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Planning Commission Mtg

Minutes
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING
 MINUTES
April 9, 2013
 
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
Richard Kaplan
Debbie Miller (Recused during the Normal Ave Master Plan Discussion)
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Dawn Lamb

 
     
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Mike Morris
 
 
ANNOUNCEMENTS
Commissioner Kaplan observed the new signal light being installed concurrent with the SOU construction is blocked by foliage and signage.  Public Works Department will ensure the foliage is cleared prior to the lights becoming active. 
 
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced that Dawn Lamb will be assisting the Commission for the next 3 months while April Lucas is on family leave.  Previously Lamb worked in the Public Works Department.
 
Molnar updated the Commission on the Regional Problem Solving process.  During the process, Ashland did not identify future growth areas.  Comments regarding affordable housing in the region led to a goal that within 5 years of adoption a regional housing plan be established.  The first meeting of local staff met with the Oregon Housing and Community Services department to identify key regional city staff members.  Molnar will keep Commission notified of progress.  Input from the Housing and Planning Commissions, and elected officials is expected. 
 
CONSENT AGENDA
A.   Approval of Minutes.
       1.  February 26, 2013 Study Session.
       2.  March 12, 2013 Regular Meeting.
       3.  March 26, 2013 Study Session.
 
Commissioners Kaplan/Dawkins m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.
 
PUBLIC FORUM
None.
 
DISCUSSION ITEMS

  1.     Recommendation on Extension of Development Agreement – 87 West Nevada.
Staff Report
Severson revisited the Verde Village Development Agreement extension and timeline while presenting a brief.  An extension was granted under the Recession Extension Ordinance (#3007).  Several development deadlines require completion by July 17, 2013.  Applicant requests further extension due to lack of financing.  Staff is seeking a recommendation to City Council to either deny or support extending the Development Agreement to the maximum 15-year duration from the original approval as allowable under the ORS. The recommendation will be forwarded to City Council for a public hearing for ordinance adoption on May 21, 2013.  The Commission needs to consider the applicability of newly adopted ordinances that may affect the development. 
 
Under the Development Agreement, regulations in place during the adoption govern the developmentThe agreement provides that subsequent land use approvals be subject to current regulations at the time of the application but also that with any modifications to the original Development Agreement, the City could opt to apply current regulations.  One applicable ordinance adopted was the Water Resources Ordinance that created a 50-foot water resource protection zone from the top of bank.  The homes shown on the original plan comply.  Residential fences need to be in the uppermost 25 feet of this protection zone and specific fencing materials are prohibited.  The Ordinance affects the paved Greenway Trail construction as unpaved trails are only allowable. Any path wider than 6 feet requires a limited use permit.  Council could adopt to apply the new Water Resources ordinance or allow the extension with the original path design as proposed without going through review.  
 
In staff's view this does merit approval of the extension requested to the maximum 15-year duration allowed under the ORS.  Staff asks that instead of a blanket extension of the dates to 2022 for the entire development that the dates within the original timetable are extended by only 7 years to ensure continued progression consistent with the overall timeline.  We recommend a favorable recommendation to Council.
 
Commission Discussion
The commission requested clarification and issued comments on various components of the approval.  The following is a summary of their questions and statements:

  • Retaining wall and railing construction are inclusive to construction.
  • Applying the new WR ordinance would be up to the Council through a public hearing.
  • Clarification that the riparian ordinance deems there be nothing within that 50 feet and that pertains to trails.  Severson commented that an exemption is allowable through a land use action process. 
  • The Greenway is a multi-use path that is part of a comprehensive system.  This is not an alternative location from the original application.  This would be an act of regulating something that is already on City property for benefit of the City.   Would there be a substantial gain in the City revisiting the process when the environmental and physical constraints have already been reviewed during the application process. 
  • If more ordinances become applicable within the next 7 years can the recommendation to Council ask that they comply with these but exempt the path?  Legal would need to be addressed. 
  • ORS and the development agreement state that new regulations be applied if modifications are introduced during the extension period.  The primary criteria are that it be consistent with the original outlined approval.
  • Beside Water Resource are there any major changes affecting this development.  Most new ordinances do not apply.  Molnar commented other changes benefit the development like the on-street parking requirements for accessory units.  
  • The blanket 22 year approval is agreeable because reviews will happen with the timetable adjustments. 
 
