Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Regular Meeting

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

AUGUST 12, 2003

Chair Russ Chapman called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. Other Commissioners present were Dave Dotterrer, Mike Morris, Ray Kistler, Colin Swales, John Fields, Marilyn Briggs, and Kerry KenCairn. Cameron Hanson was absent. Staff present were John McLaughlin, Bill Molnar, Mark Knox and Sue Yates.

Chapman reminded the audience of the Planning Commission "drop-in" on Tuesday, August 26, 2003, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Community Development and Engineering Services building located at 51 Winburn Way. This is a time for members of the community to stop by and talk about the planning process, ordinances, growth or other subjects besides planning actions.

There will be a Study Session on August 26, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. at the Council Chambers. The subject will be the proposed areas of growth in Ashland in conjunction with the Now X2 process occurring countywide.

The minutes of the July 8, 2003 minutes were approved as submitted.

The following Findings were approved:
Planning Action 2003-069, 815 and 825 Oak Street,
Planning Action 2003-052, 55 California,
Planning Action 2003-073, 905 North Mountain Avenue, and
Planning Action 2003-068, Winburn Way (Farmer's Market).

PUBLIC FORUM - No one came forth to speak.


Chapman announced that the Planning Commission would take testimony on this action and pass along a recommendation to the City Council.

McLaughlin said the City Council directed Staff to look at the issue of establishing maximum house sizes within the Historic District because of community concerns. Several study sessions have been held with the City Council, Planning Commission and Historic Commission and it was agreed upon to come forward with a specific ordinance. Staff prepared a draft that went through several meetings and reviews, refined it and it is now moving through the process of adoption.

The basic premise of the ordinance is that it establishes a maximum permitted floor area for houses within the Historic District relating to the lot size of the property. As lots get larger, houses will stay within a scale that will remain appropriate with the neighborhood. For example, a 5,000 square foot lot has a maximum permitted floor area based on a floor area ratio (FAR) of .42, allowing a 2,100 square foot house. As the lots get larger, the adjustment factor moves down (see Scenarios - table of adjustment factors based on lot areas) and house sizes increase a lesser amount. Staff looked at many houses throughout the Historic District and came up with what they believe is a fair formula. The size limits apply to the primary structure in single family zones. It is not added in with detached accessory buildings. After discussions at the study sessions, Staff has come up with a "relief valve". There would be an opportunity to allow for existing structures that were existing on the date of the ordinance, to add up to 25 percent of the maximum permitted floor area with a conditional use permit.

The draft before the Commission has been reviewed by the City Attorney with some minor changes. Some of the language was changed regarding the conditional use permit process on page 2, under the Adjustment Factor Table. It remains, as proposed, with regard to additions to existing structures. It is 25 percent of the maximum permitted floor area. The previous version was 25 percent of the existing structure. Also included is wording to include Section IV of the Site Design and Use Standards in considering requests.

There is a similar ordinance change for single family homes in the R-2 and R-3 zones. If there is a multi-family development, the floor area can be increased for an apartment complex but it is still at a relatively tight standard.

Knox said the Historic Commission reviewed the draft ordinance and made four recommendations outlined in his memo of August 12, 2003 to the Planning Commission.
1. Move back from .42 FAR to .38 with the 25 percent language referred to above.
2. Re: 25 percent exception. Allow for continued additions up to the 25 percent maximum and apply it to new and existing structures within the Districts.
3. Set a maximum house size (cap) of 3,192 square feet or 3,990 square feet with the 25 percent exception.
4. In multi-family zones consider a higher FAR adjustment factor or CUP exception (35 percent). The Historic Commission felt it was important to balance the need to encourage density and the need to preserve the character of the Districts and still give flexibility. (See Scenarios for examples.)

McLaughlin said the goal in drafting the ordinance was to stop the concern over very large houses and the attempted consolidation of parcels in order to have the ability to build a larger house. The goal has also been to not be so restrictive that the average homeowner in the Historic District will lose the option to do standard additions and changes that have gone on for a 100 years throughout the District.

