ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION
APRIL 8, 2003
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Russ Chapman called the meeting to order at 1:40 p.m. Other Commissioners present were John Fields and Ray Kistler. Staff present were Maria Harris and Sue Yates.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES AND FINDINGS
Kistler moved to approve the minutes of the March 11, 2003 meeting, Fields seconded the motion and the minutes were approved.
Fields moved to approve the Findings for PA2003-007 (276 West Nevada - Knox). Kistler seconded the motion and the Findings were approved.
TYPE I PLANNING ACTIONS
PLANNING ACTION 2003-035
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT AND SITE REVIEW TO OPERATE A TWO-UNIT MOTEL. THE PROPOSAL INCLUDES REPLACING THE EXISTING DETACHED BUILDING AT THE REAR OF THE PROPERTY WITH A NEW APPROXIMATELY 485 SQUARE FOOT BUILDING.
665 EAST MAIN STREET
APPLICANT: E. KIRK MCALLISTER
Staff said the Historic Commission had three concerns with this project
1. The design of the new building has a blank wall facing the alley with a hipped roof not matching the main structure, and a side facing the east property line showing windows, but windows are not be allowed
2. Demolition of the existing structure. The Historic Commission believes the applicant should consider rehabilitating the existing accessory structure.
3. The condition concerning paving of the alley. This application would add another section of paving. A neighbor has raised concerns about paving causing increased speeds in the alley.
The Historic Commission unanimously recommended denial of the application and asked the Hearings Board to call the application up for a public hearing. Staff is recommending the same action.
Fields felt because of the unanimous denial from the Historic Commission, it should be called up for a public hearing. He so moved. He would prefer it be heard before the Full Commission. The motion was seconded and carried unanimously.
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARING
PLANNING ACTION 2003-023 (CONTINUED FROM MARCH MEETING)
REQUEST FOR SITE REIVEW TO CONSTRUCT AN APPROXIMATELY 8071 SQUARE FOOT, TWO STORY MIXED-USE (I.E. COMMERCIAL & RESIDENTIAL) BUILDING ON LOT 1 - CLEAR CREEK DRIVE. PROPOSAL INCLUDES A REQUEST FOR AN ADMINISTRATIVE VARIANCE FROM THE CITY'S SITE DESIGN AND USE STANDARDS TO EXCEED THE MAXIMUM FLOOR AREA RATIO STANDARD.
APPLICANT: BENJAMIN STOTT
PLANNING ACTION 2003-025
REQUST FOR SITE REVIEW TO CONSTRUCT AN APPROXIMATELY 9326 SQUARE FOOT, TWO-STORY MIXED-USE (I.E. COMMERCIAL & RESIDENTIAL) BUILDING ON LOT 2 - CLEAR CREEK DRIVE. PROPOSAL INCLUDES A REQUEST FOR AN ADMINISTRATIVE VARIANCE FROM THE CITY'S SITE DESIGN AND USE STANDARDS TO EXCEED THE MAXIMUM FLOOR AREA RATIO STANDARD.
APPLICANT: BENJAMIN STOTT
Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts
There had been no further site visits since the last meeting and no ex parte contacts.
Harris showed a site plan of the project. The main change in Building 1 is that there is now one-third general office and two-thirds medical. The upstairs of Building 1 has been reduced to two, two bedroom apartments. The size is the same. Each building has been reduced by approximately 450 square feet by changing the entry features into alcoves. The parking requirement has been reduced to 25 spaces. The applicant now meets the requirement. The mixed-use credit has been eliminated.
Harris said the Commissioners will only need to make a decision on the Administrative Variance and Floor Area Ratio. She continued, explaining the distinction between an Administrative Variance to the Site Design and Use Standards and a standard Variance. It is outlined in more complete detail in the Staff Report.