Commissioners Brown/Dawkins m/s to approve Staff recommendation.  Roll call vote:  Commissioner Dawkins, Kaplan, Miller, Brown, and Midlin, Yes.  Motioned passed 5-0.
 
Debbie Miller recused herself and was excused by the Commission at 7:28 PM
 

  1.     Normal Neighborhood Plan Update.
Staff Report
Molnar briefly discussed the Normal Avenue Neighborhood Plan background and progress.  He noted that the consultant deliverables will be a detailed concept plan for the area, subject to the constraints and expectations of the State Transportation Growth Management grant awarded to this project.  After the City received the consultant deliverables it will be up to the Planning Commission and the Council to review and amend the concept, and then formal adoption the plan will address fine-tuning.
 
Brandon Goldman explained the master planning process, clarifying the opportunities and continued changes that occur until the plan’s development is complete.  The grant funded activity pertaining to the charette is complete and numerous public meetings have been held.  A draft concept plan and the deliverables should be completed by the consultant design team by the end of July.  Goldman reiterated that t is not the conclusion of this process, but rather where the City assumes the control of the project and will continue to work with the Planning Commission, other commissions, and staff to refine the plan in order to codify it and make it consistent with the Ashland Land Use Ordinance. The Parks, Housing, Transportation, Conservation and Planning commissions will review the plans.  The neighborhood plan will then be taken through the adoption process.  Goldman explained the master planning process from concept to adoption, using the North Mountain Neighborhood Plan as an example.
 
The Normal Area draft code is being prepared for presentation in May.  This will be the consultant's initial draft with substantive revisions expected before final draft.  Regulations and standards for minor and major amendments will be included to address changes to the plan that may be needed as development applications come forward.  It is important that the draft code be able to designate whether a minor or major deviation has been made from the adopted plan. 
 
Goldman noted that concern  regarding the location of the high-density housing zone in the northeast corner, as opposed to along East Main Street, had been expressed previously.  In prior meetings Goldman referred to this area as “readily developable” property. He clarified that this designation does not necessarily mean these properties are ready to develop in the short term, but they are considered vacant or partially vacant in the City’s Buildable Lands Inventory (BLI) .  Numerous  properties along East Main Street are presently developed such as Temple Emek Shalom and therefore would not be considered as “buildable” land area within our BLI. The term “readily developable” essentially means those properties that are considered buildable.  Alternative locations for higher density housing will be examined along East Main Street and the plan area.  The City will be conducting a future transportation analysis for the draft plan to identify potential impacts to street intersections and traffic volumes.  Identified inadequacies would be addressed and where necessary substantive changes to the plan would be made before final plan adoption.  Goldman noted that the draft plan does not currently show a Phase I multi-modal connection from Phase I to the Middle School expressing that such a connection is an imperative piece of the neighborhood plan that will be  included.   
 
Wetland and riparian set back requirements and establishment of open space along those corridors will be included as an overlay zone designation.  The proposed road locations adjacent to creeks and wetlands will be further evaluated to address water protection zones. For example subsequent to the prior Commission meeting a  property owner contacted staff regarding the future development potential of his property in the south east corner of the plan area, and he noted the existing house on his property likely be removed upon future development. The removal of that house would relieve some design constraints regarding the road locations presented in the initial draft plan and through redesign it may be possible to reduce the amount of pavement adjacent to the creek in that vicinity..
 
Public Testimony
Bryce Anderson/2092 Creek Drive/stated after discussing prior concerns with board members and some residents of Meadow Brook Park Estates, Ashland Meadows and Chatauqua Trace the uniform reaction to this plan is grave concern.  He said he  could not imagine there are less than 250 units noting there are only about 174 units in all of Meadow Brook Park Estates, Ashland Meadows, and Chatauqua Trace combined. He stated the existing traffic plan calls for feeding traffic down an extension of Creek Drive or alternatively down Clay Street, and it is still unclear whether there are streets planned down Clay Creek Drive or not. He expressed that he finds the existing plan to be entirely inadequate because traffic will back up for who knows how far with the number of units planned.  He stated no traffic plan can accommodate that many units in that small an area.  Citing the staff presentation Mr. Anderson explained that North Mountain Plan bears no resemblance to this area as the plan in this area is completely dissimilar with completely different traffic concerns.  He noted that all of the homeowner's associations recognize that these areas are going to get developed, but question what is wrong with a cluster development similar to what is already there given the fact that there is limited street access, issues of water and sewer and other public utilities. He felt one advantage to the plan was having a connection to the bike path, and that seems to have been eliminated.    All of these things dictate drastically reducing the density and taking a hard look at the general public amenities that are going to go in there. 
 
