MINUTES FOR THE SPECIAL MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
October 29, 2007
Civic Center Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Morrison called the meeting to order at 5:30 pm in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilors Hartzell, Chapman, Navickas, and Silbiger were present. Councilor Hardesty was absent.
1. Further Discussion of Regional Problem Solving (RPS) Report
Community Development Director Bill Molnar reminded everyone of the issues David Stalheim presented to the Council at the last meeting, including the population allocation.
Mr. Molnar informed the Council that there were two items received this afternoon. He passed these items out to the Council. The first is a letter from Steve Rehn, the second is a packet of information from Madeline Hill and Larry Medinger.
Councilor Jackson arrived at 5:35 pm
Councilor Jackson, as the liaison to RPS, gave a brief overview of the RPS process to date. She also gave an overview of the process related to establishing urban reserves and how, even though in 2003 Ashland decided not to add urban reserves the RPS process does allow for minor amendments of the regional plan to allow up to 50 acres of urban reserves.
Mr. Chapman stated it is his preference that Ashland not have special treatment and not attempt to alter the agreement to allow up to 100 acres. Councilor Navickas agreed.
Council discussed the population allocation issue. Councilor Jackson reminded the group that the population allocation is only part of the County's Comprehensive Plan. Any adjustments would have to go through the County.
Councilor Jackson stated that as part of the RPS process they have a goal of increasing density requirements, particularly when it comes to altering their Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Cities who wish to increase their UGB will need to prove they have already increased the density within their current boundaries.
Councilor Silbiger stated any change to the Council's decisions made in 2003 regarding Ashland's UGB would require an entirely new process and he does not support a change.
Mr. Molnar gave overview of population growth issue.
Administrator Bennett stated that up until about one year ago it appeared Ashland Population was going to grow at the same rate is has for the past several years, which is approximately 1% /year. In the last year, we have actually grown at approximately 2% per year. The County population allocation, however, assumes a growth rate of about .3%. If we continue to grow at 1.5%, we will bump into issues regarding where we grow. The issues we will have to deal with are; 1) was our population allocated to another city? and 2) how do we handle all the restrictions involved with adding land into the UGB?
Councilor Jackson stated RPS is hoping to re-look at the population allocations and the issues it raises. She also stated that, in the end, reality trumps projections. When and if we ask for additional land and can prove the population has exceeded the projections, we can work with RPS on altering the requirements.
Greg Holmes/432 NW 6th Street is representing 1000 Friends of Oregon. He stated he has had the job with 1000 Friends for 5 years and in those 5 years, he has been to nearly all RPS meetings. He is familiar with the amount of work involved and respects those who put in the effort. 1000 Friends does support RPS and the project goals but do not support the current Draft Regional Plan. His stated that his focus is the regional level and part of the organization's concern is that policy established at the regional level will be replicated at the State Level. There is concern that the process is not being done correctly.In the RPS plan, every member of the group has to agree on the project or the project does not go through. There have been several other RPS groups around the state, all of which have failed. However, Jackson County's RPS goals are very different - mostly because it is focused on urban reserves. Most other areas do not focus on, or even have, urban reserves. He gave an overview of how urban reserves are established. He stated that this RPS project is seeking to establish reserves without following the state rules. Specifically, 1000 Friends is most concerned with the RPS decision to deviate from the State statute on the priority (hierarchy) of lands included in an urban reserve. RPS placed too high a priority on agricultural land. He stated in the Draft Report the current plan includes approximately 9200 acres of urban reserves and of those acres, approximately 18% are currently zoned for prime agricultural use.
He stated the cities in the region are growing quite a lot. Yes, there is an opinion that Ashland is not growing, but in reality Ashland is growing - it is just not expanding. He believes this is the fiscally responsible approach.
Mr. Holmes listed four specific issues of concern: 1) significant parts of the plan are based on erroneous interpretation - there are several areas, which would not be able to come into UGB's without the regional coordination. There is no way to justify the growth in certain regional without planning on a regional scale. However, to date, those areas have not been established with the consideration of what is best for the entire region. 2) there are problems with how current lands were established, particularly since industrial and commercial lands were counted together, when in reality those are two very different types. 3) the plan is severely lacking is the planning for affordable housing. 4) The biggest question is who is going to pay for all this - particularly the transportation issues. Transit planning is not matching the increase in density.
