Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, March 13, 2007






MARCH 13, 2007


I.                     CALL TO ORDER - Chair John Fields called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main Street, Ashland, OR.

Commissioners Present:          


Council Liaison:

John Fields, Chair

Michael Dawkins

Olena Black

Tom Dimitre


Cate Hartzell, Council Liaison, absent


John Stromberg

Pam Marsh


Staff Present:

David Stalheim, Community Development Director

Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris


Bill Molnar, Planning Manager

Maria Harris, Senior Planner

Absent Members:


Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

Dave Dotterrer














A.    Distributed a memo from Stalheim to the Planning Commissioners concerning organizational changes.

B.    Distributed a new draft of the Planning Commission Rules based on the changes made at the last study session.

The latest version will be posted to the City’s website.  Public comment and action on the Rules will be heard on Apri10th.

C.  Reminder:  Special Meeting on Wednesday, April 4th to look at some of the procedural requirements in the ordinance. 



Marsh/Dawkins m/s to approve the following minutes:  February 13, 2007 Regular Meeting, February 8, 2007 Special Planning Commission Meeting, and February 27, 200y Study Session.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


IV.           PUBLIC FORUM

[7:08 p.m.]   JOANIE KELLER HAND, 652 Faith Avenue, submitted and read a letter concerning a possible partition of her lot and the interpretation of a flag lot.  Stalheim said he would research this subject and work with Keller-Hand. 


[7:16 p.m.]  ART BULLOCK, 791Glendower, spoke about the package of changes to the City Charter coming before the voters on May 15th, specifically the Council’s apparent power to sell Lithia Park.



            A.         [7:25 p.m.]  PLANNING ACTION:  2006-01787 

SUBJECT PROPERTY: 479 Russell Street

OWNER/APPLICANT:  Russ Dale & Darren LeComte

DESCRIPTION:  Request for Site Review approval for a two-story, mixed use building located at 479 Russell St., comprised of retail and office space on the ground floor and five residential units on the second floor.  The proposed building is approximately 7,762 square feet in size.  The property is located in the Detail Site Review Zone, and is also subject to the Large Scale Development Standards.  


Site Visits or Ex Parte

Dimitre, Dawkins, Stromberg, Mindlin and Morris had a site visit, but no ex parte contact.  Marsh, Fields and Black did not have a site visit or ex parte contact.



Severson reminded the Commission that this is part of an approved subdivision (2003) that already has its infrastructure in place, but it is also extremely close to an existing, established residential neighborhood.  A new drawing was submitted by the applicant this evening.   The applicants withdrew and redesigned the building as a result of the concerns voiced by the neighbors and Planning Commission over a much larger building (2005-2006).  The parking, building height, mass, bulk and scale, and the building footprint have either been reduced or changed as shown on the new proposal.  The proposed plaza space will be 1,340 square feet. 


Despite the changes, many of the neighbors still had concerns primarily with the buffering of the parking area that is elevated in relation to the adjacent residential lots.  Staff concurs that the existing landscaping is insufficient to buffer the neighbors.  As a result, Staff held a neighborhood meeting with the developers and neighbors and a revised landscaping plan that came from that meeting is included in the packet.   Staff has tried to bring the existing landscaping into compliance with the Site Design and Use Standards.  The applicant has shown corrections to the curb to provide for the five foot landscape requirement.  They are proposing four different types of fencing that the neighbors can request.  Staff would still like to see the plant sizes detailed along with estimated costs (Condition 21). 


Severson noted that Donna Andrews owns Lot 5 and was inadvertently not included in the neighborhood meeting.  She has since submitted a letter expressing her concerns with the proposed evergreen plantings along the creek.


Severson discussed the mixed use parking credit.  With the credit the applicant can offer retail space, but without it, they are left with office space for the commercial downstairs. 


Overall, Staff believes the changes made to the proposed building mitigate many of Staff’s concerns.  Severson noted items of concern from Gregorio’s memo


[7:40 p.m.]  Molnar said because the subdivision was created under the Performance Standards Option, there is a requirement to provide at least one parking space for each lot.  Severson said they could potentially work out the parking uses with adjacent buildings.


