Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 at 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Mayor Morrison called the Study Session to order at 12:02 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilor Hardesty, Amarotico, Jackson, Silbiger and Hearn were present. Councilor Hartzell arrived at 12:30 p.m.

City Administrator Gino Grimaldi, City Attorney Mike Franell, Assistant City Attorney Mike Reeder and Community Development Director John McLaughlin were also present.

1.     Charter Review Committee Update.
Charter Review Committee Chair John Enders introduced his fellow committee members and stated that the Committee was committed to the Charter Review process.

Vice Chair Carole Wheeldon noted that the Committee had to change its venue location for the month of May due to conflicts with the Budget Meetings, however they would still be able to video-tape the meetings from their alternate location. Ms. Wheeldon explained that after the Committee provides their final recommendations, the Council will need to hold additional public hearings to determine what they would like placed on the ballot. Ms. Wheeldon asked for the Council's input on how they would like to receive the final recommendations. She explained that the Charter Review Committee could forward their recommendations to the Charter Consultant Tom Sponslor and have him draft the correct legal language and provide this to the Council for consideration, or the Committee could forward their recommendations in laymans terms and then after the Council has made their final decisions, have the Consultant draft the final language.

Ms. Wheeldon noted the discussion template the Committee had prepared and noted that there was a public forum scheduled for Thursday, April 7th at 7:00 p.m. The topic of discussion will be Structure of Government. Ms. Wheeldon informed the Council that it would be their responsibility to develop the vision statement, but noted that the last sentence of the Community Values Statement might be a good choice.

Committee member Pam Marsh explained that the Committee was in the process of conducting an employee survey to gain Staff's input on the Charter revision.

Council questioned the reason for the November deadline and it was explained that if the Charter was not placed on the November ballot, the City would need to hold a special election and that this would have budgetary impacts. Suggestion was made for the Committee to not rush this process solely for the reason of meeting the November deadline. It was noted that this was a very important project and the Committee should give themselves adequate time to make their recommendations.

The Committee clarified that that the initial research phase had been completed and they were now moving into the more public process. They noted the need to heighten public awareness and obtain the greatest participation possible.

Committee member Hal Cloer asked for the Council's input on the way the councilors are elected, whether the Mayor should be allowed to vote and whether the Mayor should have veto power. The Council respectfully declined to answer Mr. Cloer's questions, and explained that it was important for the City Council to remain detached from the process in order to not perpetrate a perception of bias. Suggestion was made that it may be more appropriate for the Committee to gain this input from past elected officials.

In regards to how the Council would like to receive the Committee's recommendations, a consensus was reached by the Council for the Committee to forward their recommendations in layman's terms. The Council will then consultant with Tom Sponslor to develop the final Charter language that will be voted on by the people.

2.     Downtown Plan Process.
Community Development Director John McLaughlin explained that the first two meetings of the Downtown Plan update had been held and that it has become clear that the there is a desire to take a larger, comprehensive view of the entire plan. Given the amount of work currently being handled by the Planning Department, Staff is proposing that the City consider hiring a consultant and forming a Downtown Planning Advisory Committee so that the process can continue. Mr. McLaughlin explained that the Council would be responsible for developing the charge of the Advisory Committee and that Staff expects that the entire process could be completed by December of 2006. Mr. McLaughlin explained that obtaining Council's input at this stage in the process would be very helpful.

The Council discussed the proposed process and several concerns were voiced, including: the cost of the project, the proposed timeline, and having the Advisory Committee preparing the final plan.

The Council made several suggestions, which included:
Addressing the housing goals in the updated plan,
Involving the Planning Commission and selecting a consultant prior to forming an Advisory Committee,
Working from the existing documents to determine what has worked and then build those elements into the vision,
Reshaping the timeline to discussion the foundation first and possibly holding another Study Session in order to prioritize the elements,
Establishing a Downtown Vision first,
Having the various City commissions and committees provide input,
Having the consultant steward the process.

It was noted that there is currently a Council Goal to conduct a visioning process for the entire community and it was questioned if this could be tied into the Downtown Visioning Process. Mr. McLaughlin stated that he saw these two projects as very different. He explained that the Downtown Plan has a vision component; however the overall plan would be more technical than the community wide visioning.

Council expressed support for keeping the Planning Commission involved. Additional support was expressed for maintaining a shorter timeframe. Comment was made that the City needed to decide how to bring the groups together as well as determining which components should be addressed first. Suggestion was made for the City to pick up the process where they left off. It was noted that Staff had collected a substantial amount of material and there was a good amount of public interest.

City Administrator Gino Grimaldi summarized the Council's input and clarified that the Council had indicated that the use of a consultant was acceptable and that they would like to see a reduction in the costs. Additionally, the Council would like to involve the Planning Commission and gave permission for Staff to prepare a RFQ for the consultant.

Suggestion was made for the various City commissions to look at the elements and determine which ones they would like to provide input on. Mr. Grimaldi stated that Staff could obtain the commissions' input and bring this data back to the Council by July or August.

Mr. McLaughlin noted that two different approaches had been mentioned by the Council. The first was to take a step back and develop the vision first, the other was to look at the existing Downtown Plan and work from it. Mr. McLaughlin asked for the Council to clarify which they preferred. One councilor commented that it would be better to start with the vision and then look at the existing plan. Another councilor stated that they should honor what has already been done and noted the need for consistency with what has already been planned and developed. The Mayor stated that he does not agree that there is a conflict and feels that both could be done simultaneously.

Input from the Study Session audience:
Statement was made that in order to have creation visioning, the constraints needed to be taken away.

Suggestion was made for the City to develop the vision element first and then move onto working with the existing plans.

It was suggested that the Council form a sub-committee of the Planning Commission to oversee the process.

Comment was made that the time commitment might be too great on the Planning Commissioners.

Concern was expressed that this process would cost the City $100,000. Additional concern was expressed with handing this process over to a consultant and what the public perception might be.

Suggestion was made for the City to leverage the talents that already exist in Ashland and the Council should utilize the City's available resources before paying for outside help.

Citizen commented that his biggest concern was the lack of communication. It was noted that the information on the City's website was outdated and concern was expressed that this issue was being taken out of the hands of the public. Suggestion was made for the City to keep this process in house.

Suggestion was made for the Advisory Group to steward the process, not the Planning Commission. Additional comment was made that the commitment level would not be the same if the work was outsourced.

Citizen expressed concern that so far the process had only focused on parking issues. Other issues that he felt warranted discussion included: public space, open markets, bulk, scale and development standards.

Comment was made that the Planning Commission should not be handling the vision but rather should only be charged with implementing.

Other Comments
Citizen commented on the Charter Review process and stated that the Commission was running out of gas. He stated that obtaining community input before the recommendations were made was important and stated that they could end up back at square one if the voters don't agree with the Committee's recommendations.

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

Respectfully Submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

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