Karen Horn/140 Clay Street/ stated the choice of where to put the high-density development in this whole area seemed somewhat arbitrary. She explained she heard tonight that the rest of East Main is not going to be considered part of the high density because Temple Emek Shalom and some private residences.  She noted that the Mormon Church is on the corner that is included in the high density and assumedly they don't want to sell.  She explained her two primary concerns being traffic and wetlands.  Traffic information on the website about the plan and in the executive summary shows existing traffic conditions.  Sixteen-hour surveys done in 2012 of Clay Street showed 1,200 trips; East Main St. showed 13,000 trips.  Those are 2-lane streets.  Ashland Street, which is 4-lanes showed 30,000 trips.  She questioned whether the City would turn East Main into a 4-lane road because the number of people in the development. She expressed that East Main Street already has comparable traffic for a 4-lane road on a 2-lane road.  She noted she was particularly concerned about the wetlands and had looked at the frameworks that are available online.  The Greenway and open space framework talk about how important it is to keep the riparian areas safe. She stated that in the Normal Avenue Master Plan Phase II, the roads in a lot of places are right on top of the wetland’s buffer areas, and that these roads should be moved out of the buffer areas.  She explained that regarding bikepaths along the riparian areas that roads with bikes or bike lanes on the road are not the same thing as a bikepath.  She felt that a bikepath is a recreational place where you get off your bike and look at the water which you can’t do on a road with a bike lane along a creek. 
 
Paula Skuratowicz/2124 Creek Drive/Distributed a handout.  She and her husband moved to Ashland eight years ago and chose to buy in Ashland Meadows knowing this would be their last move.  She noted Creek Drive is a safe place for her very medically compromised husband to use his walker for exercise knowing that the neighbors will look out for him.  She explained that Ashland Meadows is like the old communities where people know and care for each other.  She stated that inclusion of three-story apartments on Creek Drive, and high-density housing, would create a permanent adverse affect on all of them.  She expressed that it would greatly impact traffic, utilities, and sewer that are already fragile.  She explained that it is crucial to develop in moderation recommending cluster housing and a small component of apartments no more than 2 stories tall, not immediately adjacent to existing residential areas, requesting plans show respect for the already established communities and the balance wetlands in this sensitive area.  She stated the plan should put back the bike and Greenway connection to Meadowbrook Estates.  She concluded that they do want to support the efforts of the Planning Commission, but to do so the plans have to include benefits for the existing neighborhoods. 
 
Rod Petrone/2324 Abbott Avenue/ He noted that others had made arguments about demands on energy, water and traffic, but he felt that aesthetically this is just plain ugly comparing the plan and the recent development behind the YMCA to what Yugoslavian socialist housing complexes look like. He explained that putting people in 600 square foot homes is not a quality lifestyle.  He noted that when he and his wife returned to Ashland14 years ago the knew a small town would be a better environment for their children He noticed that at that time there was a lack of affordable single-family housing and that they could only afford an attached family dwelling in Chatauqua Trace.  He said that since that time they have seen ugly sprawl, HUD housing and now the Access Housing, stating that he believes there is too much high-density all concentrated in one area.  He explained that the town would be more family friendly if more single-family housing zoning existed and that it appears the City is intent on realizing some ideological goal and now is determined to create what has been called Green Slums.  It is frustrating for the community that International, Federal, and State-wide agencies render the local codes without any influence from our communities. He stated that he believes the board and City has good intentions, but to satisfy an ideological goal  this appears to stem from Agenda 21.  He expressed that he finds that high-density apartments would mean increased traffic and crime and bring in people with fewer stakes in the community, elaborating that he felt three-story high, high-density apartments, are just ridiculous and that he would rather see some open green spaces and some single-family housing.
 
Julie Matthews/2090 Creek Drive/ Questioned the study area.  Molnar described the plan area as 94 acres outside of City limits and as areas come in to City zoning from County zoning it increases the density.  No areas within these 94 acres are annexed at this point.  Annexation happens concurrently with a developer submitting plans to develop.  Matthews clarified that a developer would have to go in and decide whether it was worth developing.  She noted that the land that is readily available, readily developable, and possible interest to sell just seems to be the first one up for grabs in this plan.  She questioned why 100% of the density is being done on the one available property as opposed to a percentage spread across the whole 94 acres.  She explained that we do not even know if those other areas will ever come up to be developed, or if the people who own them will ever want to sell.  She mentioned that having some higher density along East Main Street has been discussed and questioned whether the City could ever widen that street.  She said Ashland as a whole is a beautiful place to live and we are drawn to this area not only to live here but to see our investments grow and we took a hit in the recession, and it has not recovered yet and now you are developing competition with our investments. 
 