Harris discussed briefly the history of the Detailed Site Review Zone and the zoning of this specific site. The Detailed Site Review Standards were established and adopted in 1992 largely in response to Wal-Mart potentially coming into town, the factory outlet stores, and Albertson's. One of the examples Harris used in looking at floor area ratio minimums were the In and Out Burgers being built at that time. They had very little building on site and it rarely met a .35 FAR. At the last meeting, Harris noted, there was some discussion of the history of the FAR minimums and maximums and their intent. Were they intended to distinguish certain districts from other districts? Staff has pointed out that the subject site is part of a larger parcel that was rezoned in 1999 from Industrial (M-1) to Employment (E-1). At that time, it was also brought into the Detailed Site Review Zone and a Residential Overlay was added. Harris handed out the Staff Report concerning that change. The Council had initiated the zone change, the Planning Commission approved it and the Council amended the appropriate maps in accordance with that. Harris said, in the 1991 Staff Report, there was quite a bit of discussion regarding the need for residential units. There was also discussion about having higher standards, particularly because the M-1 zoning is the least restrictive. Therefore, the FAR was put in the Site Review Standards seven years after the standards were adopted and does not appear to be a distinguishing factor since the inception of the zoning.
BENJAMIN STOTT said, with the changes they have made, their project meets or exceeds all applicable requirements and ordinances, including landscape, site coverage, parking and height limitations. The buildings are 32 feet, eight feet below the limit. The only issue is the 50 percent FAR. Staff supported the arguments made last month in support of the Administrative Variance. Staff understands and recognizes the inherent contradiction between the planning goals related to mixed-use in E-1 zoning and the arbitrary 50 percent FAR. Staff recognizes the difficulty in developing mixed-use in applying the maximum FAR. Staff believes an exception to the maximum FAR for the two proposed structures is consistent with the commercial development patterns in Ashland and makes the variety of mixed-uses possible.
At issue with the four criteria for an Administrative Variance is circumstance A - There is a demonstrable difficulty in meeting the specific requirements of the standard due to unique or unusual aspect of the proposed use of the site. Can we agree that the purpose of FAR's within a neighborhood is regulate the mass and scale of buildings in order to achieve desired density? The Railroad Master Plan addresses this issue clearly. He quoted from the plan.
Stott said they would contend that FAR as a mechanism to regulate mass and scale in the neighborhood must do so by considering not just the legal lot size but sometimes the larger neighborhood context in which a lot exists. It must, in some cases, consider the defacto lot size or perceived density. The unique circumstance of these lots is their proximity to a 100 foot wide railroad easement, areas never to be developed. This can affect the perceived relative mass and scale of the proposed buildings compared to the empty space around them. Their argument is developed fully in the addendum. By modestly increasing the size of their buildings, it shows their compatibility to the existing buildings in the area. They are asking for the very minimum variance.
CARLOS DELGADO cited references to state publications about infill and a redevelopment handbook and commercial and mixed-use development. The sources have been developed by the state. The sources specifically cite the administrative variance procedure as needed to have an interpretation of the site design standards. The FAR is one of the tools to help regulate bulk, mass and scale of a building. According to the publication, they would be encouraging a higher ceiling limit, even beyond the 50 percent.
JEROME WHITE believes a smaller building could be built, but in order to have a viable project, why under-utilize the lot? They are not asking for anything extreme. They haven't really reduced the bulk and scale. They took the space out to meet the parking requirement. They have tried to develop this with a streetscape. The buildings don't jump out as being extremely large. He believes they need to look at the greater context of the neighborhood. This is a variance to a design guideline.
COLIN SWALES, 461 Allison Street, said he is speaking as a private citizen. This is the first time viability of a project has been put forth as a criteria for whether it should be approved. That seems irrelevant. It also seems strange to take into the account the dedicated public rights-of-way as being a defacto part of the actual lot. The FAR is clearly defined and specifically mentions legal lot size, not the railroad easement.
Swales said the main issue is the Administrative Variance criteria addressing the proposed use of the site. It does not seem general office with apartments is unique or unusual. The applicants have said the alleyway in the rear is a great disadvantage to them in developing this site. He believes it is a huge benefit both aesthetically for the neighborhood as well as it is practical.
