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Agendas and Minutes

Tree Commission (View All)

Regular Monthly Meeting

Thursday, April 08, 2004

APRIL 8th, 2004

I. 00 CALL TO ORDER: 7:04 P.M.
Loftus, Jennings, Sager, Nelson, and Stockwell were present. Holley and Uto were absent. Staff present were Assistant Planner Derek Severson and Senior Planner Bill Molnar.
The minutes of February 5th, 2004 were approved with amendments.

The minutes of March 4th, 2004 were approved with amendments.

Randall Hopkins noted that after discussions with city staff, he would like to wait for a formal appeal rather than discussion the Haines application. He emphasized that while he would not be discussing the matter tonight, he had not abandoned the field. Molnar clarified that the Haines findings were to be adopted at the Tuesday Planning Commission meeting, and he explained that by not discussing the matter at this stage it would keep the project and the process clean by not introducing additional materials outside of the public hearing.

PLANNING ACTION 2004-018 is a request for Site Review to construct a two-story, 1800 square foot addition to the existing commercial building located at the corner of Pioneer and "A" Streets at 322 Pioneer Street. The building addition is located on the east side of the existing Gathering Glass Studio (and associated manufacturing area) and consists of 1,050 square feet of commercial space and a 750 square foot one-bedroom apartment. Comprehensive Plan Designation: Employment; Zoning: E-1; Assessor's Map #: 39 1E 09 BA; Tax Lot: 13900.
APPLICANT: Al Carlson and Sandra

Loftus noted that this item had been postponed.

PLANNING ACTION 2004-025 is a request for Site Review and Tree Removal approval to construct a three-story, 37,285 square foot housing facility to serve upper level single students, located at the southwest corner of the Indiana and Madrone Street intersection. The proposal includes an amendment to the approved SOU Campus Master Plan to permit the site to be developed in higher density, student housing. Comprehensive Plan Designation: Southern Oregon University; Zoning: SO; Assessor's Map #: 39 1E 15 BA; Tax Lots: 1000, 1100, 1200, 1201, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700 and 9200.
APPLICANT: Oregon State Board of Higher Education

Loftus noted that he had made site visits.

Molnar presented the staff report, noting that the proposal involved a three acre site bordered by Indiana, Madrone and Oregon Streets. He stated that there were twelve existing single family residences on site, and added that the University wanted to add housing in the northeast quadrant of the site. He explained that this would involve ninety six independent units arranged as quads on three floors with eight kitchens per floor. He noted that there numerous trees on the property, and presented a map with the trees identified. He emphasized that in order to reduce the bulk of the buildings and preserve the views of the neighbors, there would need to be significant grading and retainage.

Molnar discussed the signature Black Oak that would serve as a cornerstone tree on the central plaza, and noted that little was proposed to be done within its drip zone. He stated that nearly all of the other trees would be removed. He added that the draft staff report noted that staff is generally concerned with the removal of this many trees but recognized the need to balance the needs of the University. He pointed out that the adopted SOU Master Plan reflects housing here, but he noted that it is more dense in this proposal. He explained that the proposal makes sense given the proximity to transit and other services.

Molnar noted that the University is requesting a vacation of the alley at Sunrise, and proposing to add a multi-use path. He stated that staff is not recommending changes to the proposed design, and he added that staff likes the fact that the trees adjacent to the neighboring residences are being retained to provide a buffer zone. He pointed out that staff had considered the possibility of modifying the parking proposed to preserve trees, but he added that the grading proposed would allow homes along Oregon Street to retain their views. He concluded that the total square footage proposed was 38,000 with an approximately 13,000 square foot footprint.

Project landscape architect Greg Covey noted that architect Ray Kistler, arborist Tom Myers, and SOU's Bruce Moats were present and available to answer questions. Covey discussed the challenges presented by the grade, and noted that the attempt was being made to orient buildings parallel to contours, with "knuckled" transitions to fit around the contours, while trying to meet setbacks. Covey noted that the desired 5% or less grade in the parking area limits how things can fit. He added that the plan was to save the California Black Oak as a feature for the front plaza. He emphasized that there would be no grading or utilities in that zone and protection measures would be in place during construction.

Myers reported that of the 68 trees on site over 6" d.b.h., 32-37 were being removed. He noted that 6-7 qualified as hazard trees, and several more were in decline. He stated that some other trees could be saved, but added that it would be difficult given the grading and parking proposed. He emphasized that in response to the proposed tree removal, 90 replacement trees were proposed with 22 street trees and 68 more around the site. He noted that the grade change from one corner of the lot to the other was equivalent to the height of the Ashland Springs Hotel.

Myers discussed trees #19 and #26 as the most likely to be saved, and noted that efforts were made to alter footprints to save these two. He stated that the front poplars were in decline and would be hazards. He explained that #12, a Grand Fir, was in decline based on observations of its canopy and he suggested that this was likely due to flathead borers or drought. He stated that it might be possible to rework the grade near #12 to give it a limited protection zone. Myers cited #6 and #7, both incense cedars, in the middle of the proposed drive as the only other substantial trees and he stated that they are quite common on the hill. He emphasized that the applicants had done a good job in realizing the need to save the best trees and not trying to save those that would be effected by necessary cuts. He stated that it was better to plant new trees than to have the preserved trees die and not having replacements required.

