Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, July 24, 2007




JULY 24, 2007


CALL TO ORDER – Chair John Stromberg 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

Dave Dotterrer

Tom Dimitre


Cate Hartzell, Council Liaison, present


John Stromberg

Mike Morris


Staff Present:

David Stalheim, Community Development Director

Melanie Mindlin

Olena Black


Maria Harris, Senior Planner

Derek Severson, Associate Planner

Pam Marsh


Sue Yates, Executive Secretary













Ø                   Dotterrer found that at the last ODOT interchange citizen's advisory committee meeting, the City of Ashland has veto authority over the design of the Exit 14 bridge.  The representative from ODOT said we do, however, but it doesn’t mean we get ask for whatever we want.  There are certain standards that will need to be met.  Exit 19 is not within our jurisdiction and we do not have control over that interchange, but we can work with the County. 

Ø                   Dotterrer believes the Commission should think about how they work with City Staff during the drafting and preparation of an ordinance.  In preparing ordinances, there are options in state law.  It seems it would be easier to present the options to the Commission and/or the Council and they can decide whether or not to include them.  After the options have been decided, then Staff can write the ordinance.

Stalheim said if there are policy choices, those are the things Staff would bring to the Commission.  Staff always reviews many options and try to apprise the Commission of those options.  The Planning Commission should always feel free to ask for options.

Ø                   July 31st – Kick-off review of the Land Use Ordinance.  Stalheim would be happy to meet with anyone who has questions about the re-writes.  There will also be a workshop on Thursday, August 9, 2007 at the Council Chambers where Stalheim will be available to answer questions and walk through the issues. 



Marsh reported that her home is located on an arterial.  She checked with the City Attorney and she was told it was a potential conflict until we move to take action. 

Dawkins lives on the East Main arterial.


Harris began her presentation by explaining how she did mostly transportation planning during her first few years as a planner in Ashland.  She worked on three award winning plans for the City of Ashland.  The plans were the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan, the Transportation System Plan, and the city Street Standards.  During this time she learned two important lessons:  Mobility is the key to our lives and livelihood and as a result people have strong beliefs, opinions and ideas about how they think transportation should work.  Since WWII, the transportation system has been focused primarily on mobility, especially on automobiles.  In this process, things like bicycling, walking, transit, livability, sustainability, scale, aesthetics, sense of place, have largely been ignored. 


Harris gave the Commissioners a handout from one of her transportation planning heroes, Dan Berdon.  His basic premise is that “Walkability is the cornerstone and the key to an urban area's efficient ground transportation.  Every trip begins and ends with walking.  Walking remains the cheapest form of transport for all people and the construction of a walkable community provides the most affordable transportation system any community can plan, design, construct and maintain.  Walkable communities put urban environments back on scale for sustainability of resources, both natural and economic.  Walkable communities are livable communities and lead to whole, happy lives for the people who live in them.”


Harris covered gave the background, objectives and the process concerning the Arterial Front Yard Setback.  The information is contained in her PowerPoint presentation that has been made part of the record. 


In February of 2007, the Planning Commission put the Arterial Front Yard Setback on a list of short-term plan and code amendments to work on because there have been difficulties in application of the Arterial Front Yard Setback.  There are inconsistencies with other sections of the Land Use Ordinance, and Harris believes there is disagreement about where and to what degree the Arterial Front Yard Setback should be applied, the intent of the regulation and the purpose of the regulation.


According to the ordinance, if a property has a front lot line on an arterial street, new construction can be no closer than 20 feet from that front property line.  The arterials are North Main, East Main, The Downtown, Ashland Street and Siskiyou Boulevard.  The definition of an arterial is taken from the Ashland Street Standards adopted in 1999 and is a “main street.” 


Harris invited the Commissioners and the public to view the maps that have been hung around the room. 


A consistent theme throughout the Transportation Element Goals and Policies is the idea of creating a multi-modal transportation system and balancing it with streets as key public spaces. 