Swales asked about using the CUP to process exceptions. Conditional uses compare uses and it would seem for an addition, the use of a larger house would be similar, if not identical, to that of a smaller house. Maybe a variance would be more appropriate. McLaughlin said the variance is a tighter process involving unique or unusual circumstances. The CUP process is more discretionary, looking under what conditions is it appropriate, involving architecture, site design and compatibility. It gives greater latitude in allowing a wider variety of issues for discussion. He said they could design a different type of variance process or an exceptions process. Swales does not want to have a CUP process that is too easy. McLaughlin thought since this is a new approach, a little flexibility would be good.

DIANE PAULSON, 156 North Main Street,
said she owns a home in the Skidmore Historic District. She strongly supports this ordinance as a citizen and as a realtor. We are all here because of the charm of the Historic District and it is one of the most valuable assets in Ashland.

DALE SHOSTROM, 1240 Tolman Creek Road, represented the Historic Commission. He read a prepared statement in support of the proposed ordinance that has been made part of the record. He asked the Commission to pass along to the Council a vote of support and recommendation of the ordinance.

JOAN STEELE, 332 Glenn Street, said she served two terms on the Historic Commission. What we have here is a very immeasurably, valuable treasure in the core of Ashland. If people can afford it and are allowed to, they will build as big a home as they can. Eventually, the character will be gone forever. She supports this ordinance.

BRYAN HOLLEY, 324 Liberty Street, said he lives in the Siskiyou Hargadine Historic District. He has concerns about the final language regarding multi-family zones and the fact it could lead to larger scale and more dense building. Someone on the Historic Commission referred to the late Governor Tom McCall's remarks that we want density, not sprawl. Holley said McCall did not say to sacrifice the State of Oregon's Historic Districts to achieve density goals. There is plenty of language in the draft ordinance to give property owners the opportunity to make the changes they might want to make. There were only a couple of Historic Commissioners demanding that the new language be added. It was not an overwhelming majority asking for the new language.

GEORGE KRAMER, 386 N. Laurel Street, stated that Dale Shostrom expressed eloquently and to the point on the generosity of the proposal before them. He would urge the Commission to support the ordinance. He reminded the Commissioners this ordinance only applies to the Historic Districts. He supports the .38 FAR. He supports the changes in the 25 percent exclusion provided they limit the maximum floor area to existing structures and new construction with a CUP. He does not believe the maximum cap is enough. We need to strengthen the disincentive. If someone wants to buy a 30,000 square foot lot or assemble one, one would still get to build as if it were a 15,000 square foot lot. Lake Oswego caps their FAR at 15,000 square feet. It still allows for a generously large house. With regard to the separate 35 percent exclusion in R-2 and R-3 zoning, Kramer doesn't have any problem with the city encouraging increasing density, affordable housing and multi-family housing in the Historic Districts. Don't rely on the zoning to do it. If they pass the .35 exclusion, make it only apply only to R-2 or R-3 projects.

AL WILLSTATTER, 128 Factory Street (now known as Central), said he was the former owner of Twin Plunges that is now occupied by a bank and a food co-op. What used to be a packinghouse is an inn, a cannery that is a woodworking operation. Change is inevitable. He has lived on Factory Street for 34 years. He has requested opting out of the Historic District since 1988. He thinks this ordinance is totally unnecessary and sees no compelling reason for it.


KenCairn said she is not in support of the ordinance but believes it is probably going to happen anyway. She does not believe the R-3 neighborhood in Skidmore should be held to a different FAR standard than R-2 and wants it left at 25 percent, not 35. She just doesn't want to see more ordinances.

Chapman wondered if some of the older districts have absorbed more than their share of density.

McLaughlin said the proposal is for both R-2 and R-3 and following the recommendation of the Historic Commission to increase from 25 percent to 35 percent exceptions under CUP's.