Molnar questioned why so many of the trees on the lower half of the site were in decline. Myers suggested that it may have to do with yard care habits of renters or that it may relate to watering limitations during drought. Covey added that the granitic soil on the hillside does not allow for deep watering that trees require.

Sager questioned #26, #28, #39 and #40. She stated that these were larger trees that together tended to create a canopying effect. She asked Myers about the Douglas Fir in particular. Myers stated that it had been topped and was in decline. He added that the Ponderosa was in fair but not excellent condition. He stated that both #39 and #40 were in big cuts. Sager suggested that the clustering had the effect of creating density and serving as a windbreak. She asked if parking could be moved more into the open area to preserve these trees. Covey responded that more drive aisle was needed than this would allow. He stated that they would be planting two more cedars to restore the canopy above the cut and restore the windbreak.

Nelson inquired about the #36 Incense Cedar; Covey responded that it could likely be saved and was worth a try. He added that they would not be able to fully honor its protection zone. Myers explained that it was at the top edge of a cut with a 15' grade change. There was discussion of options to alter the retainage over a short portion of its course to attempt to preserve this tree. Sager asked for a short-run of bi-level concrete masonry units.

Covey explained for Loftus that the parking lot screening would be a layer of shrubs. He emphasized the need to address security issues as well as screening. He added that they would try to buffer the parking from the residences with an evergreen layer.

Sager suggested that tree protection details be included on the plans. Myers stated that he had prepared and submitted this information, and that he would be overseeing tree protection during the project. Sager requested that building permits not be issued until the protection fencing had been verified to be in place.

Covey explained for Sager that two drives were necessary as a fire access requirement. Molnar concurred that the fire protection needs outweighed the additional drives impact as it did not affect many trees.

Covey presented the landscape plans for the site, and discussed details of the corner crossings, access points and vision clearance triangles. He explained that the attempt was being made to provide canopy coverage along the rights-of-way with large trees in order to provide a better streetscape. Sager suggested adding of mixture of larger stature specimens into the planting plan to provide greater variety, particularly in some of the key areas. She emphasized that rarer specimens could also be included as a tie in with the arboretum on campus.

Nelson stated that he would prefer more of a canopy to screen the parking area, and asked that something less pyramidal be considered.

Covey stated that the applicants could bring in plans that are nearer to final as the details were filled in.

Loftus questioned the parking lot drainage. Molnar responded that there may be some on-site retention, and added that McNamara Engineering was still working on those details. He stated that there did not appear to be any subsurface springs present but it was too early to tell. Kistler added that on nearby rental had a problem with water in its basement.

Molnar reiterated the key concerns: look at alternatives to preserve #36; more canopied/less pyramidal screening of the parking areas; removal of the cedars from the center of the parking area; and the addition of some larger caliper trees to increase variety.

Sager questioned #12; Covey responded that it would have impact areas to both sides and that it was already in decline. Sager requested more specific protection and fencing information on the plans and asked that this application be re-reviewed in its final stages. Molnar noted that there would be an opportunity for review as part of the building permit process. Covey agreed to bring in a landscape plan.

PLANNING ACTION 2004-030 is a request for Outline Plan approval for a four-lot (one County lot) development under the Performance Standards Options for the property at 795 Orchard Street. The application includes a Variance to permit more than three lots to have access from the existing private driveway. Additionally, the application includes a Physical Constraints Review Permit to allow some disturbance of floodplain corridor lands associated with Wrights Creek. Comprehensive Plan Designation: Rural Residential and Woodland Residential; Zoning: RR.-5 and WR; Assessor's Map #: 39 1E 08 BA; Tax Lot 500.
APPLICANT: Archerd and Dresner LLC

Molnar presented background information on this application, noting that the driveway would be widened to near city street standards and that the variance was due to the number of units taking access from the already-nonconforming private drive. He explained that staff was discussing right-of-way dedication and the requirement for full street standards. He clarified that the drive is not currently public right-of-way. He explained that the drainage of Wright's Creek flows through the site, and that a Physical and Environmental Constraints Review Permit was required. He added that the disturbance was minor and would be limited to changing out the culvert and some minor widening, with the potential for some fill or armoring. He stated that the applicants were attempting to situate the drives and envelopes in such a way as to reduce tree impacts.

Molnar explained that the current easement does not allow for improvements beyond the site, and making the drive a public street would thus require condemnation proceedings that would concern neighbors.

Ingrid O'Connor/565 Orchard questioned the omission of the large oak from the tree survey. She presented photos and noted that there were actually two trees near the drive of the flag lot. She emphasized that she would like to see these retained as they serve as a buffer with the neighbors and maintain a more rural feel. Molnar stated that at this point the applicant was only discussing improvements to the last house, and the ultimate resolution of the road issue was uncertain. He emphasized that this would come back for review at final plan. O'Connor discussed flooding on-site in 1961-64.