Mr. Holmes also noted some issues that Ashland might want to consider, such as; is this actually a regional plan or just a collection of a few members of the regions? Will the state agencies buy into the plan? The State concerns from April have not been addressed. The stakeholders agreement is a challenge as once it is signed there will be great difficulties in altering it - just be sure it is what Ashland is interested in. Ultimately, he believes that not agreeing to the stakeholder's agreement and not approving the RPS plan might relieve some of the issues Ashland is currently facing.
Councilor Jackson asked how else Mr. Holmes sees this happening. Mr. Holmes stated the cities can get together to agree on urban growth boundaries, transportation strategies. The only thing they should not do is jump the farmlands up to the top priority. Jackson County has been discussing the option of going through a process other than the RPS process. An additional difficulty in using the RPS process is that, aside from getting the State to by in, all the various city councils are trying to determine if they are willing to buy into this agreement.
Steve Rehn/285 Liberty Street wanted to give overview of all the comments he has been sending to the Council in the last week. He agrees regional planning is important. We have lots of interdependence between all the various cities. He thinks this plan has gotten to the important elements of interdependence. He believes the primary goal of the group, however, is not the primary problem facing the region. Urban reserve is not as important as housing, transportation, and jobs. Even the current plan process could be useful, however, it has missed the point and has set up the region for more problems. He stated that some believe Ashland does not have as much of a stake as they do not have any urban reserves, however, transportation does affect Ashland. This plan could be transformed into something effective. He believes that to make the plan better, he would suggest transportation, and all the elements that relate to a well functioning transportation system, be included in the final plan. This includes distribution of population, destinations for travelers, etc. High interest places should have high transportation access. Accepting the plan without making sure systems work well could really haunt this community in the long run. These decisions cannot be postponed. Local analysis is not enough - we must be doing transportation analysis on a regional scale. He suggested that Ashland ask for more from this plan.
Madeline Hill/828 Boulder Creek Lane reminded the council that she presented to staff this afternoon her proposal from 2003 to donate free land. She gave an overview of the 2003 reaction from the Planning Commission as well as an opinion regarding the matter from Craig A. Stone and Associates, Inc. She wanted to remind the Council of this history and stated she believes they were given incorrect advice in 2003. She then talked about transportation and her concerns that, for example, of the 70 people who work at Skylark only two live in Ashland. She believes we need to look at both how to deal with those who already live in Ashland and those who live outside and commute here to work. They both need to be recognized when talking about transportation issues. She stated that, when running for office, all the council claimed to be working hard for workforce housing and so she does not understand why she cannot donate her land, which is so close to the Ashland city limits for affordable housing. She believes it would make the cost of building each house considerably less. She wants something in writing as to what this RPS plan does specifically to respond to transportation and affordable housing. Also, she stated she does not understand why affordable housing advocates are not attending every meeting and making themselves known.
Mayor Morrison asked if the Council was ready to make a motion.
Councilors Navickas/Hartzell m/s to submit comments emphasizing the desire to maximize density in future growth, criticizing use of the 18 % of prime agricultural land farm land, setting densities to exceed targets of 7 units per acre, address affordable housing, and prioritizing public transit and a transportation plan which moves away from the automobile. DISCUSSION: Councilor Hartzell wanted to know if Councilor Navickas intended that future growth areas include only those areas in the UGB, or would the density requirements be encouraged in the existing lands? Councilor Navickas would like to maximize use of density everywhere and would like a proportionate shrinking of the UGB based on those density increases.
Councilor Chapman asked if we could strike the words, "future growth" from the motion, so that we focus on maximizing density overall. Councilor Navickas agreed to this alteration.
