Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 at 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilor Laws, Amarotico, Hartzell, Jackson and Hearn were present.
Community Development Director John McLaughlin, City Administrator Gino Grimaldi and City Attorney Mike Franell were also present.

1.     Master Planning in Ashland - Approaches to Address City Council Goals.

Community Development Director John McLaughlin explained that the City Council has adopted a goal to continue master planning of large undeveloped properties in Ashland. The purpose of this Study Session is to discuss the process of master planning in general and to address the issue of master planning specifically for the Croman, North Normal and the Railroad Property. Mr. McLaughlin explained that some of the difficulties with master planning is that it can be time intensive and involves substantial citizen involvement. However Staff believes that it is time well spent and will provide a benefit to the community.

Mr. McLaughlin discussed the Croman site and explained that this was a key area that could assist with the City's future employment needs. Mr. McLaughlin noted that there were very few areas that the City could expand to for future commercial development and stated it was imperative that they use this land in the wisest manner for the community. Mr. McLaughlin clarified that the City Council would have to approve any possible rezoning of this land. He also noted that it was unlikely that one employer would come to Ashland and use the entire site for one use, so it is important that they establish a master plan for the Croman area.

Mr. McLaughlin explained that a master plan should reflect the changing values of the community and should accommodate a variety of uses. He added that the City should not be tied to development pressures. Mr. McLaughlin stated that master planning was a control method used to ensure that the future holds the community's best interest and noted that an example of master planning is the North Mountain Neighborhood. He noted that with the Croman site, a developer has already taken the lead in developing a master plan. It is up to the Council as to whether they would like to displace the developer's effort and move forward on their own timeframe or work with the developer to balance both sets of needs.

Council mentioned the Nevada Street couplet and bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in 2009 or 2010. Mr. McLaughlin noted that they could possibly speed up the process by forming a Local Improvement District for this area. Mr. McLaughlin clarified that another option for motorists is to use Eagle Mill Road and noted that vehicles will most likely continue to use Nevada Street to access Siskiyou Blvd. or East Main St. whether there is a bridge there or not. Mr. McLaughlin noted that the new houses being built in that area are helping to fund the proposed bridge. He also noted that the City could require a developer to pay for the construction of access roads and noted there is a limit on how the area develops until the crossings are established.

Mr. McLaughlin stated that one of the lessons Staff has learned from previous projects it to make sure that they leave room for flexibility, as problems can arise if they make the plan too rigid.

Council commented that there has been no commercial development in the North Mountain area. Mr. McLaughlin clarified that the developer has just begun to develop their commercial space. Opinion was expressed that Ashland needs a place where citizens can buy ordinary things at ordinary prices; a place that is not marketing solely to tourists.

Suggestion was made for the Council to discuss the difference between the Big Box Ordinance and bigger buildings. It was also suggested that the Council look at developing existing areas (such as the Albertson and Safeway Grocery Store sites) into mixed-use developments where they could incorporate housing. Comment was made that the City should look into restating what the Ashland Comprehensive Plan states to accomplish their goals.

Suggestion was made for Staff to schedule more time for the Council to discuss this important issue. Council discussed the City's M-1 (industrial) zone and whether it should be rezoned for a different use. Recommendation was made for Staff to provide additional information on the M-1 zone and its uses. It was noted that the City would not be able to reacquire the M-1 zone after they got rid of it and they should carefully review the possible implications.

Mayor DeBoer stated that he does not believe that a medium level industrial business would come to Ashland and that the City could take away the current industrial land. He noted that single family residential is the most valuable land in Ashland, and noted that they have to be cautious of creating too much commercial space. Mayor DeBoer stated that in order to bring more families with children to Ashland, they need to create bigger lots with backyards and recommended that they stay away from the shared space designs. He suggested that the City identify the infa-structure for the specific areas and then require the developer to pay for the improvements.

Council discussed whether they should displace the developer in regards to the Croman site. Mr. McLaughlin clarified that the primary advantage to working with the developer is the substantial difference in the costs. He noted that another difference was that if the City took over the master planning, they would involve the public from the very beginning, where as the developer is not required to involve the public.

Mr. McLaughlin mentioned that he does not foresee the North Normal neighborhood coming together in the planning process like the Croman owners have done. Mr. McLaughlin clarified that there are some annexations pending with the Planning Department, however they are still at the application level.

Request was made for Staff to compile additional information for the Council, detailing what their options are for each area and if any applications are pending with the Planning Department.

Comment was made that the City should be cautious of the jobs to housing balance and that Staff should assemble a list of the needs for the various areas. Request was made to have Staff complete the groundwork before they begin working on the master planning process.

Opinion was expressed that the City may have made a mistake by not previously acting these areas when they had the chance. Instead of obtaining what the Council desired, they got the exact opposite by not moving quick enough. Suggestion was made for the Council and Staff to act quickly to make sure they get what they want, otherwise people will continue to fill in and develop as they so choose.

Comment was made that there is an urgency for master planning in all of the areas, and that they should not ignore many of they to focus on one in particular. Request was made to have Staff provide a menu of choices that the Council could choose from that would influence the master planning.

Council went around the table and made the following suggestions to Staff:

In regards to the Croman property, the City should allow the owners to continue their work with the master plan. The neighborhood's plan would not move forward until it was deemed acceptable to Staff.
Request was made to have Staff provide an update for both the North Normal and Croman areas, which would give the Council a starting point. Additional recommendation was made to have Staff prepare proposals that reflected the current City documents and the current need for housing and employment.
Request was made for Staff to provide more details on Ashland's needs for each of the identified areas.
Suggestion was made for the Croman owners to continue their work on the master plan. Once something is brought before Staff it could be evaluated to see if it concurred with the City's goals. Additional recommendations were to have Staff inform the Council on which properties are willing to annex into the North Normal area, allow the Railroad District to proceed with its current plans, and reevaluate the City's design guidelines.
Comment was made that the City should proceed carefully with the issue of rezoning, and that the need to provide employment opportunities outweighed the need for single family housing.
Request was made for Staff to provide the Council with additional information and choice points. Additional suggestions were to have the Council further educate themselves about the employment zones and to have Staff provide an update on the Railroad District and then discuss this area further.

ADJOURNED:      Meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant City Recorder

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