Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

May 17, 2000
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Council chairperson Steve Hauck called the meeting to order at 12:04 p.m.

Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, Hanson and Fine were present. Staff present included City Administrator Mike Freeman, City Attorney Paul Nolte and Director of Community Development John McLaughlin. Mayor Shaw arrived at 12:10 p.m.

Ashland Community Land Trust board member Carlus Harris introduced Senior Planner Bill Molnar and fellow board member Larry Medinger. Harris explained that the nonprofit, community-operated organization was incorporated in September of 1999 to provide a sustainable affordable housing program for low and moderate-low income families. He stated that the ACLT, through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies, have been able to purchase land for development of affordable housing.

Harris noted that through work with ACCESS, Inc. the ACLT has been able to garner the assistance of the Institute for Community Economics, the foremost consultant firm for the community land trust concept and the group which began the first land trust, in Burlington, Vermont.

Harris discussed the ACLT program, and noted that they have been able to make home ownership possible for Ashlanders who are at 57% of the area median income. Highlighted the partnership between the City, ACCESS Inc. Housing Development Department, and Key Bank that has made it possible to offer homes at 44% of the average cost in Ashland, with that level of affordability to remain and increase in perpetuity. Noted that the program will also work for rentals and possibly cooperatives. Emphasized that Ashland’s program will be used as the model by the Institute for Community Economics in their fund-raising efforts, nationwide.

Harris stated that the ACLT’s next project is to use $74,000 CDBG funds toward the purchase of land for the development of affordable housing. He explained that ACLT applied for these funds with the intent of negotiating a purchase option through June of 2001 on a portion of City-owned property at 667 North Main Street. He stated that this is approximately a 2-acre piece of property acquired for the purpose of developing a neighborhood park, and noted that the option would allow the ACLT to explore the possibility of acquiring the adjacent property, secure rehabilitation funds, and to explore federal requirements for the use of CDBG funds on this purchase, including historic preservation requirements and the need to consider the presence of lead-based paints.

Larry Medinger, Housing Commissioner and local businessman, presented a map of the area that the ACLT is proposing to purchase and noted that cost to rehabilitate the home built in 1904 would be from $25,000 to $50,000. He questioned the value and condition of the homes on the property. He visually indicated the area they suggest to be used for park purposes and what could be used for private housing.

Reid expressed her desire to create multi-family housing homes instead of single-family housing. Medinger noted that there is multi-family potential, but emphasized the importance of retaining a small town street scape as much as possible on North Main Street.

Molnar noted that in speaking with the Parks Director, there had been discussion of using the area for restrooms for the park to be developed and moving the structure.

City Administrator Mike Freeman pointed out that the property was purchased with open space revenue and that this revenue would need to be paid back into the open space program. Councilor Laws suggested developing alternatives for the use of this land and stated that he would prefer that an agreement with the Parks Department and the ACLT be reached before council action is requested.

Council discussed the possibility of connecting Greenbriar Place with Scenic Drive, closing the North Main access, and providing pedestrian access.

City Attorney Paul Nolte explained that it is not necessary for council to take action right away in transferring this property, but that it would be possible for the staff, Parks Commission and the ACLT to work out a plan before bringing the request to the council.

City Attorney Paul Nolte explained that the competitive bidding changes are being submitted to modernize the competitive bidding rules and bring them in line with recent statutory changes from the last legislative session. Nolte presented the proposed changes: an ordinance revising Competitive Bidding Requirements in Chapter 2.52 of the AMC entitled "Local Contract Review Board"; a resolution adopting rules exempting certain classes of contracts from competitive bidding, permitting requests for proposals and repealing Resolution LCRB 93-35; and a resolution re adopting and amending the City of Ashland’s rules for screening and selection of persons to perform personal services and repealing Resolution 94-21.

Fine requested that sequential contracts be included in the bidding rules’ resolution as well as the personal service selection rules.

Nolte stated that a $25,000 contract is too low to justify competitively bidding the contract, but stated that it is up to the council to determine where they want the exemption to be set. Freeman stated those projects less than $75,000 are relatively small and would likely go to local bidders. Suggested that bidding might still be used where appropriate, such as purchasing personal computers.

Nolte noted that he now looks at contracts from $15,000 to $25,000. Nolte further explained that he does not look to make sure proper steps have been taken, such as public noticing, but that he looks to see that the contracts meet legal requirements.

Fine requested including a rule that there needs to be a signed, written contract in place before payment can be made. Confirmed that an exchange of letters would satisfy this requirement.

Discussed the exemption of telecommunication products, noting that it was not the intention to exempt large orders of modems, head-end equipment, or programming, and that this paragraph was meant to apply to the sale of telecommunications equipment by the city.

