Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, March 27, 2007






MARCH 27, 2007


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


Planning Commissioners Present:


Housing Commissioners Present:

John Fields, Planning Commission Chair


Richard Billins

Tom Dimitre


Regina Ayars

Dave Dotterrer


Steve Hauck

Olena Black


Aaron Benjamin

Pam Marsh


Carol Voisin

John Stromberg


Absent Members:

Absent Members: 


Liz Peck

Melanie Mindlin


Bill Street

Michael Dawkins



Mike Morris


Council Present:



Cate Hartzell, Planning Commission Council Liaison (arrived 7:10 pm

Staff Present:


Alice Hardesty, Housing Commission Council Liaison

Bill Molnar, Planning Manager



Brandon Goldman, Housing Specialist



Sue Yates, Executive Secretary




[7:00 pm]  Fields welcomed the Housing Commissioners to this joint meeting.    


Before getting to the agenda items, Fields noted the Council had a special meeting recently where they called up a planning action that the Planning Commission had approved with a five/four vote.  Fields touched on several things that have been on his mind including the apparent changing role of the Planning Commission.  In the past, the Planning Commission has been a leader in the state in terms of developing new ordinances, keeping up with growing problems and doing forward-thinking long-range planning.  The decision-making process has become more complicated and complex, making it difficult for the Commission to weigh and balance their different values.  In the past it was rare a Planning Commission decision was overturned by the Council.  He envisions moving more toward a form-based code that will be much more rigid, but can’t help thinking that good planning happens with people making very difficult decisions.  However, adding more regulations, raises the level of complexity, and adds conflict with other things.  He has spoken with Marsh and thought this could be talked about more at the Planning Commission retreat.


Marsh was appalled when she read the Tidings concerning the Council’s action on an item that was just approved at the Planning Commission and the fact that the Council is short-circuiting the public process. She brought it up in case the Planning Commission wished to make a statement.   The Planning Commission’s decision was very specific to the site.  Her hope is that as the Council looks at the appeal, they contain their comments to the specific application and let the Planning Commission take on the broad issue of the setback.  If the Council insists on taking on land use issues themselves, the Planning Commission might as well “pack up their tents and go home.” 


Stromberg went further to say that last year we had the opportunity to start cleaning up a lot of the conflict and complexity.  The Council made what he believes to have been an ill-advised decision in not giving the go-ahead on the update of the Downtown and Railroad Districts and now they are living with the consequences.  We could now have a new revised zoning ordinance with less tension between the development community and the general citizens at large and that would start to remove some technical battling they are dealing with now.  However, he is positive about moving ahead now under the direction of David Stalheim, Community Development Director. 


Councilor Hartzell joined the meeting.






Goldman introduced Steve Ferrarini, Ferrarini and Associates from Oregon City.  His company was hired by the City to conduct the Rental Market Analysis.  Data and findings dated April 24, 2007 were handed out to each Commissioner.  The report has not yet been completed.   The goal is to provide the City with good information so they can develop appropriate policies to address the rental housing market.  He will attempt to put a face on the renters in this community, who they are, what their household composition is like and then have a little understanding of some of the market factors that have been driving the rental market for the last 15 years.  Ferrarini reviewed the statistics he provided.


[7:55 pm]  For Ashland’s purposes, Stromberg wants to know what the real poverty figures are.  How much can a single person get by on, how much does a single mom need to survive on in Ashland?


Ferrarini said there are generalities in the statistics and there are subgroups that aren’t doing as well as the statistics indicate.  The cost of moving into home ownership has grown and rental rates are increasing.  As we look forward, things are going to be more difficult for those who are low income and rent burdened. 


The Commissioners asked for the following information knowing that some of it may not be feasible to obtain.

How many rental units in Ashland?

How many renters in Ashland?

How many condominium units are owner occupied?

How does the increase in minimum wage over the last five years fit into rents?

Is there a way to find out what the demand is for rental units?

How is the information going to be used?  Are we educating people or are we taking action?

Only 204 renters responded to the survey.  Is there a strategy for getting additional information?


Ferrarini said along with the survey, the state has a designed a good housing needs model and they will use that in their next step of the analysis.


Overall, Ferrarini said Ashland has a higher proportion of people who are paying more than 30 percent of their income on rents.  On average the rental market has gotten more affordable, but there is still a large segment of the rental population who is paying too much for rent.


Ferrarini understands there is imprecision with many numbers.  In the end they will not be 100% accurate, but he doesn’t believe it needs to be.  In order to make good policy, it is important to understand and define the magnitude of the problem and what policies can be adopted to address the problems.  This study will provide all of those things for the City.