[7:43 p.m.]   Mindlin wasn’t sure how Lot 5 should be considered or if it does.  Stalheim said they are looking at compliance with the original approval.  There are several cross-easements that end up impacting the adjacent neighbors.  They are just trying to look down the road. 



[7:48 p.m.]  TOM GIORDANO, 2635 Takelma Way, concurred with Staff, stating the project has been reduced in size, mass and scale and he believes the new proposal meets the desires of the applicant and the neighbors. 


DARREN LACOMTE, 1110 Gate Park Drive, Central Point, OR, said they are trying to make the property as flexible as possible to businesses and that’s why they’d like the mixed use parking credit.  With regard to the prominence of the building entrances, they have tried to design the building for one tenant or more and accentuate the entrances accordingly.


[7:55 p.m.]  KERRY KENCAIRN, 545 A Street, said the plaza that’s in the square meets the standard required by the building and the additional square footage is just that much more.  They are happy to provide the required parking spaces.  KenCairn is willing to be flexible in order to accommodate the owner of Lot 5 who does not want large evergreens but will still meet the concerns of the neighbors.  She just wants to meet the buffering requests.  They are planning to chain off the parking spaces adjacent to Lot 5 and chain off the hammerhead. 


KenCairn said the project was planted two years ago and has not been maintained.  With some recent care, some of the plants are recuperating.  She would like to see how they improve before replanting.  They will need to re-amend the soils behind the Gregorio’s.  They will replant anything that is doing poorly.


[8:03 p.m.]  LeComte said there will be potential for live/work situations in the building.   With regard to the entrances, LeComte implied any changes would be minor.  They are trying to make the building evolve with the need.  They are agreeable to livening up the entrances, but they just don’t want one entrance more dominant than another.


KenCairn explained that the evergreen trees are on a lot that is owned by the whole subdivision and are not being proposed for Lot 5.


[8:07 p.m.]  Mindlin asked about the row of evergreens and the City’s screening requirements.  Stalheim cited the following objections:  1) Use lower screening for the people across the creek so they won’t be looking at a block wall, and 2) soften the parking lot, but not necessarily with screening.   


[8:11 p.m.]  ALLYN STONE GREGORIO, 474 Williamson Way, read a statement.  She supports the idea of a staggered fence but the drawing has shown it combined with bushy, healthy vegetation.  It would help if the fence panels could be six inches higher (48 inches, not 42 inches).  The panels would still be at the low end of the height range (five to eight feet tall). 


They have needed screening since 2004 and they are eager to get on with new planting.    Most the plants are in such poor shape that the Tree Commission recommended the developers post a three year bond to insure better maintenance.   They are skeptical about the long-term maintenance of the landscaping.


[8:17 p.m.]  CHERYL BRIGGS, 472 Williamson Way, said the staggered fence at 42 inches is not high enough.  She would like to see a 48 inch high fence that would cover the parking lot above her property.  She favors the staggered fencing and the proposed landscaping plan, if maintained.


Fields read the comments from BILL HOLMES, 357 Starflower Lane.


[8:21 p.m.]  MERA GAGNON, 466 Williamson Way, said the arbors will help tremendously to create a vision of separation.  However, who do they contact when the landscape is not maintained?  She would like to see a maintenance schedule with monitoring. 


Fields read statements in opposition from GARYAND SANDRA POPE MOORE, 482 Williamson Way.   Fields read a statement from EDWARD HUNGRFORD, 456 Williamson Way, opposing a higher six foot fence because of solar access.


[8:35 p.m.]  JANET TUNEBERG, 327 Starflower, sent photos around of her view.  She sees the parking lot, vehicles, lights and everything coming from Russell Drive.  She is not sure chaining off the spaces until something is built on Lot 5 will be that effective because they have no privacy.  Staggering evergreens and sufficient plant material might work, but she is concerned about the maintenance of the landscaping.   


[8:42 p.m.]  SURYA BOLOM, 470 Williamson Way, has a concern with a tunnel-type 90 inch drop creating a space that might trap birds or animals that could never get out.  She believes this area needs to be sealed off.  She wants to make sure her back yard is not used as a garbage dump during construction and suggested some signage.  They would also like signage regarding noise after construction.


Note:  Many of the neighbors expressed gratitude for the neighborhood meeting with Staff.  They appreciated feeling acknowledged and listened to.


