Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Monday, September 17, 2007

September 17, 2007
Civic Center Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street

Mayor Morrison called the meeting to order at 5:24 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilors Silbiger, Chapman, Hartzell, Hardesty and Jackson were present. Councilor Navickas arrived at 5:58 p.m.

1. Review of Regular Meeting Agenda for September 18, 2007
Comment was made requesting clarification of information included in the PERF Report; would there be an officer on duty in the contact station who would also visit businesses to talk to people.

Police Chief Terry Holderness explained that a records clerk rather than an officer will be assigned to the contact station to answer questions from the public or notify the Police Department (PD) of any incidents in the plaza area. He noted officers would only be in the area to write reports or take a break and stated the idea of the contact station is to have a police presence on the plaza. He noted the public will have easier access to police officers in the plaza and, in turn, police officers will have the ability to respond more quickly to various situations. He stated the PD has already taken the initiative to visit some local businesses to address any of their questions and/or issues and noted there will be an area commander in the plaza to regularly carry out specific outreach. He commented the Area Commander Program is a long term solution that will address business' rights and responsibilities as well as any perceived problems in the area and possible solutions.

Chief Holderness explained that the contact station will address crime in the area, disorder, and the perception of crime and disorder. He stated crime such as disorderly conduct is significantly disproportionate downtown due to the large amount of people in the area and noted alternative strategies used to address such issues. He added the PD will continue to come up with additional strategies to include more elements. He stated the PD is continuing to gather data on crime rates, police activity and response time (plaza and city-wide), etc., and noted they will compare before and after data once the contact station has been in place for a specific period of time. He stated the PD will also log the actual amount of time officers spend in the contact station in order to keep track of how much time is spent in the plaza. Additionally, he noted it would not be economically feasible for the City to have more than one contact station.

Administrative Services/Finance Director Lee Tuneberg clarified a new resolution for the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) will change the amount of the total grant once the time comes near the end of the fiscal year.

Councilor Hardesty noted the resolution is the City's own making and is not imposed by the state, and she questioned what the figures would be if the City used less than 1/3 of the new revenue. She also voiced her interest in maximizing the amount the City can put into the general fund, as this money could also possibly be used for economic development.

Mr. Tuneberg stated 14.23% of the tax can go towards tourism, 70% of additional revenue goes towards tourism as well and the rest of it goes towards the general fund and can be used for other purposes. He agreed some of the additional revenue could be allocated to smaller grants or used for paying down debt. He stated if the City does not raise the tax rate and wants full flexibility to spend money that is not dedicated toward tourism, 1.3 million dollars could be used on other items, such as funding on-going services.

Mr. Tuneberg explained the different mathematical figures provided on the council communication as well as how they support the different scenarios while also taking state requirements into consideration.

City Administrator Martha Bennett stated that staff would provide the Council with a list of restrictions in accordance with state law, and the different options the City can choose to use the general funds for.

Mr. Tuneberg responded to the question regarding paying off the AFN debt through a balloon payment, that in the past there was an interest penalty, but noted he would look at it again to see if there are any bonding funds available.

2. Look Ahead Review

Ms. Bennett reviewed the schedule with the Council and noted it is subject to change.

3. Economic Development Strategy

City Administrator Martha Bennett stated that the resignation of Community Development Director David Stalheim may affect the schedule of this project.

Councilor Navickas arrived at 5:58 p.m.

Community Director David Stalheim explained the outline for the Economic Development Strategy (EDS) and noted there were three themes of the strategy:
- Preservation and enhancement of the quality of life.
- Creation of a diverse and sustainable economy.
- Improved coordination & process of civic and government sectors.

He identified three major steps to accomplish an Economic Development Strategy:
1) Review existing programs.
2) Develop a strategy utilizing public opinion.
3) Implement the strategy.

Mr. Stalheim stated he put together a list of the following items the Council should take into consideration, as well as major tasks and options.

1) Determine the timing of effort in conjunction with other city efforts. He noted the staff's recommendation is that the City move ahead immediately while taking care not to cause citizen confusion.

2) Create an Economic Development Task Force. The staff's recommendation is that the City develops a 12-15 member Task Force with members who represent the following institutions and interests: City of Ashland, Southern Oregon University, Ashland School District, Small Business Development Center, Rogue Community College, Chamber of Commerce and citizen members, such as business representatives, youth and retired persons.

3) Determine staffing needs. He stated this would require considerable effort to coordinate and noted there is not sufficient capacity within staff to do so at this time. He suggested the possibility of a consultant and staff, as a consultant would be able to research, facilitate and write the strategy. He stated, however, that it's not efficient for a consultant to carry out day-to-day activities such as organizing public meetings, notices and task force contacts, without a part-time staff member. He also suggested the possibility of a new staff position within the City. It would create in-house expertise as well as City leadership and presence on the issues. He noted the cons would include an ongoing budget commitment as well as a timeline to recruit and hire for such a position. He recommended a blend of both approaches over time and noted the strategy would be a $150,000 effort.

