Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Special Study Session

Tuesday, February 16, 1999

February 16, 1999

Council Chairperson Laws called the meeting to order at 6:08 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, and Fine were present. Staff present included: City Administrator Mike Freeman, Assistant City Administrator Greg Scoles, City Attorney Paul Nolte, Director of Community Development John McLaughlin, and Public Works Director Paula Brown.

Director of Community Development John McLaughlin gave a brief overview on updating the City’s ordinance concerning riparian areas. Noted that there have been changes at the state level, as the state has adopted more stringent rules concerning habitat, but the City’s ordinance has not been updated in twelve years.

Explained that the objectives of updating the ordinance were: to comply with the state’s Goal 5 requirements; to conform with the City’s Comprehensive Plan; to meet community needs; to address the unique needs of Ashland; and to respond to needs that have been created by new rules at the state level.

McLaughlin discussed the four main areas to be addressed in looking at Goal 5 requirements. The first of these, water quality, relates to the fact that the maintenance of vegetation within riparian corridors helps to improve water quality. With this in mind, staff is looking at ways to update the ordinance that include improving water quality.

The second concern related to Goal 5 is flood management. McLaughlin explained that by restricting development within riparian zones, the City can help to control flood damage and impacts. Emphasized that the current ordinance has good floodplain management controls, which have been nationally recognized, and noted that staff will use additional review based on information available from recent floods.

The third item has to do with thermal regulation. McLaughlin noted that by maintaining tree cover and streamside vegetation, the water temperature in a stream is better regulated. This allows the stream to support a viable population of aquatic organisms.

The fourth Goal 5 concern is wildlife habitat. This is a concern as vegetation types, stream bank, and the treatment of riparian areas provide enhanced habitat for wildlife and influence fish habitat.

McLaughlin briefly discussed the timeline for the process of updating the ordinance. Noted that the staff’s efforts will follow the "Urban Riparian Inventory and Assessment Guide" published by the Oregon Division of State Lands. Inventory efforts will occur from February through May through a grant for inventory with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments. An environmental consultant will also be looking at drainages, storm water, and properties impacted as well. The initial public involvement will begin in April and May. From April to July, actual ordinance development will occur, with ongoing public involvement through an advisory committee and/or frequent public meetings. In August and September, there will be final public hearings and the ordinance will be presented to Council for adoption.

Councilor Fine questioned whether the enhanced terraces option discussed for the restoration of Calle Guanajuato would be allowable under the ordinance to be drafted. McLaughlin stated that the Calle improvements discussed would be allowable.

McLaughlin discussed the riparian inventory and analysis required to more exactly map the drainages in Ashland. Explained that ordinance development will be based upon the model ordinance prepared by the state. Emphasized that the "safe harbor" option will be utilized whenever possible, declaring riparian zones fifty feet from the creek bank in fish bearing streams with flows less than 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), and placing restrictions on any vegetation removal in those zones. Emphasized that because the Callé could not meet this option, the other possibility under Goal 5 is an E.S.E.E. (Environmental, Social, Economic and Energy) analysis. This will be used in the Calle, and other existing areas unable to comply with "safe harbor" requirements, to balance the protection of the stream resource versus the development potential of conflicting uses allowed by the land use ordinance or through historic development patterns. The revised ordinance will provide the means to reaching this balance.

Discussed the "safe harbor" option, again noting that it will be used as much as possible. Explained that lawns will not be able to extend into the riparian corridor, and development, including shoreline stabilization, will be strictly regulated. Blackberry removal will be allowed as blackberries are a non-native, invasive species. Noted that restrictions on any vegetation removal will be strictly enforced, and that this will be a significant change in that it will not allow property owners to maintain the manicured, landscaped creekside areas that they have in the past. Emphasized that this is reflective of a change in values statewide which will likely lead to some conflicts.

McLaughlin explained for Councilor Reid that a 1,000 cfs stream would be quite large. Noted that the Applegate River typically has flows in the 250-300 cfs range, and stated that all streams in Ashland and the surrounding areas would fall into this class.

Councilor Laws commented on the real need for education of property owners living along streams. Suggested that the City will need to explain the ecological reasons behind the ordinance, as well as state law, and noted that this may be best accomplished through neighborhood meetings along each stretch of stream.

Some additional issues identified as needing to be addressed in this process were: an educational campaign, with presentations and a video on RVTV, and an explanation of why a riparian ordinance is needed.