Chapman asked what happens to density in R-2 and R-3 with either the 25 or 35 percent option. Knox said it doesn't affect density at all. It could have an impact on the size of units on average. McLaughlin said you might see fewer units than allowed under the density because the developer might want to get what he/she considers more marketable units.

Briggs said she could see taking the maximum cap to a 20,000 square foot lot. It would only add another 200 square feet of floor area.

Fields feels no one needs a house more than 4,000 square feet. Why not expand this ordinance to include all of Ashland? Whatever works for the Historic Districts ought to be promoted all over Ashland so we don't have this little pocket of density. We could get the scale of the whole town working. His subjective self says, "Let's just do it." He sees the mega-house trend and consumer habits. The sadness is where Ashland is going. It is a class war. It is people who have different values of what is an acceptable standard of living. It seems a funny place to be regulating that kind of war. Some people might not move here because of it and some may be building their houses outside the Historic Districts. The ordinance is a fairly benign step. It is just the aspect of more regulation. The goal is worthy. Fields is moving towards supporting the ordinance just because there is a threat to the whole scale of the Districts. It does not make him happy to see legislating land use in order to solve a class war. If this ever-ascending scale of people with more and more money whose needs are higher and higher are basically changing the physical character and quality of all the neighborhoods, then he sees the City in a position where it is forced to make a stand. He doesn't know what it will look like over time. Maybe it will be appropriate or maybe it freezes these areas and we preserve that scale. Fields said the part of him that is resistant to it is the museum aspect of historic preservation. What makes a town like Ashland incredible is it just kind of happens spontaneously with no regulations. He is pretty comfortable with the scale they have set down but it is getting to be a pretty big house. He believes it is very divisive for people that don't see historic as a sacred thing we have to preserve. Some will only accept that things are going to change. It is a tough position to be sitting in the community and deciding the balance of the community. It is really a value-class thing and makes us weigh in and take a stand to keep Ashland special. He's willing to do that.

Swales supports the ordinance and agrees with Fields. The pressure is there. He believes the ordinance is very generous. He is in favor of dropping back to the .38 in light of the 25 percent exception. He would like to see the 35 percent in the R-2 and R-3 dropped back to 25 percent.

Chapman supports the ordinance. He believes it is a reasonable and modest proposal. If you look at historic districts around the country, the regulatory environment can be far more stringent than what is proposed tonight. He thinks it is more about scale, bulk and size than about class.

Kistler believes most of what people enjoy and see in Ashland on an aesthetic scale was built and developed before we had ordinances telling us how to develop. The more ordinances we seem to get, the less we seem to like the outcome, especially with the more recent ordinances. He does not hear a community outcry for this ordinance, however, in spite of that, he still supports the ordinances. Scale and mass are a lot more important to the quality neighborhoods than getting involved in knit-picking window trim styles, etc. He supports the cap. He does not know why the issue of mass, scale and bulk is an issue that stops at the line of the Historic Districts. What's bad for mass and scale in the Historic Districts, is just as improper two feet outside the Districts.

Morris did not fully support the ordinance originally until he started looking around at areas that should not have big houses. He supports the ordinance with the recommendation of the maximum cap and changing the FAR back to .38. He noted that Willstatter bought the house he grew up in and could probably attest to the fact that years ago they would almost pay someone to develop in the Railroad District. It was run down and almost abandoned. There needs to be some control of what goes into these areas to retain the character they have. He believes outside the historic areas, they ought to be allowed to evolve.

Dotterrer said what strikes him is the diversity of the Historic District. He is concerned with unintended consequences. Sometimes regulation leads to sameness. He feels that people express themselves through their homes. He also thinks change is a good thing. He believes a community should allow its citizens as much freedom as possible. He favors placing some limitations on the sizes. He does not support going to .38. He wants to stay at .42. Dotterrer supports the 25 percent exception. He does not believe we should set an absolute cap. He would like to retain the 25 percent option on the R-2 and R-3 to keep it the same for the entire area.

