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Planning Commission Mtg

Minutes
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING
MINUTES
MARCH 14, 2017
 
 
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
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
 
     
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Greg Lemhouse, absent
 
 
ANNOUNCEMENTS/AD HOC COMMITTEE UPDATES
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the Rogue Credit Union appeal will be heard at the March 21, 2017 City Council meeting, he thanked Commissioners Thompson, Brown, and Norton for volunteering to be facilitators at the Housing Forum, and briefed the group on the recent Community Development Department Stakeholders meeting.
 
CONSENT AGENDA
  1. Approval of Minutes.
  1. February 14, 2017 Regular Meeting.
Commissioners Thompson/Brown m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. [Commissioner Miller abstained] Motion passed 6-0.
 
PUBLIC FORUM
No one came forward to speak.
 
UNFINISHED BUSINESS
  1. Adoption of Findings for PA-2016-02103, 133 Alida Street.
Commissioners Miller/Norton m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2016-02103, 133 Alida. Voice Vote: all AYES. [Commissioner Pearce abstained] Motion passed 6-0.
 
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS
  1. PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2017-00016
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  474 Russell Street
OWNER/APPLICANT:  Laz Ayala/Meadowbrook Builders LLC
DESCRIPTION:  A request for Conditional Use Permit approval to allow the four second-story residential units in “Building A” at 474 Russell Street to be used for short-term corporate rental housing.  This is considered a hotel/motel use because the rental period may be for less than 30 days at a time.  The proposal is to accommodate new employees hired by local or regional businesses during their relocation period and would also house traveling professionals who work locally on a short-term contract basis.  (The two buildings on the property previously received Site Design Review approval as Planning Action #2015-01284, and are under construction now.  There are a total of ten second floor residential units between the two buildings, and the six units in Building B are to remain standard residential units.
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 09AA; TAX LOTS: 2805. 
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
 
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Thompson and Miller declared site visits; no ex parte contact was reported.
 
Staff Report
Senior Planner Derek Severson reviewed the project area and explained the application is for a conditional use permit to allow four of the second story units in Building A to be used as short term corporate rental housing. Mr. Severson explained in the E-1 zone this is considered a hotel/motel use, however this would not be a traditional hotel. He noted the two buildings are currently under construction and a total of 10 second floor units will be built between the two buildings. Mr. Severson noted Russell Drive and the Mountain Creek corridor act as a buffer between the buildings and the residential neighborhood and stated the main consideration in this action is whether the proposal will have no greater adverse impact on the livability of the impact area when compared to the target use of the zone, which in this case is a 14,000 sq.ft. office building. Mr. Severson listed the issues raised during the comment period which included generation of traffic, impact to neighborhood character, and impacts on housing and affordable housing; and listed the applicant’s argument in favor which stated the proposal is limited to 4 of the 10 units, the proposal would generate fewer trips than the E-1 target use, and the nature of tenants is much different than that of a hotel/motel with an average stay being 1-6 months. Mr. Severson concluded his presentation and stated staff is recommending approval with the proposed conditions, which includes a requirement for a contact person to be listed in case concerns arise from the neighbors.
 
Questions of Staff
Mr. Severson clarified in the E-1 zone the ground floor has to be at least 65% non-residential and there are no restrictions on the upper floors.
 
Staff was asked whether the ownership of these units could be sold to another party who would run it as a traditional hotel/motel. Mr. Severson stated the Commission has the ability to add a condition that would require the new owners to come back and re-apply and agree to the same conditions. He added with commercial conditional use permits the city has typically not required this.
 
Applicant’s Presentation
Mark Knox/604 Fair Oaks Ct/Mr. Knox stated the staff report clearly lays out what they are proposing. He commented that this proposal is not a hotel, motel, or travel accommodation and does not cater to tourists. He stated corporate housing does not compete with hotel accommodations or standard residential rentals, as this type of renter typically stays for several weeks or months, and are generally individual tenants. Mr. Knox stated corporate housing has less impacts than a hotel/motel in that there are significantly less trips generated and there is a lower parking requirement. He acknowledged the neighborhood concerns but stated the railroad property, which is 20 acres in size, will generate a significant amount of trips when built out, and while they live in a residential zone it is next to one of the most important employment zones in the city.  
 