Mr. Tuneberg explained funding is an issue and noted $150,000 is cost estimate only of the strategy. He commented there are three approaches the Council can take concerning the issue of cost; raise property taxes, use proceeds from transit occupancy tax revenues, or look at other charges and give the strategy a higher priority by cutting something else out of the budget. He stated $80,000 of the budget has been approved for master planning and could be used towards the project. He noted any money spent beyond this amount would require a revenue stream and added since the timing of the project goes into the next fiscal year; staff can make a recommendation to the Budget Committee to renew the current property tax rate for the subsequent year. He clarified the property tax rate was raised by 4 cents in June.

Ms. Bennett stated that this would not affect Croman, since the City will use a state grant, but the Council will have to wait on using these funds for the railroad property. She also clarified that it is assumed that the city would need to raise almost double the money allocated in the current budget.

Mr. Tuneberg noted if the Council were to add 1% on the tax, they could generate approximately $60,000 for other items not tied to tourism. He stated the Council can consider what other items are lower in priority as well as other charges the Council can assess.

Ms. Bennett stated if there was a strategy to increase tourism the 70% TOT could easily be used, but because this is a broader economic development strategy, it is highly questionable.

Mr. Stalheim stated that that the key is to find staff or a consultant to gather additional input from the public.

Mayor Morrison questioned if the Council, in an ideal situation, would have a completed visioning process for the City and then develop an economic strategy out of it. He also requested additional information on what the potential for duplication and confusion is and how it would be handled.

Mr. Stalheim responded that a good discussion for the Council is to determine what they want and that the visioning should be up front of economic development, a comprehensive plan update, etc. He noted it would be a good process for the community to go through to see how all items relate to each other such as transportation, housing, jobs and so on. He commented that a visioning process is global and stated by delaying the EDS, the Council is only delaying details they will have to address anyway.

Concern was raised on the difficulty of staffing and hiring a consultant. That Council should deliberate in more detail during the regular council meeting. Mr. Stalheim advised the Council to be careful about the actual start date of a new hire to handle the task force so it is not resting entirely on existing staff members' shoulders.

Mr. Stalheim explained that staff had put the comp plan update on hold while waiting for City visioning. He noted the outline for the comp plan has a visioning component but added the visioning process is larger than just the comp plan and included many community activities. He added the goal is to use the city visioning process in step with updating the comprehensive plan update and tie the two together with added coordination.

4. Croman Mill Site - Area Master Plan Project
Councilor Silbiger stated he has a potential conflict of interest and will excuse himself from any discussion. Council will make a formal motion to this effect at the regular council meeting.

Councilor Silbiger left the meeting at 6:29 p.m.

Senior Planner Bill Molnar provided an update to the Council concerning the Area Master Plan Project. He noted that developing a plan within a 4-6 month period in order for the City to focus on areas that are under potential development is an expeditious process. He added the City would need to fine-tune the final product in order to meet zoning requirements as well as the comp plan. He stated the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) would administer the project and added all the required paperwork is administered between pre-qualified consultants and DLCD. He noted local staff has an important role in terms of local project management, and he indicated the consultant selected for this particular project is Crandall Arambula. He provided an outline of tasks, noted the plan was developed by DLCD staff and stated the City is allowed to comment on the outline.

Task 1 -       Information Assembly and Review
Task 2 -       Reconnaissance (tasks one and two are fairly normal with task two generally involving a kick-off meeting, the first of four public works shops.)
Task 3 -       Conceptual Plans (task three requires the development of three conceptual master plans for the area, with one requirement considering economic                       opportunities analysis. The development plan must address issues such as supportable land uses and land use mix as well as the transportation                             system plan and improvements. )
Task 4 -       Concept Review
Task 5 -       Additional Refinement and Review - Contingent Task (tasks 4 and 5 include citizens input resulting in a refined plan for the area based on the                             development of the initial plans.)
Task 6 -       Final Products (task six would be a conceptual area master plan for the site which would indicate proposed land use amendments and possible                           changes to the land use ordinance.)
Task 7 -       Adoption (under task seven, the City is responsible for holding public hearings at which the City may choose to adopt the final report.)

He noted that the project timeline is tentative and that it could be based on the North Mountain Plan; anywhere from 4-6 months to develop. Overall, he stated this is an exciting project and noted the implementation of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Program. He stated LEED has developed a concept to apply to a new master plan. He noted one concept specifically addresses green infrastructure to control some of the waste produced on the site and the importance of considering LEED as far as neighborhood development is concerned. The amount of space dedicated to parking was noted and the various possibilities it provides.

Councilor Jackson requested further information on what kinds of zone changes may be included in the master plan. Mr. Molnar stated the plan does not go into this type of detail and noted this information will be sorted out through a public workshop.

Mr. Molnar explained that the City had created its own custom district during the North Mountain Neighborhood Project based on what came out of the planning process and that this item is relevant in terms of parcelization.

Mr. Molnar stated the list of tasks have not been completely developed but that the State has outlined key participants as; the City, ODOT, RVTV, Bellview School and neighborhood residents.

Mr. Molnar stated a public meeting will be held in November. He also explained the mill site is owned by one family, with a representative representing their interests, and noted there is another owner adjacent to Mistletoe who will be contacted. He pointed out other zoned areas on the map as well.

Meeting was adjourned at 6:51 p.m.

Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John W. Morrison, Mayor

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