Fine questioned the consequences imposed by the state if the City were to take no action on drafting a riparian ordinance. McLaughlin noted that a moratorium could be imposed on any development actions in riparian areas until the City comes into compliance with state requirements.

In conclusion, McLaughlin summarized noting that the purpose of this revision was both to achieve Goal 5 compliance and to bring the City’s ordinance up to date. Noted that the riparian inventory will be done by City staff, with the assistance of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG) and a consultant. Emphasized that the City will base the revised ordinance on a model prepared by the State of Oregon, using the "safe harbor" approach. Efforts will be made to customize this ordinance for existing areas. Noted that this process will be as stream-lined and efficient as possible, and the City will not need to re-invent the wheel as the model ordinance encompasses all elements necessary for Goal 5 compliance.

Discussion, recommending that the Headwaters Environmental Center be involved in the public process. Freeman asked for confirmation on points that had come up this evening, including the need for an educational campaign, with a video on RVTV, and an explanation of why a riparian ordinance is needed. Also noted the request to involve Headwaters, and to take a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to the educational element of this ordinance.

Assistant City Administrator Greg Scoles provided a quick update on the progress made with the Ashland Public Library project. Distributed a meeting schedule for the advisory committee. Explained the process, and noted how consultants are preparing visionary schematic themes that will be presented at the community workshop.

Scoles handed out a list of the members serving on the advisory committee, including their affiliations. Commented that the turn-out for the first meeting had been relatively low (30) due to the severe weather. Noted that a number of people from the County were represented on the committee. Explained that information had to be sent out to the neighborhood regarding the project, and noted that the project architects were present for open houses during the week following the initial meeting.

The second meeting had nearly 60 participants who helped to develop plans that will narrow down what the dollar amounts involved should be to go out for a bond in the upcoming election. Discussed the best alternatives, noting that continuing refinements will need to happen in the on-going meetings.

Scoles explained that the bond measure would need to be ready to go to the County by March 18, if the bond is to be put on the May ballot. Clarified that the March 16, Council meeting will be a public hearing, and stated that there may be alternatives presented at this meeting, and there will be dollar figures to consider.

Reid commented on how she would have preferred that there be more time allowed to have better relations with the County. Feels that if the County is not on board with this project there could be problems. Emphasized the need to be careful, and stated that she would ideally have preferred more County involvement.

Laws feels that this proposal was fairly complete and presented by a private group, with minimal staff direction at the direction of the mayor. Recognizes that there may be problems with the County which the City Administrator will be speaking to later in the meeting.

Fine questioned whether the firms working on this project were aware of Planning Commission and Traffic Safety Commission concerns over the poor engineering and safety of the intersection at the library. Scoles noted that these issues had been discussed at the workshop on Saturday, and stated that he would mention them again. Suggested that these sorts of issues are less important in the pre-bond stages, and would go through a full planning process as the project moves forward.

Freeman explained that he had a conversation with the County Administrator Burke Raymond regarding Raymond’s concerns over Ashland putting a bond measure on the ballot for the library separately from the County. Freeman felt that there was a consensus reached regarding the County’s concerns, and that the process going on is similar to that occurring under County direction in Medford and Jacksonville. Emphasized that Raymond would prefer to have a County finance staff member on the advisory committee, or at least making sure that the County is kept up to speed on the progress. Further discussions will be occurring on the issue of computers in the library, but Freeman emphasized that he feels there is consensus on how this needs to be approached at the staff level.

Freeman noted that he had spoken to the City Attorney and had been advised that the City has every legal right to do this under the lease agreement with the County. Ashland cannot do anything to increase the operating costs of the library, but because the County has committed to upgrading all library buildings operating costs would be increasing in any event. Councilor Fine requested that copies of the lease agreement be made available to the Council.

Council discussion of whether County approval was required. City Attorney Nolte explained that there is not much to the lease, and it does not represent a typical landlord-tenant relationship. Suggested that it should not have been carried out as a lease from the beginning, but rather an intergovernmental agreement on the operation of the library system. In effect, it says that neither party will impose an increase in cost that would affect the citizens. Scoles explained that because the cost to the citizens will increase County wide, the City’s initiation of the planning process is acceptable. Nolte stated that this was a classic case where no Council could make a decision that would be binding on future Councils.

Noted that this issue will need to be addressed, along with the ownership of the adjacent property.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:00 p.m.

Submitted by Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer

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