Marni Koopman/1790 Homes Avenue/ Distributed a handout.  She had five main points.  One, she felt like the plan online really ignored what she heard at the charette.  She recalled the groups at the charrette were asking for the high-density housing to be placed along East Main on the north and east side of the overall property.  The groups really recommended protecting the wetlands and she did not see the current plan doing that.  The groups stressed that the development should not cause an increase in impacts to the neighboring neighborhoods that are already there.  She stated that it seems that it adds a lot of traffic to those neighborhoods.  Her second point related to the increased traffic on Normal Avenue and she felt Normal Avenue already has heavy traffic.  She noted that she cannot open her windows because of exhaust and noise.  The plan looks like Normal would become a pretty major way for people to get to Walker School, to the stores, and to other parts of town especially with a lot of children.  Her third point was that as such a large complex of wetlands has developed in that area and the plan is short sighted and creates new hazards. She explained that wetlands have important functions: protect properties from flooding, filter water, and allow for groundwater recharge.  The water that comes down during snow events and big storms comes through quickly and needs to be stored and as we develop more wetlands there are fewer areas for storage.  The water moves faster and when wetlands are degraded and destroyed the result downstream is higher and faster flow potentially leading to flooding, bank erosion, sedimentation effecting fish habitat and hazards to downstream residents. Climate change will increase the frequency of severe storms and rain on snow events. Wildlife habitat loss is another concern.  Fresh water wetlands have been developed far more proportionally then other habitat types and we spend a lot of resources restoring riparian areas and wetlands, but it would be more cost effective to just preserve these areas in the first place. People might view the proposed development as maintaining wetlands, but what I would like them to do is look at wetlands in the Clay Street neighborhood.  Those wetlands are bordered on each side by 2-story condos and there armored with riprap.  They have little biological value. They do not provide wildlife habitat, provide flood protection, or ground water recharge.  With those wetlands and the ones bordering the eastern edge of the cemetery, the Normal Street wetlands are the last piece of what was once a very large complex.  She felt better use of the property would be open space with walking trails for people, children, and their pets that this part of town lacks.  A positive use would be more open space for residents.  She provided a report referenced in her notes on climate change and another on scientific imperative for defending small streams and wetlands.
 
Commission Discussion
Goldman explained that staff is already discussing the items that have been brought forward tonight.  Staff is looking to find opportunities at the northerly part of East Main and possibly a second scenario to spread density along East Main for transitional buffers to the existing neighborhoods.  The purpose of applying for this grant was the opportunity to set long-term expectations by looking at land uses for long-term growth, transportation systems, including bikeways and pathways. Planning the future growth rather then reacting as development occurs along Clay Street.  Mathematically we looked at the current comprehensive plan with zoning of R1-5 and R1-3.5, an average of around 6-7 units over 90 acres reaching a potential 450-500 units. 
The commission issued comments on various components of the master planning process and the Normal Ave. Neighborhood Plan. The following is a summary of their questions and statements:
Commissioner Brown noted that the properties in the plan area could be annexed at any point and be built with highest density. He stated that planning is needed to ensure some control of how the area will develop, and explained that the North Mountain Plan shown in the presentation was intended to be a comparison of process, not a comparison of developments.  Commissioner Kaplan expressed that the master planning process appears to be working to get neighborhood feedback and involvement.  The first set of meetings involved people with existing homes on Normal Avenue.  The impact area is now beyond that and needs of the immediate neighbors and the people in the area who have raised issues that need to be taken into consideration. 
 
Commissioner Dawkins acknowledged that during the Regional Problem Solving process Ashland was the only town within this county to not increase its Urban Growth Boundary.  That choice had two caveats and they become the conundrum we end up dealing with; one is that there must be a 20-year supply of buildable land; and two Ashland can’t use water supply as a growth regulator.   He suggested that Ashland cannot continually expand the UGB to accommodate single-family homes and the alternative is compact growth. 
 