Laz Ayala/604 Fair Oaks Ct/Mr. Ayala acknowledged the neighbors’ concerns but stated it is important to understand what this is, and what it is not. He commented on the lifestyle of a typical renter and stated the impact of the occupants will be significantly less than a traditional rental or a hotel/motel unit. Mr. Ayala noted the need for this type of accommodation in our community and stated this industry plays an important part in economic development. He stated he has been in this industry for 12 years and has 12 units in Medford and Jacksonville. He added most renters are in the medical field and generally stay between 3-6 months although they have had some stays as long as a year. Mr. Ayala stated a hotel room does not meet their needs and it is extremely difficult to rent an unfurnished unit for less than a year, much less a furnished rental. He stated this application meets the criteria and the impacts are less than the target use of the zone or a conventional rental unit. He added corporate housing is permitted without a CUP, but they would like the ability to assist people if they are needing to stay for less than 30 days.
 
Mr. Knox stated they have no issue with the conditions of approval recommended by staff and clarified they are not proposing any signage. Mr. Ayala added what they have done on his other units is a discreet decal on the window or door, but no signs.
 
Commissioner Questions
The applicants were asked whether they would be open to a 2-week minimum stay. Mr. Ayala stated this would defeat the intent of the application and the flexibility they are looking for. He added if they violate the intent of this approval the city has the ability to void that approval.
 
Staff was asked how the collection of transient occupancy taxes would work. Mr. Severson clarified transient occupancy taxes do not apply to stays longer than 30 days and this is something that will be worked out with the city’s Finance Department when the applicant registers their business.
 
Public Testimony
Dave Helmich/468 Williamson/Urged the Planning Commission to reject this proposal. He stated this development is directly behind his back fence, and noted people cut through on their narrow residential street all the time and it’s hard to imagine this won’t continue. Mr. Helmich stated this proposal will take the housing units that were already approved off the market and this goes against city policy. He stated this is essentially an Air BNB permit and is surprised the notice for the application was not sent to the entire city. Mr. Helmich stated these units are not consistent with the neighborhood and they want more community, not less.
 
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mr. Knox stated if for any reason one of the units changes ownership they will come back and modify the application. He added their intention was never to build for-sale units, and noted they are not required to provide any housing units at all in this location.
 
Questions of Staff
Staff was asked whether a condition should be added to address signage. Mr. Severson explained the application states no signage and the approval would need to be modified to change that. Mr. Molnar added the City has fairly stringent regulations on what types of signage would be allowed and they would need to comply with those regulations.
 
Comment was made expressing concern about a change in ownership and these units being operated as a hotel/motel. Mr. Molnar clarified that while the applicants are proposing corporate housing, hotel/motel is an allowable use in the employment zone.
 
Staff clarified if any of the units are sold, they will need to come back to the City for approval.
 
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioners Dawkins/Pearce m/s to approve PA-2017-00016. DISCUSSION: Dawkins commented that this is an interesting application and use and can see its benefits. He stated he is concerned about whether this will turn into a hotel/motel, but in the end it does not matter since the code allows that use in this zone. Peace acknowledged the neighbor’s concerns but stated this is an E-1 employment zone and they have to compare the proposal to an office use, not a residential use. He added the application meets the criteria for a CUP. Brown voiced his support for the motion and stated the application meets the criteria. He acknowledged the need for long term rental housing, but stated there is also a need for employment and other housing types. Commissioner Miller voiced concern with the applicants getting approved for housing units and then changing course and removing four units from the rental stock that are so badly needed. Thompson stated the residential neighborhood is next to an E-1 zone and the developer’s choice to develop mixed use and corporate housing is more beneficial to the neighborhood than what they could have done. She added there is no guarantee that this E-1 zone will continue to develop in this quasi-residential way and stated under the code they are required to grant approval. Norton commented that the city is dealing with a housing shortage and stated he is struggling to support this request. Mindlin voiced support for the motion. She stated the application meets the criteria and they were not required to building housing at all. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Thompson, Brown, Pearce, Norton, and Mindlin, YES. Commissioner Miller, NO. Motion passed 6-1.
 
ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 8:05 p.m.
 
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
 

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