The reasons for setbacks is to influence urban designs, preserve neighborhood character, influence pedestrian environment, provide additional space for future street improvements, buffer uses from impacts and promote efficient land use.



Stromberg read the letter submitted by Ray Kistler, 545 A Street.


Speakers included:

1.             MARK KNOX, 276 W. Nevada Street, read his comments and submitted them for the record. 

2.             GEORGE KRAMER, 386 N. Laurel Street, gave a historical perspective.

3.             COLIN SWALES, 461 Allison Street.

4.             RUSS DALE, 230 Wilson Road.

5.             ART BULLOCK, 791 Glendower, submitted his written comments and a copy of “Of the People, Issue No.4” newspaper.

6.             BRENT THOMPSON, 582 Allison Street.


The key points made by members of the public are summarize below:

  • Keep setbacks only where widening is necessary for bike lanes, sidewalks, etc.
  • Write the rules for what you like; traditional zoning doesn’t do that; wrong code language erodes natural uniqueness.  Sidewalks should be wide to allow for interaction, etc.  Code language is archaic from ODOT standards. 
  • 1998 Downtown Plan proposed moving the zoning across Lithia Way.
  • What is good for the downtown might be good for other areas in the city, such as Ashland Street.
  • Need to do more education on this issue.
  • History of the highways was two lane streets.  To address traffic issues through towns, the state started building couplets.  Built bridge and Beaver Slide.  1956 Federal Highway Act was passed, building a separate transportation network (I-5).  Ashland Street was designed for cars, not people.  Setback is a critical issue for pedestrian comfort.
  • Need more information, such as historic districts, downtown design standards application, traffic counts along arterials; no one has argued that we need more traffic; skinny sidewalks is where you need the light and air (difference between 5 foot wide sidewalk and tall building); bus pullout lanes are needed.
  • There are different conditions in different areas (e.g. historic, residential)
  • City used to worry about how to stimulate downtown.  Regional shopping center project in Medford addressed the need to keep buildings close together.  The closer a building is to the street, the faster it rents.  Whatever it is, make it clean, clear rules.  Need to have a variety of architectural styles.  Public spaces should de-emphasize the private automobile.  No problem with variation, but it is hard to get it approved.
  • Need to address large Comprehensive Plan process first.  Issue is pushed by insiders.  Need to fix Transportation Plan, first, but not until the Comprehensive Plan is done to set the land use. 
  • In E-1 and C-1 zones, they can be reduced from 20 feet to 10 feet.  In downtown, they tend to have wider sidewalks (6 foot sidewalk doesn’t get the job done).  Maybe do it incrementally, starting out with 10 foot sidewalk at first.



  • Regional significance of arterials through city (state role – state highway)
  • Do we need to address other north-south corridors?  What is the ultimate transportation plan?  (Will other routes need to become boulevards?)
  • Is there a way to narrow the conversation down to specific areas?
  • Setback can provide other public spaces, like cafes, plazas, etc.
  • There are conflicts in the code that need to be addressed.
  • Relationship of this discussion to comprehensive plan or downtown plan.
  • Does it matter if it is an arterial street, or is it a use that addresses the setback?
  • Setbacks from property lines might be different because some sidewalks widths are different. 
  • Secret to downtown is to have breaks in the façade line, gradual development.  How Buildings Learn. 
  • Need for alternative transportation doesn’t necessarily mean you need to expand the improvements because there will be fewer cars.
  • Common theme is that we shouldn’t have to address it just as arterials, but by zone or use.
  • Arterials are different because of transportation needs.
  • What are we expecting to happen in the areas before we can proceed?  If we can’t define what we are going to do in these areas, we can’t proceed.
  • Should have City Council direction and authorization to proceed.  No need to spend three months on this if the Council doesn’t want to address the subject.
  • Need to hear more about Transportation Plan.
  • Prioritize parts of the city to address the subject.
  • We already lived through bleak future (mills closing, malls opening).  Energy issue of the future might have to address this issue as well.


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


Respectfully submitted by,

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary


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