In the packet is a communication that outlines some issues that have been previously identified by the Housing Commission concerning the current ordinance and specifically, how it provides for affordable housing that’s required.  The Planning Commission saw this in November of 2006.  They outlined the following issues:

Construction timing - how units are brought into a development?

Construction standards – relates to the size of the units (number of bedrooms) and materials used

Distribution of affordable housing that is annexed or requests a zone change

Percentage of affordability - There is currently a menu of options the developer can choose from.  Provide 15 percent of the units to people at 60 percent income or provide up to 35 percent of the units at 120 percent income.   

Cash in lieu fees has been brought up before. 


Goldman provided sample code language specific to Ashland’s ordinance.  The language has not yet been reviewed by the Legal Department.   Goldman said that in developing code language to address remedies, the objective has been to provide a clear and objective path by which somebody could apply for an annexation and have clearly set rules that they could meet and therefore have an approvable application.  But also knowing there is a measure of flexibility that may be addressed if there are physical constraints or other issues that would necessitate an alternative plan.  A series of alternatives have been developed that could be provided as exceptions to the ordinance. 


The Housing Commission will be reviewing the same Council Communication that is in front of them tonight at tomorrow night’s Housing Commission meeting.


Stromberg said the Council can decide on an annexation based on the criteria of whether the proposal is good for the community in general.  He hopes someday the Council directs Staff to create a matrix for analyzing the complete spectrum of cost and benefits to the community.   


Goldman said they’ve established that the minimum square footage of affordable units should comply with the HOME program based on the number of bedrooms.  The HOME program also has a square footage ceiling to qualify for receiving a subsidy.


Marsh favored the Housing Commission looking at some of the alternative options.  She did not see anything that mentions what kind of housing units have to be developed to meet the affordable standard if there is a mix of single family homes, townhouses, etc.  They need some clarity about this because it can make a lot of difference.


Fields noted that developers tend not to know anything about the affordable housing market, but agree to it during a hearing and then they are stuck with having to do something.  He thinks it will come to paying money in lieu of units or dedicating land where the developer can step away from the responsibility of creating it.


[8:45 pm]  PUBLIC INPUT

GREG WILLIAMS, 744 Helman Street, said when a developer is required to do more, and things become more onerous, it will cause the developer to charge more for the other homes because the developer has to make money.  In response to the list of items, Williams had the following comments:

Construction timing –  a good idea, however, include within a three period so it’s not tied to a percentage.  Just state that the affordable housing has to happen within three years. 

Construction standards – if someone is building a more energy efficient home, they might use a different construction process. Should they be required to do that for affordable housing?  He agrees it should be architecturally compatible. 

Distribution of affordable housing – don’t want “the projects” but in Ashland we’re not talking about a lot of units.  Is it really a problem or are we just perceiving it might be a problem?

Percentage of affordability – he applauds flexibility

Land dedication – non-profits know affordable housing.  We need to work with the non-profits. 

Cash in lieu fees – no comment


Stromberg suggested simplifying the ordinance to require giving a certain amount of land to the City.  Then the City can control what would happen to the land.  Hartzell wondered if we could create a zoning category and the land in it would be bound to build rental housing.


[9:00 pm]  BRENT THOMPSON, 582 Allison, said the first Affordable Housing Commission meetings many years ago, established the accessory dwelling unit ordinance.  We should be looking to see how that ordinance is working, asking if we can liberalize it, can we modify it to make it work better for us?  An accessory unit can not only make an affordable unit for a tenant but make it possible for homeowners to cope financially too.  With regard to infill, we have a bunch of little lots centrally located.  He’s always favored the City investigating the potential of “substandard-in-size lot partitions.”   Or, maybe there is room for someone giving a lump sum of money for affordable housing.


The next Housing Commission meeting will be held at the Community Development and Engineering Services Building tomorrow from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.


Hartzell left the meeting. 



PA2006-01784, 720 Grandview, McDonald

Molnar said because of the history of this application, the Findings were prepared by Richard Appicello, Assistant City Attorney.  This application went to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) once on the issue of the building permit.  There were items on the remand from LUBA that Appicello felt needed to be entered into the record.   


Ex Parte Contacts – No one had an ex parte contact.


Black believes the way the Findings are worded, the City is taking on a liability and she considered submitting a minority report because at some point they will say this action compromised access for a whole group of land owners. 


Other Commissioners felt uneasy approving Findings on something that was not discussed at the Planning Commission hearing. 


Marsh/Dotterrer m/s to approve the Findings for PA2006-01784.  The motion carried with Dotterrer, Fields, Marsh and Stromberg voting “yes” and Dimitre and Black voting “no.”


ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned 9:35 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by,

Susan Yates, Executive Secretary

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