Councilor Jackson agreed that we should encourage densities to be increased in the existing boundaries. It is better to increase density first in downtown areas, rather than increase only on the edges of cities. She stated that in terms of transportation models and numbers, which are just now being released, those need to be reviewed and understood. She encouraged the Council to have comments that focus on transportation. She objected to the criticism regarding use of prime agricultural land in urban reserves, as the City of Ashland does not understand the regional issues with regard to agricultural use. She stated we particularly do not understand all the issues in the Medford and Central Point areas
Councilor Hartzell would like to leave the exact wording of the letter, who she assumes will be either Martha or Bill, to use the correct language in order to get the general point across that agricultural land should not be used first when planning urban reserves.
Ms. Bennett stated that per the plan we currently have in place in the City of Ashland we only require five units per acre. She suggested the Council consider whether or not we are overstepping our boundaries by suggesting others do what we are not. Mayor Morrison stated we could include in the letter that Ashland should also be improving its density requirements. All council members agreed with this suggestion.
Roll Call Vote: Councilors Navickas, Hartzell, Chapman, Jackson and Silbiger: YES. Motion Passes 5-0
Councilor Hartzell would additionally like something to be included in the letter regarding the cost. She stated that with this plan, we are taking on the burden of new transportation costs, and we are not even particularly expanding. How will the region pay for development of the transportation systems, etc. with the increase in the UGB's?
Mayor Morrison suggested we mention some of our concerns about the population allocation figures in the letter as well. Councilor Jackson reminded the group it is not part of the RPS process to determine or accept the population figures - this is a County issue. Jackson County is responsible for reviewing and updating the figures.
Councilor Chapman suggested we write one letter to Jackson County and one letter to RPS stating our desire for a review of the allocation figures. Mayor Morrison agreed.
Councilor Hartzell asked why the City of Ashland is not a part of the Fragonessi Study. Councilor Jackson stated this is because we have no UGB expansion.
City Administrator Bennett informed the group that if we continue to grow faster than projected, we need to have a conversation with the County about the population allocation. The projection they made for the next 20 years really looks more like a 5-year projection.
Councilor Jackson stated the analysis done was meant to assist the planning. Each City will have to identify and work with their own regulations, reserves, planning, etc. Councilor Hartzell stated she worries that because of that requirement this plan puts it back on the shoulders of each City too quickly without consistent assistance on a regional level. Councilor Jackson stated the requirement of State land use is if the State agrees the region can use this plan, each City incorporates it and works with it in their own plans. The timeframe should be about 18 months between when State agrees to the regional plan and when the Cities implement the plans. Before reserves are agreed upon, they must be master planned so that there is a regional understanding.
Councilor Chapman stated he believes the RPS project is not looking at long range planning - they are instead focused on current issues and requirements. He stated they did not look at the capacity of the valley, alternate transportation options, etc. They did not recognize the future problems and how we can successfully plan.
Councilor Hartzell suggested that idea be worked into the letter. Mayor Morrison stated something along those lines and our support of regional planning should be worked into the letter.
Councilor Hartzell stated she had hoped this would create a dynamic plan focusing on future and alternate issues. She believes this is what Ashland and other areas are really looking for.
Mayor Morrison commented that he has been working on this for longer than any one. He stated that the original idea was to look ahead and identify lands that are important and need to be saved. The process has morphed into a process where cities are staking out their land. Instead of the process, being about identifying what we want to save it has become about what we want to claim. He stated that even though Ashland voted not to expand, one of the benefits of identifying land is we are able to have some control over how those lands get used. By not claiming that land, others will - particularly with the introduction of Measure 37. He advocates gaining control of the urban growth and urban reserve areas - even if we never annex or expand our UGB.
Councilor Jackson stated, with or without the Regional Plan, Ashland needs to respond with what is best for the City. We can do amendments to the County Comprehensive plan if necessary. We can make decisions about how we use our land on our own.
Councilor Hartzell stated that even though she is not 100% committed to the process it does seem Ashland should have the ability to make changes or improvements to the plan. Councilor Jackson agreed that, yes, we can amend the plan.
Meeting as adjourned at 7:28 pm
Diana Shiplet, Executive Secretary
John W. Morrison, Mayor