Nolte noted paragraph six, which stated that the Director of Finance would establish internal procedures for the review of all contracts. Fine noted the Audit Committee’s recommendation to place contract review with the City Recorder’s office. Shaw suggested that the person reviewing contracts should be directly responsible to the Council. Reid noted that the Audit Committee’s request was at the recommendation of the Auditor, as the Finance Director would not have the freedom to criticize his/her supervisor, the City Administrator.

Laws noted that this is a longstanding issue in local and state government, and nearly all model ordinances that he has seen, recommends against the audit function residing with an elected official. Rather, the models propose that the auditing power lie with a person responsible to the legislative body but outside of the administrative chain of command.

City Recorder Barbara Christensen suggested that if a happy medium were needed, this duty could be shared between her office and the Finance Director.

Freeman noted that the auditor’s concern had to do with the fact that there was no database in place to track contracts. Freeman emphasized that this duty should logically lie with the Finance Director, and placing it elsewhere would create more complications than necessary. Fine stated that he believed that the Audit Committee has a different reading of this recommendation, and suggested that review functions be handled by an appointed volunteer with professional background. Fine requested that council review the auditor’s recommendation.

Nolte continued by discussing the Personal Service Selection Rules resolution, noting that on small items a purchase order would be sufficient. Discussed changes being proposed, including the elimination of advertising in a statewide newspaper, the administrator declaring an emergency, and the bidding of non routine legal services outside the City Attorney’s office.

Russ Silbiger/562 Ray Ln/Questioned why personal services and contract review were not included in the first ordinance. Nolte stated that he did not believe these divisions of the state statute were applicable to the local level. Silbiger noted that he had no problem with raising the exemption on contracts to $75,000 but that he has a big problem with raising the personal services contracts exemption to that level. Noted problems in the past with personal services contracts exemptions being overlooked. Suggested that $25,000 should be the absolute maximum exemption here. Also questioned giving the Administrator the power to decide whether there is only one person or entity in the area qualified to provide services. Noted examples of contracts being written after the work was already done. Suggested that the Recorder should be the person to review contracts, as the Finance Director writes some of the contracts and would be reviewing them as well.

Cate Hartzell/881 E Main St./Questioned the change in the advertising notice requirement from 30 days to 14. Nolte clarified that this is what the state does, and noted that the 30-day rule can delay projects. Hartzell questioned whether 14 days notice is acceptable to prepare a bid on larger projects. Also, questioned advertising as only locally. Shaw noted that this simply sets a minimum that local papers will also be noticed. Nolte confirmed that the city can be more stringent than the state, or less stringent, at the council’s discretion. Fine noted that she was also aware of contract work being done before contracts were prepared, and in some cases payment had even been made prior to the contract being completed. Also, questioned the changes made in the auditor’s report from the draft to the final version. Suggested that the Finance Director does not fall under Laws’ model ordinance criteria for being outside the Administrator’s chain of command. Suggested that there needs to be a consistent contract review and reporting back to the council.

Fine voiced his personal discomfort with exempting up to $75,000 for personal services contracts, and suggested that he felt competitive bidding would be appropriate at this level. Shaw noted that this level could be an architectural firm to do design review for a specific project. Director of Community Development John McLaughlin noted that with firms he has dealt with recently, it is hardly worth their time to prepare a proposal at the $50,000-$60,000 range. Freeman noted that up to a certain level, services can be compared by looking at bids informally, without having to go through the formal process of an RFP.

Fine noted that he did not have any issues with the terms of the lease and excused himself due to other business matters.

OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson noted that items for discussion were highlighted. Noted the Festival’s desire for a three-term option on the lease, and noted the Festival’s strong feeling on this issue given the investment being made.

Freeman noted that he and the City Attorney had compared the draft lease to notes of previous discussions and shaded those areas where a consensus was yet to be reached.

Nicholson noted that item #4, "Development of Parking," includes providing at least 140 parking spaces for the public. Explained that this had not been included before, and was shaded for that reason as previously there had been no affirmative obligation on the Festival’s part.

Pointed out that item #12, "Real Property Taxes," had not been previously discussed, but that if laws change and taxes are assessed, the Festival would be responsible for their payment.

For item #13, "Reserved Air Space," Nicholson stated that it may be appropriate to delete this from the lease all together, but that the Festival would want to be involved in the approval process if it is to be retained in the lease. Voiced the Festival’s very significant concern with building affordable housing in this area, specifically with the City selling rights to develop the area above the structure.

Shaw noted that she feels strongly about this item, and is not comfortable with OSF being involved in the final approval. Suggested that there needs to be some level of trust based on history that the city would put in something compatible with the neighborhood. Also emphasized that the street scape has never been restored, and that this could go a long way toward returning a neighborhood feel while adding affordable housing. Emphasized that this might be affordable rental housing for actors at the festival, with a requirement that residents minimize car usage.