The applicants mention the increased density available to the A Street property and the Plaza in downtown. These are historic neighborhoods developed at the turn of the century and developed as they were because they had a different use. He believes the high density in the historic neighborhoods is not exactly what we are looking for here. He noted the lots along A Street are much smaller than these lots. There is no mention of the FAR's of the Grange Co-op and the hardware store. When there is a mixed-use development as there is along A Street, there is are some open viewsheds and lower rooflines. He feels the applicants are saying the whole railroad property should be developed similar to the one block of offices along A Street.
ERIC NAVICKAS, 711 Faith Avenue, said it seems by creating another commercial zone, there could be long-term, severe repercussions to the city's downtown like the malls have had in other cities. This is a major urban development project with no public space proposed. He would like to see a large public space in the center, allowing buildings to draw off that to meet their FAR requirement. The city has very little public space. The scale of the buildings along A Street is much different than the scale of the proposed building. If we allow variances for larger buildings and then demand two 500 square foot buildings, we can have affordable housing that will not become expensive. He is asking the Commission to reject the variance and look at the whole property and figure out how we can deal with the FAR in relationship to the entire project instead of piece-mealing this out so we can get public space and affordable housing out of it.
Chapman responded that there is nothing in place to require affordable housing.
Chapman said they would like to see the Railroad Master Plan pursued, but until the Council declares a moratorium on development, we can't deny the application in order to wait for the Master Plan to be adopted.
Stott said he would like to have more open space. When they designed this, they tried to have an enormous communal space. If they could get an exception to the parking requirement, they could have smaller apartments. It is not fair to hold this project hostage to unachieved design goals for the city at large. They have tried to comply with the City's goals. Stott noted that Swales has not mentioned what they could do better. They have tried to design their project with a sense of neighborhood. What is to be accomplished by standing against the Variance?
White said one of the overriding concepts is the courtyard that is open to the street and open to the alley. It is not anywhere near 80 percent lot coverage. They have never brought up affordable housing. He has talked with people in the public sector regarding affordable housing and they have said they wouldn't touch the area because of the mixed use. It is too complicated and it is too close the railroad tracks.
Delgado said the ordinances and guidelines have inherent conflicts and cause the unusual circumstances.
White mentioned they would be doing shared parking. Kistler said he can accept the alleyway serving the projects to be included as part of the FAR calculations but not the railroad property.
Harris mentioned not only the affordable housing benefit of allowing residential units, but also transportation benefits (residents close to where they work and shop), eyes on the neighborhood 24 hours a day, and that housing can help carry a building during down times.
COMMISSIONERS' DISCUSSION AND MOTION
Chapman's main concern from the last meeting was the parking. He feels the applicants have addressed this issue and he is satisfied.
Fields said he thinks Swales does not see where the economic viability part of this plan is relevant. All through the Economic Element of the Comprehensive Plan, development is addressed. Good government is concerned with economic development. Where are the community values relating to density? Everything we advocate is for infill and we will not expand our Urban Growth Boundary. He sees the values in conflict with each other. There are a lot of conflicts with the 50 percent FAR. If we don't mean that, the Commission needs to review it. He does not feel uncomfortable that this development is pushing the envelope and that we do have the latitude to approve this kind of development. He believes the community can live with this building.
Kistler said we already went from three apartments in one building to two. Now, in order to help us get closer to one code requirement, we have less density with fewer people living there. It doesn't follow the direction of the goals we are after, but it follows the rules.
Chapman moved to approve PA2003-025 with the attached Conditions. Fields seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.
PLANNING ACTION 2003-018
REQUEST FOR A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT TO CONSTRUCT AN APPROXIMATELY 988 SQUARE FOOT ACCESSORY RESIDENTIAL UNIT AT THE FRONT OF THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 869 WRIGHTS CREEK DRIVE
APPLICANT: JON & DIANA VAN VLECK
Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts
Site visits were made by Kistler and Chapman. Fields did not make a site visit but is familiar with the property.