Chapman reviewed the list of Historic Commission amendments. With a straw vote, the Commissioners favored items 1 and 2. On item 3, bump the lot square footage to 20,000 and the maximum square footage to 4,420 square feet with the 25 percent exception. They agreed to leave Item 4 regarding the R-2 and R-3 zones at 25 percent.

Swales moved to recommend forwarding this ordinance to the Council for adoption with the following amendments. The floor area ratio as stated is reduced from .42 to .38. Existing and new construction would be allowed to exceed 25 percent with a conditional use permit. Eliminate the one-time exception. Maximum house size for a single family residence is set at what would be allowed on a 20,000 square foot lot. The exceptions for the R-2 and R-3 zones would be the same as an R-1 zone. Chapman seconded the motion and it carried with Dotterrer casting a "no" vote.


Site Visits and Ex Parte Visits - KenCairn stepped down because of a conflict of interest. The remaining Commissioners made site visits.

The Hearings Board reviewed this application last month and voted 2-1 to continue it to the full commission.

The property description is outlined in the Staff Report. The application involves splitting the property into two parcels and retaining the residence, structures and pool on one parcel on about a half acre and creating a parcel with the bulk of the area closer to Scenic Drive (about 14,000 square feet). The proposed parcel is an odd configuration with a narrow (40 foot) pole area that extends all the way to Strawberry Lane. The initial application several months ago was for a proposed parcel along Scenic Drive but the configuration made the lot wider than it was deep which would have required a variance.

The main issue raised by the neighbors to the north (Katzen's) is that the initial driveway proposal would intersect their driveway not on their private property but in the right-of-way and they were concerned about a potential conflict of ingress and egress. The applicant has redesigned a separate driveway approach entering from Scenic that does not intersect with Katzen's property.

There was a lot of discussion at the Hearings Board about the grade of the driveway and retaining walls associated with it. As part of a partition, we don't generally have this amount of information. Staff suggested during the pre-application conference that the applicant's agent might show that a driveway is possible to meet the City's driveway grade standards. This does not mean, however, that this will be the final location or grade of the driveway. The slope is in excess of 25 percent and another application will have to be applied for as a hillside permit for design of the home and consistency with the development standards.

The applicant has addressed some of the issues the Hearings Board raised. They are showing a separate driveway approach, indicating the parcel would not require a variance to driveway grade standards. They have illustrated a design for the driveway approach showing a grade of 15 percent.

There were concerns about vision clearance standards upon entering from the driveway onto Scenic. Due to the paving of Scenic Drive, the pine tree identified to be retained, has been removed. This will allow the area to be shaved down and create adequate sight distance.

Another issue was possible driveway access from Strawberry Lane through the 20 foot flag drive area. The applicant's agent has shown approximately three trees that would need to be removed if driveway access is proposed from Strawberry. The applicant did not favor the driveway off Strawberry because of the impacts regarding privacy to his property.

Staff feels this meets the minimum standards for a partition and recommended approval and the changes reflected in the attached seven Conditions.

Swales said it seems you can put a driveway anyplace provided you could put in enough retaining wall. Should we be encouraging this type of development? Kistler commented that if the grade were too steep, they would just tunnel deeper. By the time you get to the parking space, it could be 20 feet down.

Briggs said the Hearings Board recommended that the applicant look at putting the driveway off Strawberry. The two trees in the flagpole area do not look very healthy. It makes great sense to her not to carve into the bank, but to make use of the flagpole with access from Strawberry.

Kistler said he could anticipate the owner selling the lot contingent upon never proving a driveway off Strawberry. Dotterrer suggested a Condition that would give a buyer the option of where to put the driveway.

Molnar said, that at this time, while the proposed driveway is steep with Strawberry less of a grade, the application still seems to meet the standards. McLaughlin said if it meets the standards of grade and access, even if they think Strawberry is preferable, the Commission couldn't deny it. In the past, Staff and the Commission has looked favorably on a variance to locate a garage closer to the street.