[8:46 p.m.]  ARLEN GREGORIO, 474 Williamson Way, said the screening is vital and they would like a 48 inch staggered fence above the asphalt.  He has had an on-going concern with the applicants following through on landscaping/screening maintenance and installation.  Though Gregorio is satisfied with the new landscape plan, he does not want to look at the existing unhealthy plants and wait for the applicants to salvage them.


[8:42 p.m.]   DONNA ANDREWS, 3821 Fieldbrook Avenue, Medford, OR  97504, said she originally chose Lot 5 for her personal residence and business because it had access to the creek, a common area that could be created to give a buffer between the residential and the existing development, and a view of the mountains.  She is disheartened that everything she had hoped to find with Lot 5 has disappeared.  By creating a solid 20 foot wall of evergreen trees, her view of the creek will be eliminated along with access to the creek as well as views of the mountains in either direction.  Her lot has an approximate ten foot yard area.  The building can only be a maximum of 6000 square feet.


Andrews would like to see staggered lower plantings pulled away from the property line to leave light and view corridors. 


9:04 – Break  - 9:10 p.m. – Reconvened


The Commissioners and Staff worked toward creating conditions that would be mutually acceptable to the applicant and the neighbors.


Fields closed the public hearing.


[9:21 p.m.]  Rebuttal

KenCairn recommended they submit a revised landscaping plan and come up with a mix of the same panel treatment as they are using for The Gregorio's.  The panels could be easily removed or they could stay.  The structure can be over 42 inches high mixed with an evergreen shrub.  She is proposing planting eight to ten foot tall shrubs.  She wants to negotiate with the Andrews and the neighbors.


Giordano stated he will be the architect for Lot 5.  He would not want to expend a lot of energy on permanent landscaping until the building is designed.  He also noted that the homeowners’ pay dues that takes care of the maintenance.


[9:30 p.m.]   Morris/Mindlin m/s to close the public hearing, leave the record open for seven days, and continue their deliberation at the April 10, 2007 Planning Commission meeting.  Findings will be adopted at the meeting on the 10th.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


Fields asked that the next two items would be handled together. 


B.         PLANNING ACTION:  2006-02327

            SUBJECT PROPERTY: 117 Garfield St.

            OWNER/APPLICANT:  William Koenigsberg

DESCRIPTION:  Request for a Conditional Use Permit to convert ten existing apartments to ten condominium units for the property located at 117 Garfield St.   


C.         PLANNING ACTION:  2006-02346

SUBJECT PROPERTY: 1880 Ventura Circle


DESCRIPTION:  Request for a Conditional Use Permit to convert four existing apartments into four condominiums for the property located at 1880 Ventura Circle.


Site visits and ex part contacts

Dawkins and Stromberg each had a site visit but no ex parte contacts at both sites.    Dimitre, Marsh, Fields and Mindlin did not have a site visit or ex parte contact at either site.  Morris had a site visit but no ex parte contact at each site.  He watched the video of the last Hearings Board meeting.  Black had a site visit at each site and she contacted John Renz from DLCD to confirm that the City cannot practice a land use policy that eliminates a class of citizens.  Renters are considered a class of citizens who do not choose to own property.



Harris reported the Hearings Board voted two to one to call these two actions up for a public hearing.  She heard at the Hearings Board the following concerns from the members concerning the request for a condominium conversion:

            1.     Impact of livability.

            2.     Impact on supply of rental units.

            3.     Impact of affordability.

            4.     Impact of some kind of community diversity.

All of the above are community wide concerns and difficult to fold into the Conditional Use Permit criteria.  Staff believes the applications meet the criteria of approval with the attached Conditions for each. 


[9:40 p.m.]  Harris said the structure at 117 Garfield is non-conforming because it doesn’t meet the rear yard and solar setback requirements.  There is some question if it would meet the density and parking requirement under the current code.  


Criteria are in 18.104.050.A. 

1.  25 percent of the units must be affordable.

117 Garfield

3 units must be affordable and current tenants will be given first right of refusal (application meets this requirement)

1880 Ventura

1 unit must be affordable and current tenants will be given first right of refusal (application meets this requirement)

2.             The use is in conformance with the R-3 zoning district.  New condominiums are a permitted use in an R-3 zoning district.

