase Two involves consolidating two lots into one and constructing a single, three-story mixed use building with underground parking. Mr. Severson noted two proposed changes to the site plan: 1) remove two surface parking spaces to allow for a trash enclosure and add two underground spaces, and 2) install a single driveway entry instead of two. Mr. Severson added while the proposal is to build a single building, the façade will be treated as two separate buildings. He explained the application for Phase Two includes an exception to the Site Design & Use Standards to allow for balconies on the front of the building and an exception to allow windows that are more horizontal than vertical. For Phase Three, Mr. Severson explained lots four and five would be consolidated, and a three-story mixed use building is proposed. He noted the application includes an exception to the Site Design & Use Standards to allow for a staggered street setback, and an exception to allow windows that are more horizontal than vertical. Mr. Severson commented further on the exception requests. He noted Plaza West was approved with a similar exception for the balconies, and noted the similar treatment on the Jasmine Building across the street. Regarding the windows, he stated the Historic Commission discussed this element at length and they found that the vertical divisions in the windows retain the vertical character, even though the windows are technically more horizontal when placed side by side. Mr. Severson concluded his presentation and stated staff is supportive of the request and have recommended conditions of approval for the Commission’s consideration.
 
Applicant’s Presentation
Mark Knox, Applicant’s Representative/Mr. Knox explained they have no issues is the conditions of approval recommended by staff, and noted the Historic Commission was very supportive of this application. He added the policy decisions of the City over the last 20 years address how the City should grow and incorporate infill, as well as provide the opportunity for people to live and work downtown. He added the main issue to be discussed tonight is likely the architecture of the proposed buildings.
 
Steve Ennis, Project Architect/Mr. Ennis explained he is the architect for Plaza North and provided a brief overview of the proposal. He noted the stepped design of the building and stated this was done to address the grade and slope issue, but also to meet the solar ordinance and to be respectful of the adjacent residential neighborhood. Mr. Ennis commented on the architectural elements of the building and also provided an overview of the proposed building materials. He stated this building meets the Downtown Design Standards and provides the appropriate transition to the adjacent residential zone.
 
Jerome White, Project Architect/Mr. White clarified consolidating the driveways helps the site to function better, and stated the balconies and entrance alcoves were done to break up the façade of the building. He noted the vertical rhythm of the building and stated the proposed balconies would enhance the street livability. Mr. White cited the exception criteria and the images contained in the Downtown Design Standards and stated the proposed balconies and windows meet the intent of the code. Mr. White displayed images of existing downtown buildings which contain similar features to this building and noted the Historic Commission unanimously approved this application. He added the City has adopted a limit to the urban growth boundary and this is the type of building we want to see.
 
Mr. Knox noted the standards include exceptions because each situation is unique and they believe these buildings meet the intent of the code. He added the windows are not one single pane, and stated this pattern can be clearly seen elsewhere downtown.
 
Questions of the Applicant
The applicant was asked why they are not building to the full density allowed. Mr. Knox commented that meeting the parking requirement would have been an issue and stated they did not want to request a parking variance.
 
The applicant was asked if the commercial spaces would allow for a restaurant use. Mr. White commented that restaurants require a higher number of parking spaces and the design was intended to accommodate commercial retail space.
 
The applicant was asked to elaborate on the design of the Plaza Central building. Mr. White stated this structure will include a lot of windows and glass and the intent was to open it up, but maintain a simple design, not unlike the City Hall building. He noted color will be added on the base with tile accents and stated the intent was to have this portion be more subtle in order to provide contrast with the other two facades.
 
The applicant was asked if this development will have CCRs and whether short term rentals would be permitted. Mr. Knox explained the CCRs were approved when this project first came forward and were part of the subdivision approval. He stated the approved CCRs do not allow short term rentals and any changes to this provision would be subject to the board of directors approval. Mr. Molnar noted that once the unified code is adopted it would allow individual owners to come back at a later date and request a conditional use permit for a travelers accommodation.
 