LAURIE SAGER, KenCairn Environmental Design,
clarified a couple of points. The driveway is shown for graphic purposes only to show it is possible. It meets the standards. Also, the paving of Scenic will bring it up a little bit in grade, making a driveway slope slightly less. The white oak and madrone could be in the way of a driveway from Strawberry. Vision clearance issues on Scenic will be addressed with the proposed retaining walls.

Dotterrer asked if they were looking at multiple walls. Sager said they would anticipate five foot walls with landscaping in between, lessening the impact of the walls.

Fields wondered if the Commission was approving a lot that would be impossible to develop. Molnar said it is not in conflict with any law, ordinance or resolution.

Briggs believes the application does not meet all the criteria and is in conflict with a law, ordinance or resolution. She does not want the partition and to have all the burden fall on the buyer. McLaughlin said unless Briggs has specific evidence that counters a professional's opinion, they have no choice but to approve it.


Molnar said this was a difficult application to review, but when presented with the geologist's information, it appears to meet the standards.

Swales said the geologist's report does not discuss how this site will handle an extreme cut for the driveway. He is not comfortable with the application.

Dotterrer said we don't have a proposed driveway, just a driveway that shows a possibility.

Morris said it looks challenging, but there is some room to move a building around.

Swales said they asked for a cross-section and did not get it.

Dotterrer moved to approve PA2003-053 with the attached Conditions. Chapman seconded the motion and it carried with Swales voting "no".

KenCairn returned to the meeting.


Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts - Site visits were made by all.

Molnar gave a brief history of the property. The main issue raised by the Chautauqua Trace neighborhood at the initial hearings was the extension of Abbott Street to Clay Street. Neighbors were also concerned about the jurisdictional wetland that will be disturbed to provide the extension of Abbott. To compensate, the Division of State Lands and Corps of Engineers have approved the wetland plan, but have required mitigation in terms of increasing the entire wetland area.

Final plan had administrative approval, but was called up for a public hearing by a neighbor. The neighbor was concerned about adequate provisions for slowing traffic on Abbott. The Council approved annexation with the provision that the applicant would work with Traffic Safety and Public Works and incorporate traffic calming features along the new sections of Abbott Street. They have shown neck-downs and bumpouts at the intersection of the new portion of Abbott Street. The street will be angled to interrupt the straight line of sight along Abbott. Some small narrow medians will be incorporated in the street design. Staff believes this will comply with the Council condition.

The neighbor who requested the hearing is also asking about potential missing conditions from the past approval. Molnar believes there was just some confusion about having two hearings. There were 28 Conditions at Outline Plan, the Council had one Condition for annexation for a total of 29 Conditions.

The applicant has requested 12 town homes on the north side of Dollarhide Way be considered under the less restrictive solar standard. In a project this dense, spacing between units is anywhere from 30 feet to 42 feet and about 38 feet from the backs of units. Staff feels that because this whole project is coming out around ten units per acre with 15 to 19 foot deep rear yards, they did not take a real strong position in opposition to relaxation of the solar request. These are two-story buildings with a gable running north to south. The worst case scenario, if approved as shown, on December 21st the shadow from the peak would run up the south wall of the opposing building approximately ten feet. The shadow won't be wide.

Staff is recommending approval of Final Plan and for the Solar Waiver with 29 Conditions.

RUSS DALE, 585 Allison Street,
addressed the issues of the Chautauqua Trace Homeowner's Association. They have asked for a crosswalk on Abbott and stop signs. He would be happy to accompany the neighbors to a Traffic Safety meeting to discuss this. Dale concurs with the tree plantings as a barrier to Jeff Harpain's house. He concurs with providing trees in front of Ms. O'Brien's. They asked for a solid barrier wall so headlights don't project into Harpain's back yard. He would agree to install a six-foot fence along with landscaping to give Harpain some privacy. As the fence proceeds up closer to the street, it should drop below Harpain's window height so he can view the open space. They have asked for construction vehicles to enter and exit from Clay and he agrees this is a reasonable request.