Commissioner Mindlin pointed out that the Planning Commission is charged with responsibilities and constraints noting it is not within their purview to decide not to develop the land.  She explained that the area under private ownership has an underlying zoning attached to it when it annexes.  She observed that the number of homes foreseen by the concept plan is about 350 as opposed to 500 allowable under current zoning.  Through this planning process we need to see what parts matter and what should be worked on to direct staff. 
 
Goldman explained that with direction from the Commission staff will review reallocating the density to alternative areas and calculate how such changes would affect the overall density.  He explained that the height and density for the specific areas:
NAO1 is single-family zone with an equivalent 5000 square foot lots.
NAO2 cluster housing is comparable to the developments of Chatauqua Trace, Meadowbrook of nine units per acre. 
NAO3 is a higher density multi-family zone of about 15 units per acre. 
He explained that currently the maximum height is 2 ½ stories, and that a three-story height may provide for a higher density while maintaining a greater amount of open space. 
 
Commissioners questioned whether the plan be more creative by bringing both single-family and high density into the same place, essentially achieving a higher density in areas by starting with low density along streets and building toward the inner blocks and then building back out as you come out the other areas. 
 
Commissioner Brown said one of the concerns is that we show rendering that looks like it could be built tomorrow but this is merely a concept.  People react to what they see, not what it is meant to say.   Goldman commented that the state provided the grant funding for the consultant and we want to make sure the consultants do as much work as the scope allows.  In regards to master planning in Ashland it is typical that we’ll refine a plan long after the consultant’s tasks are complete.  Through the adoption and public review process the plan will continue to change. 
 
Commissioner Mindlin voiced concern that fulfilling our responsibilities towards our buildable land inventory and planning for infill housing is important.  But she wanted to make sure that we are doing it in a way that is providing opportunity as opposed to trying to accelerate it.  She stated that the density for this area was applied because it was not developed yet and it was available, therefore we assign a bunch of density to it not because it was necessarily in a great place to have a lot of density. There will most likely never be sufficient density to have public transit which is a criterion for affordable housing programs.  It is a great place for families because it is next to schools. 
 
Goldman explained that the transportation existing conditions analysis was not based on the 26 houses that are out there, it was based on the existing underlying comprehensive plan designation at build-out. The future traffic analysis is intended to look at the alternative concept plan and evaluate its potential impact in comparison to the existing comprehensive plan designations. 
 
Dawkins referred to an idea brought up during the Transportation System Plan update to burrow under Clay Street for a bikepath or pedestrian path.  This would relieve pedestrians from trying to cross 4 lanes of traffic.  No one in Public Works has commented on feasibility. 
 
Other areas of consideration raised by the Commission included wetland preservation, creek preservation, and finding a way to open up these corridors to keep them as a public resource for the whole community.  Concern with piecemeal applications in respect to protecting the overall ecology and hydrology of the wetlands was voiced noting there were suggestions contained in the original framework documents regarding  protection of the the hydrology of the site and having water channeled from the impervious surfaces and back into the creeks.  Commission Mindlin raised the concern that if there is not a large framework with the entire area, each individual piece may not be able to address those issues as they affect the entire area.  Molnar elaborated that storm water runoff from public streets is addressed by Public Works for eligible green streets status and the ordinance chapter would address  storm water and additional standards.  Goldman noted that Draft code amendments will be presented to Planning Commission in May with notification to property owners in the vicinity. 
 

  1.     2013 Planning Commission Retreat Topics.
Mindlin prompted what do we want to accomplish at the retreat?
 
Commissioner input for topics:
Mindlin: Site visits of broader issues being addressed:  Green street standards look at developed sections.

  • Kaplan:  Revisit the SOU project to compare final design to the as-built result.  How close is the reality to what was approved. i.e. Pedestrian circulation. 
  • Miller:  Where is the city in revising codes on sidewalk, parkrows, and width of streets in smaller subdivisions? And; where is the city in promoting mixed housing in subdivisions perhaps 5 units per acre? 
  • Dawkins:  Street standards for subdivisions and why are some designed beyond what is needed. 
  • Brown:  Are we a small town or a town that is small? And; public engagement, how do we address people’s concerns.
  • Midlin:  Pedestrian access neighborhoods. And; infill planning, what does that mean and how do we move forward.
 
D.    Other Business
Commissioners noted the value of CitySource in getting information about the City to the public and noted that the electronic version of resident’s Utility Bill should include a link to the current CitySource.  
New commissioners: It was noted that the Mayor is in the process of selecting new commissioners from applications received. 
 
ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 9:22 PM.
 

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