Harris said this action was administratively approved last month and called up by several of the neighbors for a public hearing. The proposal is to construct an accessory unit on a large lot at the corner of Wimer and Wrights Creek. The lot is zoned R-1-10 and is 23,000 square feet and has the potential to be divided. The existing house is situated at the back of the lot with an access off Wimer Street. The applicant is proposing to build the accessory residential unit at the front area of the lot. The unit is 988 square feet. There are a variety of existing trees on the site and the applicant is not proposing to remove any. Utilities are in place to serve the project. The driveway is existing and improved. Two parking spaces can be accommodated in the drive next to the proposed unit. There is on-street parking on Wrights Creek Drive. The site slopes down from Wrights Creek Drive and the unit will be located in a depression. The roof peak will appear lower because it is lower than the street grade.
Staff believes the application meets the requirements for a Conditional Use Permit for an accessory residential unit. The proposal meets maximum lot coverage, setbacks, size of the unit, and off-street parking requirements.
Harris said there were concerns in a letter regarding storm drain capacity on Wrights Creek Drive. As you travel down Grandview, some of the storm drainage collects by the curb on the street. Harris spoke with our Public Works Dept. and they said there is adequate capacity of the line, however, the problem is the construction of the street.
Harris said there has been a concern raised about a private utility easement that crosses through the area where the accessory residential unit is to be constructed. Staff consulted with the City Attorney and it is his opinion that is a matter not regulated by this land use decision but instead a private matter between the parties.
JOHN VAN VLECK, 865 Wrights Creek Drive, explained the easement. He said the addition of an accessory residential unit will be a nice addition to the front of the property.
PETER GIBB, 435 Thornton Way, said he wants to see the character and appearance of the city preserved. He does not believe this unit will do that. This is a quiet neighborhood of almost exclusively single family residences. He believes this unit will be used for a commercial unit to be rented out and separate. He is concerned because the unit is detached from the house and it is on the street and not hidden in any way. There is not a proposal for additional parking. The Wrights Creek/Wimer intersection rises and visibility is not very good. The addition of this unit would clearly increase traffic at the corner. He would ask the Commission to deny the application.
Fields mentioned to Gibb that the applicant could apply for a Land Partition and the lot could be divided and a 4,000 square foot house built.
KEN KUHLMAN, 421 Prim Street, said he has the same complaints as Gibb. If this were his house, he would not want to have a house in front of his with two cars parked in front. He is concerned the two cars will be parked on the street. He is also concerned about speeding cars coming around the corner of Wrights Creek and Wimer with parked cars on the street. He could not find any other units in his neighborhood.
Chapman read comments from MARGO EMRICH, 820 Wrights Creek Drive, in opposition to the proposed accessory residential unit. The written comments asked the record be kept open for seven days.
Van Vleck is not sure why anyone would think a tenant in the proposed unit would park on Wrights Creek when there is plenty of room in the driveway to park. He has never seen anyone round the corner of Wrights Creek and Wimer at more than 20 mph. The City Engineering Dept. told him no accidents had been reported at the corner over the past ten years. He said the neighbor mentioned having a quarter acre. Van Vleck has over a half acre and if he adds a unit, that would be one unit per quarter acre. Van Vleck mentioned other detached accessory residential units.
COMMISSIONERS' DISCUSSION AND MOTION
Chapman asked if there are any requirements the unit be attached. Harris said there is no specific requirement the units be attached or detached. The CUP speaks to architectural compatibility to the surrounding area.
The record will remain open for seven days (April 15) for comments and the applicant will have three days to submit a rebuttal (April 18). At that time the record is closed (end of the day - April 18) and returned to the Hearings Board for a decision. The Hearings Board will convene prior to the April 22, 2003 Study Session to make a decision.
ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 4:00 p.m.