Dale said they tried to reverse the homes so the shadow casts onto the garage as much as possible. They tried to cut the site so the houses are a foot higher in grade. They have cut and clipped the rooftops to a modified hip.

Briggs mentioned the trees around the parking lot and wanted evergreens. KenCairn suggested a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees to protect the neighbors.

DARREN (with Dale) said they modified the clipped roof. There are garages in between the units that are single story. There is a tremendous amount of up and down. If the Commissioners want a 5/12 hip, they could do that. They are trying to find a balance.

Briggs is very concerned about watering down the solar ordinance.

Dotterrer asked how far the medians would go. Molnar said about ten to 15 feet.

JAVIER STREB, 2356 Abbott Avenue, Chautauqua Trace Homeowner's Association board member, said he submitted a letter to Russ Dale concerning safety concerns of the neighborhood. They have stop signs, yield signs or speed signs. They have narrow intersections with a chance for collisions. There are many children living on Abbott. He is concerned that surrounding neighborhoods will use Abbott to cut through to Clay or Tolman Creek Road, thus increasing traffic on Abbott.

KenCairn wondered if the Commission has a way to require changes to Chautauqua Trace as a result of the new project. Molnar did not think so. If there is a problem to be remedied in Chautauqua Trace, they need to work with the City.

Dotterrer said it has been his experience that with parking allowed on both sides of a narrower street, traffic will slow considerably. The neighbors can work with Traffic Safety.

JOYCE WOODS, 2308 Abbott Avenue, wants to ensure the safety of Chautauqua Trace residents. With regard to the missing Conditions, Molnar was correct. Woods said a good part of the Council discussion surrounded traffic safety. The original wording of the motion was to address improving the old Abbott Avenue. One of the residents in the audience spoke up at that meeting and said "East Village". Councilor Hearn changed his motion from making traffic improvements on Abbott Avenue to making traffic improvements in East Village. That is what passed. Woods said they would ask for mature evergreen planting and a retaining wall. They have talked with Dale about it but there is nothing in writing. There is not a Condition.

WILLOW DEAN, 55 Brooks, P. O. Box 334, said she would ask the Planning Commission to encourage Traffic Safety to install crosswalks at the very least. The residents have already been working on this for a long time. Dean made a statement of conscience regarding treatment of the wetlands in the city. She would like to have seen this wetland bridged. Mitigation ponds will be constructed that will never be true wetlands. She would ask the Commissioners to do whatever is within their power to preserve the wetlands that are left.

GLEN COOPER, 3096 Calle Rosales, Santa Barabara, CA, owns the property south of this property. He wanted the Commissioners to know that he and Dale have not come to an agreement on the boundary between their properties yet.

Molnar said Staff would just want to make sure densities still work out. Otherwise, Dale would have to propose another affordable unit or drop a unit.

DALE is amenable to Cooper's concerns. He is also willing to do whatever it takes to reduce the solar shadow but needs a little flexibility. He is willing to go to the Traffic Safety Commission with the neighbors and support them in accomplishing what they want to do.


Fields suggested wording of Condition 30, that all solar shadows for the townhomes shall reduce solar impact by the maximum amount by reducing the roof design depth to 5 1/2 to 12. He does want to hold them to an exact number but to minimize the pitch and meet the solar requirement as much as possible. Molnar will word a condition.

Briggs would like to have it in writing about the evergreens so the car headlights won't shine into homes. That wording can be added to Condition 8, alternating deciduous and evergreen trees along the parking lot with half the trees be evergreen.

Briggs suggested adding to Condition 9, to include installation of a six-foot wood fence between the parking stalls and the adjoining property.

KenCairn moved to approve PA2003-072 with the amended Conditions. Briggs seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.

ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 10:55 p.m.

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