3.             Adequacy of public facilities – everything is in place. 

4.             Compare to the target use of the zone.  Specifically, there are seven factors that need to be considered in terms of livability and adverse impact. 

5,             The target use is:

117 Garfield

7.5 units

1880 Ventura Circle

6.8 units


Considering the wide palette of options under which the target use could develop into, the current proposals have no greater adverse impact than the target use of the zone.  There is slightly more traffic for Garfield than the target use of the property and there is less traffic for Ventura.


Staff believes the applications meet the criteria and there are 13 Conditions outlined in the Staff Report for each.


A decision needs to be made tonight.  The 120 day time limit ends in May.  There are two sets of findings – one for approval and one for denial. 


Stromberg questioned whether the applicant for 117 Garfield has met the burden of proof because the building could not be rebuilt as it is today since it is non-conforming.  It seems possible to deny the application based on criteria 7 (other factors found to be relevant) because it's non-conforming and could affect the livability in the target area.  Harris responded that the structure is non-conforming but the use is not non-conforming. 


[9:49 p.m.]  Black stated that condominiums do not guarantee rental units.



BARBARA ALLEN, 131 Terrace Street, stated her application meets the criteria for a Conditional Use Permit.  She is providing the required number of affordable units, however, she would prefer to give the $70,000 to the City to go into a purchase pool so more than one homeowner might benefit.  She has no intention of selling the property currently.


[9:58 p.m.]   TOM GIORDANO, 2635 Takelma Way, (agent for 117 Garfield) referred to the non-conforming structure.  There will not be a change in livability if the project is approved.   He believes they have met the burden of proof.  There is nothing significant in the environmental impact and the target area will not be affected.  The vehicle trips will increase, but it is not a significant increase.  If new units were built today, there would only be one-and- a-half more units allowed and only one more parking space required.


10:01 p.m.  Dawkins/Marsh m/s to continue the meeting to 10:30 p.m.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


JIM BATZER, 131 Terrace, expressed concerns about the condominium conversion ordinance.  He noted that the property right next door (same building design) was approved a short while ago for a condominium conversion.


[10:05 p.m.]  ART BULLOCK, 791 Glendower, believes that both applications should be denied for the same problems:  1) Affordability of rental housing because people living there would have to move (18.104.050C.7 - Other factors found to be relevant).  2)  Rental housing is a class.  Citizens can’t be forced out of Ashland because they can’t afford to live here.   It means the City is not providing all housing types.  3)  The City’s number one housing goal is to increase the supply of affordable rental housing.  These two applications decrease affordable rental housing.  Bullock recommended denial along with specific language that he submitted.


[10:13 p.m.]  Rebuttal - Giordano said if the City denies these applications, the City can be guaranteed they will not have affordable units.  Nothing in the code says ownership has to relate to use.    


Fields closed the public hearing.



Appicello spoke to 18.104.050.A :  “That the use has to be in conformance with all standards…”.  Staff has said there is not a problem with the use.  The second part of 18.104.050.A states “…and in conformance with relevant Comprehensive Plan policies…”  If the Commission denies the applications, they would have to identify a Comp Plan policy and explain how the application does not meet it.


Appicello reiterated 18.104.050.C.7 is a physical standard as per Staff’s recommendation.  The Commission can’t just reach to wherever they want with livability.    


[10:27 p.m.]  Marsh/Morris m/s to approve PA2006-023287, 117 Garfield Street.  Marsh’s comments apply to both applications.  Everyone has expressed their concerns about the retention of rental units and affordability.  The broader policy issues can’t be resolved in a single application.  They can only rule on the specific application in front of them.  Both applications meet the criteria.


Black expressed her concern that by approving these applications, we are removing from R-2 zones commercially available rental units because all of these units could eventually become owner occupied units.  


10:31 p.m.  Marsh/Fields m/s to extend the meeting to 11:00 p.m.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


Dimitre sees both the policy issue and that in the past Criteria 18.104.050.C.7 has been interpreted too narrowly.  We are losing rental housing.  There has been a demographic change in Ashland.  He is supposing that people who cannot afford to put a down payment on a $200,000 condominium can afford $600 rent.  He believes the applicant has not met the burden of proof.