Chuck Butler stated that the concern for OSF is the unknown factor, given the sensitive nature of the theater business.

Reid commented on the mention of "office type" construction and she did not remember there being any discussion of "office type" construction. Noted that there could be retail at the street level with residential housing above. Suggested that the OSF Foundation might have an interest in providing housing here, and recommended that OSF look at some pro active involvement here.

Laws voiced his appreciation for the concern that OSF has shared, and stated that all members of this community have the same concerns. He emphasized that the city does have land use laws and zoning requirements, and stated that he could not justify giving additional assurances or protections to OSF.

Meese pointed out the value of the property, due to its location on the OSF campus. Suggested that in the future, OSF would like to become involved in education programs and might like to design classroom or auditorium space at the front twenty feet, so that this property would not be lost to the festival forever.

Shaw suggested taking this one step at a time, as when this was initiated there was no discussion of the airspace, and now it is moving further toward expanding the OSF campus. Shaw pointed out previous statements that the Black Swan theater was for educational programs. Shaw emphasized that the proximity of residential housing to the city core enhances the community and makes Ashland as vibrant and alive as it is. Suggested that at this point, the project be prepared for building and turned over to the city. In the future, if proposals evolve, they can be presented to the council.

Reid noted that she is happy to entertain ideas from the OSF, but suggested that an agreement may require some additional thought on both sides.

Festival representatives indicated their preference for removing the air space item from the lease entirely at this point, with the possibility for dealing with it jointly in the future as Shaw suggested.

Laws suggested that this land is not part of the OSF campus, but that the city is granting the use of city lands to extend the campus. Laws questioned the Festival trying to gain more land by taking this air space. Nicholson stated that the concern is not with using the air space, but simply ensuring that any future use is compatible and allowing them to plan for future development type when they construct the lower levels of the structure.

Discussion, indicating it would not be parking or library construction, but rather two additional floor levels of standard construction. Noted that it would be safer and cheaper to build the foundations for this additional construction now.

Shaw noted that the city wanted to restore the street scape and provide a mixed-use interface to the nearby residential neighborhood. Suggested that giving veto power to the Festival this early on would unnecessarily complicate the relationship.

Laws stated that he would be open to a provision that, in addition to existing regulations, and before the city committed itself to any use of the air space, they would give OSF a certain period of time guaranteed for their input. McLaughlin noted that under the land use ordinance, there would be a twenty-day comment period and the planning action would be a site review for design issues. Meese requested that the city not sell development rights; Hauck noted that an outside developer could be used to develop the units for the land trust.

Nicholson suggested that it be written into the lease that whoever develops the upper levels would pay the proportional share of the cost of preparing the underpinnings for the additional levels.

Shaw encouraged removing this item from the lease. Laws stated that he is not sure if he is comfortable with having OSF own the parking lot. Laws suggested that ownership should go to the city when built, and any charges and fees would go to the city. Shaw suggested a compromise with free parking until 6:00 p.m. with revenue generated between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. going to transit programs or paying for reinforcement of the structure. Reid noted difficulty with making a decision of paid parking at this time. Hauck stated that has not made any decisions yet. Reid agreed that whoever develops the airspace should pay the incremental costs of construction.

Freeman stated that there needs to be further discussion regarding the mentioned concerns regarding air space and ownership and operation of the parking lot.

Nicholson noted the current hope is to add a third, intermediate level of parking with roughly forty additional spaces. The additional cost of adding these spaces would be paid through parking fees. Shaw noted that maintaining multilevel structures are expensive, and she has no problem with paid parking if it avoids burdening tax payers with these maintenance costs.

Hauck suggested that requiring that the structure be able to accommodate additional levels is more than would normally be required in a lease, and as such he would have no problem with fees to reimburse these costs. Laws agreed.

Shaw stated that if the city will have a vested, financial interest because of the parking fees that it clouds the objectivity of the issue at a planning level. Suggested that these decisions would be better dealt with later. Shaw suggested that in terms of the city possibly getting a fee, it should be decided separately from the land use process.

Nicholson explained that it is important to have this settled now so as to allow this matter to move ahead to the Planning Commission. Emphasized that the Festival does not want to get planning approval for a three level structure if they will not have a mechanism in place to pay for the third level.

Shaw reiterated that if the city is receiving a piece of the revenue from parking, it gives the appearance of clouding the council’s objectivity in the land use decision.

Laws suggested that the lease be written to allow fees to cover the construction and maintenance costs. Hauck read from the lease language which indicates that OSF and the City will work together to establish policies for parking. Nicholson emphasized that nothing in the lease gives funds back to OSF; all revenue goes to beefing up the structure or is returned to the city.

Freeman agreed to work further with OSF on the lease agreement and bring a revised version back to the council.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:25 p.m.

Submitted by Barbara Christensen, City Recorder

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