Public Input
Colin Swales/95 Coolidge/Voiced his disappointment that he is the only person present to provide comment. He noted the denial of the Northlight project and stated this was supposed to come back as a subdivision divided into multiple lots to get away from the large massing and to better address bulk and scale; however, the applicants are now asking to combine the buildings into one. Mr. Swales stated at least the top story of the first building is stepped back, which makes it read more like a two story. He voiced concern that the maximum density allowance is not being built, and stated the intent was for workforce housing, not high end condos that can be used as vacation rentals. He stated he has no objections to the balconies, but would have preferred for some public art to have been included and asked that the Commission ensure the public plaza space is usable.
 
Rebuttal
Mr. Knox stated they meet every standard and the exceptions in the Design Standards are intended to create some uniqueness. He agreed that the buildings are large, but noted that the Planning Commission and City Council just recently approved an additional 1,500 sq.ft. allowance to these types of buildings. He added the Design Standards recommend multiple stories in the downtown, and disagreed that this creates a canyon effect.
 
Mr. White noted the subdivision was approved with three lots fronting Lithia Way and they chose to combine the buildings to deal with efficiency, but the appearance that was originally approved is still being honored.
 
Mr. Knox commented that they have no intention to convert these units to short term home rentals and stated it would be very difficult for someone to change the CCRs. He noted they would have to convince the rest of the tenants, as well as convince staff and get the Planning Commission’s approval.
 
Commissioner Kaplan closed the hearing and the public record at 8:10 p.m.
 
Questions of Staff
Mr. Molnar commented on parking and agreed that this influences how the design is laid out. Regarding density and possible future intensification of the site, he noted the entire parking chapter was revised when the Pedestrian Places Overlay was adopted and allows for parking consolidation. If it could be shown that there is not a peak parking demand at the same time, the current code could allow for a change in use over time.
 
Staff was asked if any project that came forward for this space would have the same potential for short term rentals down the road. Mr. Molnar stated this is correct. He added while the City desires residential in the downtown, around 85% of the City’s short term rentals are in the downtown area and stated there are advantages to having these types of uses close to downtown.
 
Mr. Severson clarified the Historic and Tree Commission recommendations are included in the recommended conditions of approval.
 
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioners Thompson/Mindlin m/s to approve Planning Action #2014-01956 with the conditions of approval recommended by staff. DISCUSSION: Thompson commented that the applicants have done a good job of meeting the requirements of the code. She added the question of whether this parcel should be developed is not up to them; there are rules around how development can occur and she sees no basis for denial of this project. Mindlin agreed that the applicant has done an excellent job of meeting the criteria. She stated the balconies are an asset and agrees with the applicant regarding the windows. She stated the intent was to maximize building in the downtown area and while it is unfortunate that these will be luxury condos instead of workforce housing, it is not within their purview to make that decision. Brown stated that overall this is a good project, but stated building frontages over 100 ft. should include some setbacks to break up the long flat façade. Additionally, he stated the height of the building proposed for Lithia Way does not have enough height variation. Dawkins stated he is comfortable with the architecture and will vote in support of the motion, but expressed his disappointment with how this piece of property is being developed. He stated he advocated multiple times in the past that this piece of property be looked at and have some visioning and he is disappointed that these will be luxury condos that are lived in part of the time instead of affordable workforce housing. Mr. Severson commented on the concerns raised regarding the building heights and façade. He stated the building that fronts Lithia has distinctive changes so that is reads as two separate buildings and a corner tower, and noted the requirement for the applicant to build up to the property line. He added it could be found that the balconies and inset proposed do meet the intent of the code. Regarding the height, Mr. Severson noted the language does state slightly dissimilar and clarified there is a difference between the building heights. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Mindlin, Peddicord, Thompson, and Kaplan, YES. Commissioners Brown and Miller, NO. Motion passed 5-2.
  
OTHER BUSINESS
Mr. Molnar noted the Council Goals and Objectives document that was distributed and asked that the Commission keep these in mind and look for opportunities to embrace them as they continue their work over the next year and a half. He noted that Wildfire Hazard Zones will come before the Commission early next spring, and Short Term Rentals and amendments to the Airport Overlay Zone will come forward next year as well.
 
ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 8:35 p.m.
 
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

 

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