Stromberg said the non-conforming use seems significant.  A CUP is more restrictive.  On Garfield Street, the fact the property does not have the full setback is similar to a coverage issue and as a result the livability has been reduced by having excess coverage.   In this instance the non-conformance comes into play in a way it would not have except for the specific criteria that are associated with conditional use for a condo conversion. 


Morris said the Comp Plan talks about density,  not rentals and lists all types of houThe Council needs to enact the policies.   He cannot see any reason to deny.


[10:41 p.m.]  Fields said the applications clearly meet the criteria.  Yes, we need more affordability and we are losing it.  We cannot just read into a planning action how we want it to be. 


[10:43 p.m.]  Dawkins believes there is a huge difference between owner occupied and rental.  The renter is a whole different person that we aren’t accommodating.  But, we can’t set policy here.  It sadly meets the criteria. 


Morris/Mindlin m/s to call for the question.  Voice Vote:   Approved. 


Morris/Marsh m/s to approve PA2006-02327, 117 Garfield.  Roll Call:  The motion carried with Stromberg, Marsh, Morris, Dawkins, Mindlin and Fields voting “yes” and Dimitre and Black voting “no.” 


Morris/Marsh m/s to approve PA2006-02346, 1880 Ventura Circle.  Roll Call:  The motion carried with Stromberg, Marsh, Morris, Dawkins, Mindlin and Fields voting “yes” and Dimitre and Black voting “no.”



A.         Planning  Action 2006-01784, 720 Grandview Drive, McDonalds – to be reviewed at the March 27, 2007 study session.

B.        Planning Action 2006-02354, N. Main & Glenn Streets, Kistler

Fields noted there had been a request for Reconsideration.  He concluded there had been enough evidence presented at the meeting to disallow the Reconsideration.  His ex parte contact was the request from Colin Swales asking for a Reconsideration.   The substance of his evidence was similar to what was brought up at the hearing.  He had additional historic evidence and similar to evidence that had been brought up at the meeting but just reiterated and expanded.  He had conversations between the City Legal staff and the Planning Director discussing the character and the technical details of handling a Reconsideration.  Fields offered an opportunity for anyone to rebut, but no one did so. 


There were no ex parte contacts by the Commissioners since the last meeting.  Morris/Black m/s to approve the Findings.  Voice Vote:  Unanimously approved.

C.            Planning Action 2007-00091, 165 Lithia Way & 123 N. First St., Archerd & Dresner/Redco

There were no ex parte contacts since the last meeting.   Stromberg/Morris m/s to approve the Findings.  Voice Vote:  Unanimously approved.

D.            Planning Action 2006-02327, 117 Garfield Street, Koenigsberg

Black/Stromberg m/s to amend the Findings, adding the following language:  “ A minority of Commissioners contend that Conditional Use Section 18.104.050.C.7 criteria of material livability includes availability of commercially available rental units in the R-3 zone.  Conversions of commercially availability rental housing to condominium, though it may be investor-owner and rented, does not guarantee that the unit remain as a rental unit because investor-owned condominium when the renter moves out can be sold to an owner occupier, thus removing it from the commercially available rental units.  When commercially available rental units are not available to the class of citizen called renters it is a livability issue, not only for the displaced renters but for the remaining citizens.  The mix of commercially available rental housing to investor-owner or owner-occupied units in the R-3 zoning district is a criteria of livability.” 


Marsh stated she is voting against the motion because the Findings should be reserved for Findings of Fact and not invest political issues or policy arguments they may into Findings.


11:00 p.m.  Stromberg/Dawkins called for the question.  Voice Vote:  Approved.  Roll Call on Black’s motion to add text:  Stromberg, Dawkins, Mindlin, Black, Dimitre and Fields voted “yes” and Marsh and Morris voted “no.”

E.         Planning Action 2006-02346, 1880 Ventura Circle, Allen

Black/Dimitre m/s to approve the Findings with the inclusion of the same statement as above (for 117 Garfield).  Roll Call:  Stromberg, Dawkins, Mindlin, Black, Dimitre and Fields voted “yes” and  Marsh and Morris voted “no.”



The study session is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.


ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 11:15 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by,

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary



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