Applicant Evan Archerd suggested that the trees in question may have seemed to be off-site to the tree surveyor. He emphasized that he would attempt to save every tree possible wherever he can. He added that the drive would be going from 16' wide to 22' wide to allow for minimum fire access. Sager stated that she would prefer a plan with an accurate account of all trees on-site. Archerd stated that the primary issue is the variance, and that the project would come back before the commission at final plan stage. Loftus added that he would like to see both the tree canopy and the caliper-size indicated, as well as how much disturbance was proposed. Landscape Architect John Galbraith stated that the driplines had been measured. Loftus asked that flags be placed on site for site visits to give commissioners an idea of the easement centerline.

Molnar clarified that 13-14 trees were being removed in building envelopes, with a few more in the roadway and 1 more on lot 1. Sager questioned how the protection zone of 1052 would be able to penetrate the building envelope. Galbraith explained that pier foundations and grade beams would be used, and hand excavation would be used to protect the root system. Nelson confirmed that a total of 16 trees were proposed for removal. Archerd stated that he would do whatever was necessary to mitigate tree removal, and agreed to provide replacement trees on-site and off-site and donate to the tree fund. Archerd added that trees within the envelopes would not be cut until building began. Sager stated that she would prefer to get the rest of the details of the plan for tree removal and approve the tree removal permit at the final plan stage. There was discussion of the gateway trees and the possibility of constricting the roadway between them. Archerd stated that the easement would be identified relative to these two trees to determine options.

Molnar stated that staff could recommend continuation to allow for tree location on the plan and then propose to adopt the findings at the following month's meeting when the decision was made. He emphasized that outline plan approval could not be granted without the street layout being determined. He added that tree removal permits are not normally finalized until final plan.

A. 0 Goals
1) Tabled - Staffing
2) Education/Outreach - It was noted that a subcommittee meeting had occurred, and suggested that the item be tabled until next month. Stockwell noted that he was confused by the recent article and diagram from the City Source and he suggested that the commission look at redoing the drawing to ensure that it more understandable. Sager discussed goal setting and the suggestion that a list of 4-5 items be brought back to the full commission. Nelson recommended identifying 3-4 total items to do, and completing them before moving on. Loftus suggested that the committee narrow the focus and bring items back to the full group for a vote.
B. Liaison Reports
1) Tabled - Cate Hartzell, City Council
2) January Jennings, Forest Lands - Discussed the forestry work done recently in the watershed.
3) Donn Todt, Parks
C. Tabled - Memorial Tree List
D. Tabled - Heritage Tree Process
E. Tabled - Design Professional Ordinance Amendment.
It was explained that the intent here was to get increased enforcement of landscape plan requirements through Building and Planning. It was noted that the hope was for installers/designers to be required to check off the landscaping somewhere in the process. The ordinance amendment has been written and is in the Legal Department for review.
F. 2004 Arbor Day/Earthday Planning
Conservation Analyst Robbin Pearce discussed the commissioners' upcoming appearance before the City Council and the Earth Day activities that would be occurring in North Mountain Park.
G. City Talk - It was noted that this item was done.
H. Banner - It was noted that Pierce would look into getting the banner for the Earth Day event.
I. Wildlife Workshop
Jennings and Sager noted that the first event would be a tree walk/class at North Mountain Park on May 15th. Sager noted that it was hoped that this would transition into a Trees Through the Seasons class.
J. Current Balance $253.50
K. Other
Members discussed the fact that projects seem to be facing an increased level of scrutiny, and suggested that the commission should feel comfortable requesting additional information prior to making decisions. It was noted that the commission could refuse to hear an item if the plans were inadequate to make a commission, and members questioned whether declining to hear an item might result in the commission losing its input in the process.

A. 0 Annual Site Visits
Nelson and Loftus suggested striking this item. Loftus recommended that in be added in the form of a one-to-two year follow up in the Design Profession Ordinance Amendment. It was noted that issues of concern could be referred to the city's Code Compliance Specialist.
B. Tabled - Commissioner Project Assignments

Sager discussed a letter received from the Schaffers relative to trees being damaged by construction. She suggested creating a response letter and information packet addressing the tree ordinance and tree protection requirements during construction. She noted that the Legal Department would likely want to review any letter to be sent out on behalf of the commission. She clarified that she thought the letter would be sent to the writer of letters sent to the commission, and would provide the writer with information that might be useful in discussions to encourage tree protection. Loftus added that he would like to see a letter to the editor addressing these issues as well.

It was also noted that Thomas Heumann had submitted a letter to the commission expressing concern that a grove of trees acting as a buffer between the Archerd project discussed previously and the neighboring properties was not shown on the tree survey.

The next Tree Commission meeting will be on May 6th, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room.
9:50 p.m.

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