MINUTES FOR THE SPECIAL STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
February 19, 1999
CALL TO ORDER
Council Chairperson Laws called the meeting to order at 12:43 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, and Fine were present. Councilor Wheeldon arrived late. Staff present included: City Administrator Mike Freeman, Director of Community Development John McLaughlin, Public Works Director Paula Brown, City Attorney Paul Nolte, Director of Finance Jill Turner, Police Chief Scott Fleuter, and Ann Seltzer.
MT. ASHLAND EXPANSION
Jeff Hanson, Assistant General Manager of Mt. Ashland, provided an update on the Mt. Ashland expansion project. Explained the approval process involved, and introduced District Ranger Linda Duffy of the Forest Service’s Ashland Ranger District to explain the legal process involved. Stated that the Forest Service has an excellent history with the management on Mt. Ashland, and feels comfortable to be in partnership with the current management.
Duffy briefly explained the proposal and possible alternatives (no action, the proposal before Council, or a third option (to be presented at a later date), and noted that the draft environmental impact statement would be available for review in May, and that a decision would be made in August or September.
Pat Acklin, geographer, former City Councilor and member of the Mt. Ashland Association Board, commented on how the City recognized the importance of Mt. Ashland when the citizens stepped in and purchased Mt. Ashland. Commented on the high level of commitment of the Mt. Ashland Association Board. Emphasized how important this expansion is to the Board, that it is in keeping with the mission of the ski area, and stated that they are committed to being fiscally responsible.
Hanson covered the reasons for the expansion: additional novice and intermediate terrain; more opportunities for special programs; the need to compete as a business; and the need to be economically viable in the future. Explained that the expansion would be funded through savings and investment income. Additional funding would come from operational income, and a small capital campaign, but little or no debt would be incurred. Ticket prices would stay low, special programs would continue, and the long term fiscal health of Mt. Ashland would be enhanced.
Emphasized that the construction planned will further develop the area for skiing, with a respect for nature. Noted that part of the project includes new chair lifts and ski trails.
Reid questioned how the new runs and chair lifts will be accessed. Hanson explained that the new area would be accessed by current lifts and ski ways.
Hanson explained the proposed trail designs and construction planned. Emphasized that trails would be located on wide, dry ridges; all native vegetation would remain except those actually cut to clear the ski runs; and the construction methods utilized would be done to prevent erosion and be conscious of the water shed.
Hanson introduced Scott English, of Northwest Biological Consulting, who explained how crossings were designed over creeks and through wetland areas so as to minimize their impact. Explained that the multi-disciplinary consulting team worked with the Forest Service to survey vegetation, delineate wetlands, develop options, and engineer appropriate crossings. Pointed out that they have engineered a bridge design that is the full width of the ski trail, able to withstand a hundred year flood event, and has all supports completely out of the wetland area.
Explained the present and future needs for parking, given the projection for a twenty five percent increase in guests over the next ten years. Suggested that two hundred additional parking spaces will be needed, and stated that construction techniques will be chosen to avoid erosion.
Mark Reitinger, designer with Reitinger & Associates, showed an illustration of the proposed guest services building, which will be designed to accommodate eighty people inside and another eighty on the terrace. Explained that they are looking for a design that has an alpine or European feeling. State that the intention is to design and place the building so it looks as though it has always been there. Pointed out that the 2900 square foot footprint will be a fairly small building, oriented to minimize environmental impact while taking advantage of the available views.
Introduced board member Ron Roth, who noted that he is in the unique position of being a board member of both Mt. Ashland and Headwaters. Commented that he is also a member of the Sierra Club. Stated that he feels that there is a real need for more terrain at Mt. Ashland, as the community has outgrown the existing ski park. Feels that there is a need for additional parking due to the number of kids and groups that are using the runs for special programs. Stated that there will be some environmental impact, but that he feels comfortable with the amount of effort that has gone into planning the wetland crossing and trying to protect the environment. Noted that he does not believe that there will be any future expense to the City.
Fine asked what would happen in the remote likelihood that the ski area were to go broke, specifically questioning what responsibility the City government would have in this instance. It was explained that the Forest Service permit includes the requirement to rehabilitate the land, and the City has a lease that passes the rights and responsibilities in that permit on to the Mt. Ashland Association. Noted that they have increased the contingency fund for rehabilitation from $300,000 to $500,000 for emergency situations. Laws noted that the assets were also thought to be sufficient to cover the costs of returning the land to the condition required by the Forest Service.
Hanson explained for Reid why new trails were being placed on the north side rather than the south side, noting that the north side terrain is better for novices, that there was a desire in initial planning to preserve unique areas on the south side, and the northern exposure is also better protected in bad weather.
Laws commented that the Council would be most concerned with any impact the expansion might have on the City’s watershed. Suggested that the statements by Acklin and Roth, along with Forest Service participation, inspired confidence that the environmental impacts have been minimized.
City Administrator Mike Freeman explained the draft plan that had been handed out. Noted that it listed a policy statement in each area, followed by specific goals to be achieved for each area. Would like to work out policy statements for those goals that have not yet been completed.
Laws requested that wanted to make sure all statements were agreed upon by the Council, and expressed his concern that there were too many short-term goals listed (44 for the next year). Suggested that there needs to be some process to prioritize these goals, and eliminate some.
Freeman suggested going through the items that have not been completely worked through by Council, and then when all items have been addressed going back through to streamline things. Discussed the strategic planning process versus goal setting, with Laws expressing concerns that there are more than forty items to be accomplished in the 1999-2000 fiscal year. Laws also suggested that there is a need to determine whether there is Council consensus on each of the goals.
Freeman suggested addressing the items that have not been discussed first, then determining Council consensus and prioritizing items that need to be accomplished in the next year.
Wheeldon pointed out that many goals related to staff actions, and are not things that the Council will have to address. Hauck suggested that future items merely indicate "Post 2000" rather than identifying specific years, as this will be an ongoing process to be looked at again each year.
Discussed the policy statement under Citizen Participation and Involvement, noting that some work was needed on the wording to emphasize the Council’s commitment to a two-way exchange of information. Reid noted, and Hauck agreed, that item number one was really a part of number two. Wheeldon stated that she would like item number three, public input process, to be given priority. Council asked that item number five be removed. Fine questioned whether item three should be to establish minimum standards for a public input process to be applied for all projects. Council discussed whether an outside consultant was necessary to assist in crafting public involvement standards. Wheeldon suggested that she would prefer a consultant, Reid felt that the goal was satisfactory as presented. Laws stated that it would be better to look to the goals of the Communication Committee’s report. Freeman stated that he felt that at least having some minimum standards in place was important, citing the LID process as an area with room for improvement in the public process, particularly in early on in an LID. Discussed the nature of the public process, and the need to have some minimal procedural parameters in place, and a list of common elements to be addressed, to guide the process toward its intended goal.
Freeman suggested that each Councilor look at the policy statements, particularly those that have not yet been addressed before the full Council, and bring back their input to the next study session at 5:30 p.m. on March 2nd. Discussion of whether Councilors should prioritize items before the next meeting, with the consensus being that full Council should look at the goals first to determine whether they are to remain on next year’s list.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.
Submitted by Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer