Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Meeting

Thursday, October 04, 2007




October 4, 2007



I.             CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Chair John Stromberg at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main Street, Ashland, OR


Commissioners Present:        


Council Liaison:

John Stromberg, Chair

Michael Dawkins

Tom Dimitre


Cate Hartzell, Council Liaison, absent due to quasi-judicial

 agenda items.

John Fields

Pam Marsh



Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris


Staff Present:

David Stalheim, Community Development Director

Bill Molnar, Planner

Absent Members:


Adam Hanks, Permit Manager

Olena Black

Dave Dotterrer



Diana Shiplet, Executive Secretary




Mr. Stromberg stated Mike Morris will be late, Olena Black and Dave Dotterrer have previous commitments and so have excused absences.  Mr. Stromberg stated that Planet Citizen, an organization listed in the most recent Planning magazine, has on-line training programs for Planning Commissioners.   There is some money in the budget for PC training.  He would encourage commissioner who is interested in participating in the training to talk to Susan Yates in Community Development to get registered.




Marsh/Dawkins m/s to approve the agenda.  Voice Vote:  Approved.




        A.            PLANNING ACTION:           PA2007-01283

                       APPLICANT:                        City of Ashland

                       DESCRIPTION:                   Proposed amendments to the Ashland Land Use Ordinance implementing portions of the recommendations in the Land Use Ordinance Review prepared by Siegel Planning Services.  In addition, other recommendations of the City Planning Director concerning land use decision-making procedures will be considered. 


Mr. Stromberg stated that this is the kind of project where you can easily get caught up in the specific issues but in the big picture we have a very large collection of detailed changes in the land use ordinance.  He stated that due to the size of this project often some of the details are not captured in the summary.  Staff is much more familiar with all the details than the commission. They are looking at the practical use, efficiency, and customer service.   The Planning Commission is more focused on the balance between community interests and private interests.  With that in mind, he, John Fields, Mike Morris, David Stalheim, Bill Molnar, and Adam Hanks met for about two and a half hours going over all the non-policy, non-procedural portions of the proposed changes.  During that meeting he realized how challenging this task is and how many questions arise from these changes.  He stated that to the extent that it is possible to dig into the details tonight will mean the Planning Commission is doing their part more effectively.  He reminded the commission that they have until October 12th to make any suggestions or alterations to the ordinance so that staff can make changes in time for the October 23rd Planning Commission meeting.  On October 23rd, it is hoped that the Planning Commission will bring this process to completion.  Also, on the 23rd he would like to bring back the revised Planning Commission Goals and talk about the strategy for getting everything approved by the City Council.


David Stalheim, Community Development Director, stated this process started with the Zucker report and the Seigel report in February and April of 2006. Following that, John Stromberg, John Fields, and Mike Morris met between June 2006 and February 2007 and went through the Seigel report.  Mr. Stalheim prepared recommendations based on the reports and the meetings in February of 2007.  Planning Commission did a study session in April of 2007, a retreat in June of 2007, another study session and the end of June 2007, and the first draft of the ordinance was released in July of 2007.  Planning Commission agreed to start the public hearing process at the end of July 2007 and the second draft, based on public comments, staff review and Planning Commission input, was released in August of 2007.  That second draft is the version we are working from tonight.  Mr. Stalheim reminded the Commission that they did have a public hearing on this topic which started on September 11th and was continued to tonight.  He stated that the Commission needs to see if there was any public input tonight and then close the public hearing.


Mr. Stalheim reminded the Commission that at tonight’s meeting they need accomplish 4 things tonight; 1) address any new public input, 2) to discuss the procedure changes in the ordinance, 3) discuss any policy issues identified in the ordinance and 4) determine what the next steps might be in the process.


Mr. Stalheim stated he would like to highlight some of the issues he thinks the Planning Commission should focus on during their discussions tonight.  The first is the procedures issue.  He stated that the real issue is whether or not they should be packaged together for passing on to the Council for approval or if they should be separated.  The proposed changes in the site design chapter require changes in the procedures chapter, so they can’t really be separated.  If the Planning Commission determines they would like the procedures separated out, they much also separate out the site design chapter.


Mr. Stalheim stated he went through the ordinance and attempted to identify other sections that would be affected. The first is that in every zoning district there is a reference regarding wireless communication facilities that refers to a specific section in the revised site design chapter.  It is the same standard as before but they moved things around and so there is a reference to that section and that would get lost if they didn’t update the site design chapter.  The second is a small reference to procedures in the tree preservation chapter which needs to be updated in the site design chapter.


Mr. Stalheim stated that by not doing the site design chapter there are some things in the site design chapter that are standards improvements in the chapter and staff feels that these improvements will be valuable and last for a long period of time without needed additional updates.


Mike Morris arrived at 7:13 pm.


Mr. Stalheim stated that he met with planning staff last week to make sure that they are really comfortable with the procedures changes.  Staff stated that they believe winter is the best time to implement any procedure changes, due to lower planning permit activity levels.  One staff member also recommended a longer timeframe for implementing the procedure changes.


Mr. Stromberg stated he also recommends the winter as a good time to implement this, not only with us but also with the City Council as they have fewer things on their agenda during that time as well.  He stated that the important thing is that this is very valuable and there is a lot of potential for success with these changes.


Mr. Stromberg stated that the group who had met including himself, John Fields, Mike Morris, Bill Molnar, and Adam Hanks would like to become an official committee of the commission in order to continue working on this project and complete looking at all the changes.   Mr. Molnar stated that because there already is a land-use committee (Morris, Fields, Stromberg) that had been working on the Siegel report there is no need for a motion to approve this committee.


Mr. Stalheim stated that one of the other procedure issues which needs to be discussed is the appeal fees.  The ordinance does not prescribe fees, but states that if they are set, need to be paid and notes the ORS requirement to reimburse fees if the appeal is successful.  So the question to the Planning Commission is do you wish to recommend to Council appeal fees?  The second issue is whether or not the appeals to Council will continue to be de novo or will become on the record appeals.


Mr. Stalheim stated that the first policy issues which needs to be discussed includes that the Commission can review the options – including no action.  The other “top six” options that need to be discussed include:


Residential Ground Floor in C-1 and E-1 zonings

               The options regarding this were outlined in the September 11, 2007 staff report.  The first option was No Action.  This does not address the problems of interpretation regarding lot area.  He reminded the Commission that it currently states that 65% of the ground floor if there is one building, but if there are multiple buildings it calls for 50% of the lot area.  The problem is that they don’t really know what is the lot area when measuring buildings and square footage.  Option two is what is in the current draft of the ordinance and that is to allow one small unit or approximately 500 square feet on the ground floor.  Option three is the original draft which prohibited residential units on ground floor.


Additional Dwelling units in R-2 and R-3 zonings

               The options for this were also outlined in the September 11, 2007 staff report.  The first option is to take no action.  The result of that would be that you could have more density in the R-1 zone than in the multi-family zones.  The second option is in the August 28th draft which would allow units of up to 1,000 square feet.  Option three is what was in the original draft of the ordinance which would allow units of up to 500 square feet.  And option four has not been drafted but there were some discussions about “splitting the difference” and allowing units of up to 750 square feet.


Hotel/Motel definition

               The options for this were, again, outlined in the September 11, 2007 staff report.  The first option is to take no action.  Option two has a new definition that would require a lobby and on-site staff.  The intention of this is to avoid timeshare residential units which were really not hotels or motels.  Option three is a new definition without any of the limits on the lobby or on-site staff.


Temporary Storage

               This relates to units like the PODS, which we are starting to see around the city.  Again, the options for this were outlined in the September 11, 2007 staff report.  The first option is to take no action so there would be no regulation of these within the city.  The second option, which is in the current draft, places limits on these facilities.  Option three would allow for some longer time periods for active building projects.  The fourth option is to set standards that consider size of the sign on the storage building in order to make a distinction between these temporary storage units, because some might have signs that are not that obvious and others have quite a bit of advertising on the sides of them.


Vision Clearance

               Option one is no action.  This option does not address the problems with the current standards.  However, the details of a replacement standard have not been resolved with Engineering.  Option two would be for the commission to direct staff to continue to work on this issue.


Fire Turnaround on Flag Partitions

               Option one is no action.  This does not address the Council directive to make the Land Use Ordinance consistent with the Fire Code.  The Commission can table this for a later discussion.  The second option is to adopt the update as drafted in the ordinance.


Mr. Stalheim reiterated that the idea is to come out of this discussion with a clear set of directions on procedure and policy issues.  Also, it is hoped that the group will review details and make recommendations for the full Planning Commission action at the October 23, 2007 meeting.  Also, to perhaps identify which of these issues need to be tabled for discussion at a later time and should not be included in this round of amendments.




No members of the public were present.


Dimitre/Morris m/s to close the public hearing.  Voice Vote: all ayes.  Motion passes.


Fire Turnaround

Mr. Stalheim asked Fire Division Chief, Margueritte Hickman, to discuss with the Commission the Fire Department’s concerns regarding the fire turnaround on flag lots issue.  Ms. Hickman stated the new 2007 Oregon Fire Code, which was adopted by the City Council, does not match with our current Land use code.  In order to get those two aligned they need to amend the Land Use Code.  Currently the Ashland City Code states that you don’t need a turn around on a dead-end street until 250 feet.  However, the Oregon Fire Code requires a turn around after 150 feet.  The Council requested that the two codes match.


Ms. Hickman stated that the Fire Department did some research and found that in the last 7 months of building permits there were 5 projects that required a turn around and if the 150 foot requirement were in place, an additional 2 turnarounds would have been required.  She stated that it is her understanding that, historically, the land use code originally adopted the 250 foot requirement based on the Fire Code.


Ms. Hickman stated that the Council requested that Fire staff change the fire code and to bring to them a different amendment so that Ashland did not amend the fire code in a less restrictive fashion.  The reason this is less restrictive is that we are allowing people to have a longer driveway or a longer dead-end before they have a turn around.  Rather than requiring it at a shorter length which would be more restrictive.  The numbers are bigger but it is less restrictive.  The Council wanted this change to be made to the Ashland Fire Code.  She stated that the concern they brought to the Council was that this change would be in conflict with the State Fire Code.  After bringing this to the Council, the Council decided that they would like the Land Use Code updated to reflect the State requirements.


Ms. Mindlin questioned if there were other alternatives in place of the turn around requirement, such as requiring fire sprinklers instead of a turnaround.  Ms. Hickman stated that currently the Fire Code does not give such an alternative as an option.  That is something they could consider, if necessary.  Typically, the requirement for sprinklers is to mitigate a longer response time and the purpose of the update really has more to do with being able to turn the equipment around and not have to back the equipment out.  Backing equipment has been proven to be more risky than moving forward.


Mr. Stromberg asked if there were any comments from builders regarding this requirement.  A comment was made that on a single flag lot, the amount of paving for a turn around is huge.  Mr. Stalheim read a previously submitted comment from Mark Knoxs which stated, “…that staff should re-evaluate the standard primarily due to the amount of asphalt associated with the turn around standard as illustrated in the multitude of in-fill parcels this is going to effect.  He would hope 250 feet would still remain as long as fire sprinklers were added which are probably far more important than the turn around.  This seems to be a better compromise and one he is sure Fire could agree upon.  For many years the Fire Department touted sprinklers as the primary safety measure, minimizing fire hazard and the spread of fire.”  Mr. Stromberg stated fire prevention isn’t really the issue here, it is the difficulty of backing out the extra 100 feet and he assumes that could mean slower response time if they have to back out prior to heading to the next call.  Ms. Hickman agreed that it certainly could decrease the response time.


Mr. Stromberg questioned if there are any insurance issues with the City not adhering to the State Fire Code.  Ms. Hickman stated it was researched and determined that City Land Use Code could supersede State Code, as it relates to access.


Mr. Molnar also pointed out that the 250 foot requirement is also identified in the performance standards under street standards.  We would want to make that consistent with the other parts of the code.  He stated that one of the issues over the years has been that often private driveways or flag-lot drives are in areas of slope.  This becomes an issue of design in terms of how do you construct these taking into consideration treed areas, cuts, and fill.  The issue the Commission needs to look at is if there is some flexibility when determining location of the turnaround.  For example, if the turn around could be moved 15 feet in either direction this may preserve trees, etc.  In discussions with Fire over the years, they have been flexible and it doesn’t seem like this new requirement will be even more restrictive.  Ms. Hickman clarified that this does not mean there has to be a turn around every 150 feet.  It is one turn around required for any driveway over 150 feet.  At the same time, they have interpreted the code to mean that if a driveway is, for example, over 750 feet and a turn around is not possible at the end of that 750 feet Fire will accept a turn around within 150 feet of the end of the driveway.  As Mr. Molnar stated, the Fire Department can be flexible as to where the actual turn around is located.


Ms. Mindlin stated that she has issues with this, because, having just installed one, it is a lot of lot coverage, especially when you add in the 5 foot clearance for under 18” plants requirement.


Mr. Stromberg asked if this code is subject to administrative variance.  Mr. Molnar stated that anything in the ordinance, unless it has been specified as not, is subject to a variance.  Ms. Hickman stated that she would need to re-read that section of the code, however, there has been discussion in the code that if it is impractical due to physical land features, existing buildings, etc… the Fire code official can make some adjustments.


Mr. Morris stated that he prefers the flexibility of working with the Fire Department to determine what is acceptable to them.  He does not like seeing rigid numbers in the code.  He also questioned why Council would go to the Fire Department and require them to get the land use ordinance changed without directing the Planning Commission to change it.


Ms. Marsh asked how much square footage is required to install a turn around.  Ms. Hickman stated it was approximately 1500 square feet.  Ms. Marsh questioned if the added turn around will significantly effect the lot coverage requirements.  Mr. Hanks stated, yes, with smaller rural residential lots those issues do come quicker, however there are many options such as moving the garage closer to the street to limit the driveway length.  Ms. Marsh stated that it might be interesting to take a look at the two which would have fallen under this rule and see how this rule would have effected what was developed there.


Mr. Stalheim stated that another option, based on Ms. Marsh’s comments, is that the Commission could look at exemptions to lot coverage for those smaller lots which require a turn around. Mr. Dimitre asked, since we are currently requiring turnarounds for driveways over 250 feet are we currently having issues regarding lot coverage?  Mr. Stalheim stated that recently there have been some variance requests regarding lot coverage in flag lots.  Mostly this is due to people not taking into consideration the shared drive when planning the lot coverage.  Mr. Molnar stated the most effected areas like lower Clay Street or Tolman Creek, where it is an R-5 zoning, 5000 square foot lot size, and there are some very long, skinny lots with very small total lot size.


Mr. Stromberg stated that he doesn’t have a clear sense of what direction the commission would like to head in, and asked if anyone wanted to make a motion on this topic.


Mr. Dawkins asked for clarification as to what option one (no action) would mean.  Does it mean that essentially staff would continue to work with the Fire department to determine when turnarounds were necessary?  Mr. Stalheim stated it means that the 250 foot requirement would still be in place and the city code would not match the state code.  He stated that we could write an option three which changed it to the 150 foot requirement but grant exemptions for lot coverage and could also write as part of the code that 150 feet is the requirement but that with the Fire Marshall’s approval a variance on that requirement could be given.


Ms. Mindlin stated that she doesn’t think we should make our exemption related to lot coverage.  She sees the point in shortening it if there is flexibility and a variance.  If we leave it at 250 feet, there is no way to require anyone to put one in at any shorter distance.  If we go with the shorter distance and have some flexibility depending upon each individual situation she much prefers that option.


Mr. Fields stated that by changing the requirement where it becomes an issue is steepness.  If it is a wide open area it is different than a heavily treed area.  If it is one house versus 22 houses it can be an issue.  He wanted clarification on where a driveway technically ends.  Is it where a garage begins?  Does it start at the back of sidewalk?  If so, his driveway would be more than 150 feet, and he can’t imagine a fire engine ever needing to go down his driveway and if they do, he can’t imagine them having a hard time backing out.  He suggested we table this issue, as there are too many unknown issues.


Mr. Dimitre asked if Mr. Fields was interested in recommending any parts of this issue tonight, or if he would prefer that staff take it and re-work the whole thing.  Mr. Fields stated that 250 feet is a long distance if it is multiple units, if it is on a steep hillside.  There are conditions in which 250 feet is too far and other times where it isn’t worth the cost to do a turn around on a shorter distance.  He thinks we need to take a look at the real safety issue.  We need to take this issue out of this current process or we will never get finished with any other items.


Ms. Hickman stated that, in response to Mr. Fields question as to where does a driveway end it ends at the point where the Fire Department can reach within 150 feet of the furthest point of the house.


Mr. Stromberg suggested we send it back to staff to bring back to the Commission as part of the October 23rd meeting with something that goes for 150 feet, per Council request, but gives staff and Fire Department the Flexibility to lengthen that per the special conditions of any given situation.


Fields/Dimitre m/s that staff follow up and present the Commission with exceptions and conditions for ways to not restrict the requirement to 150 feet but to make something that is a little more balanced. Voice Vote: all ayes.  Motion passes.



Mr. Stalheim stated that the two issues the Commission needs to discuss are the appeal fee and the appeal to Council.


Mr. Stromberg stated he also has several other issues he would like to discuss, but he will wait until after other have discussed these two appeal topics.  He asked if any other members of the commission have any other procedural issues they would like to have discussed.


Ms. Mindlin stated she did have a question from page 6 regarding notice requirements.  She asked, regarding the staff permits versus Type I permits if anything anyone applies for anything if it meant they would have to wait a month before getting their permit?  Mr. Stalheim stated, no there is a tier of permits and some of them are ministerial actions, such as fence permits, home occupations, sign permits, etc… those have no noticing requirements and therefore have no delay in processing.


Mr. Stromberg asked that the commission take a look at the staff report and refresh their memory as to what the major changes are that they are going through tonight.  The first is the Expedited Land Divisions.  Mr. Stalheim stated that the State requires a “referee” for handling appeals who is not a city employee or official and so in the updated land use ordinance it states that the City Administrator has the authority to hire a “referee” if that issue ever came up.  The other choice as with may jurisdictions in Oregon we could adopt no procedures, but if someone asked for that type of application that procedure could be available.  So the Commission could adopt no procedure but refer to the ORS.  Mr. Fields requested clarification on the maximum densities – how is this different than a minor land partition and how you could do incrementally every 12 months to create more?  Mr. Stalheim stated that this is a minor land partition and you couldn’t create more because you have to put in that density.  The intention of the statute was that you couldn’t come in and divide up a parcel and do it expedited and then come back in 12 months.


Mr. Stromberg stated that the next change is to staff permit and type I planning actions.  He stated that the main thing with this modification is a consolidation of these two types of permits into one style – a Type I permit.  He asked if the change to Type I permits is being made because it simplifies the noticing requirements.  Mr. Hanks stated, yes, the change helps staff because it keeps all permits tracking on the same timeline.  Otherwise staff has to notify individual actions which each have different expiration and approval deadlines but all the Type I, II, and III actions have the same deadline regarding notifications.


Mr. Fields asked if there were any Type II permits being turned into Type I permits?  Mr. Stalheim stated, yes, there are and that this will be discussed further later in the meeting.  He stated that in order to increase efficiencies it is important that the Type I permit final action be by the staff.


Mr. Stromberg asked if there is a downside for citizens or developers in doing this?  Mr. Stalheim stated that the downside would be that with staff permits people can apply at any time.  They did write into the procedures the ability for staff to adopt application deadlines so there is the ability for staff to say certain types of applications could be accepted more often than the larger applications.  That way staff can still proceed in a timely fashion.


Ms. Marsh asked if we have any idea of how many times in the last five years a Type I permit has been pulled by the hearings board for review by the full Planning Commission?  Mr. Stalheim stated that there have been two in the last nine months.  Mr. Molnar stated that prior to those two there have been fairly few.  Ms. Marsh stated that the point is that these are fairly routine kinds of actions.  Mr. Dimitre stated the other question is did any of those that came to the Planning Commission get over turned.  Mr. Morris asked for confirmation on whether or not staff has taken Type I permits and turned them into Type II.  Mr. Stalheim stated that has been done on a lot of occasions over the years.  Mostly this is because some of the Type I permits are on the edge of public interest and concern and so staff has bumped those up to a Type II.  Both the current and proposed ordinances allow staff to change Type I permits to Type II in order to have a public hearing.  It also allows the applicant to request this change.  Mr. Stromberg asked if the ordinance allows any Planning Commissioners to request the change.  Mr. Stalheim stated the Commissioners need to be cautions with that sort of action because they will run into conflict of interest and ex-parte contact before the action came before the Commission for review.  Mr Stromberg questioned if the hearings board sending items to the Planning Commission created ex-parte or conflict of interest problems.  Mr. Stalheim stated that as there is no contact because it is not a public hearing and so it doesn’t create an e-parte contact. 


Mr. Dimitre asked for clarification as to whether or not the public can ask for a public hearing on Type I permits.  Mr. Stalheim stated that right now they can and with the update to the ordinance they could only by appeal to the Planning Commission.  Mr. Molnar stated that one of the key issues is that items which are called up now are often due to property owners who don’t have a whole lot of information but with the changes we are making in regard to the notification many of those issues will be cleared up because property owners will have the opportunity to discuss there issues with staff prior to a decision being made.


Mr. Morris stated as long as we have the process for reconsideration it is good, because the Commission can focus on factual errors and not be dealing with policy issues.


Ms. Mindlin stated the concern she has is lack of public access to even having an initial public hearing without paying a lot of money.  She would feel more comfortable with this process if it cost a lot less to call up an item.  Ms. Marsh said there are two questions which need to be answered; 1) is the process a better process for getting public input and moving the item along and 2) for the piece of it that includes an appeal, should there be a fee.  These two questions should remain separate.  Mr. Dimitre stated that he believes there is a fundamental change as currently people can ask for a hearing in front of the Commission and it doesn’t cost them anything but with the change the only time you can get in front of the Commission is when you pay $250 for an appeal.  This is a fundamental shift in how we handle items.  Particularly for those folks who don’t have a lot of money.  Mr. Fields stated that if you look at the net saving of time and paperwork we probably could have no appeal fee and still see a savings in the department.


Mr. Stromberg reiterated his earlier question of what is the downside of this process for the citizen.  Mr. Stalheim stated that he can’t see any downside other than the issue of appeal fees.  In his opinion the improved notification process is nothing but beneficial.


Mr. Stromberg asked if staff included anything in the new Type I permits that wasn’t in there already or wasn’t part of the lower level items which have been brought up?  Mr. Stalheim stated, yes, and this has been discussed on several different occasions.  He gave a list of those permits.  He reiterated that it still is under staff discretion to change some Type I permits to Type II.  Mr. Molnar stated that typically all permits in the downtown area are bumped up to Type II, due to the higher levels of public interest.


Mr. Stromberg stated he would like to discuss the appeal fee issue.  He stated that if the Commission passes this ordinance the way it is structured then the City Council will be the ones who will decide on the appeal fee.  The Commission is not required to take a position regarding the fees, however, they can make a recommendation.  Mr. Fields would like to recommend that they not add an appeal fee, with the understanding that Council can add a fee later if they need to.  Ms. Marsh would like to recommend a Fifty-dollar fee just to make sure the people who are asking for things to be brought forth for a full hearing are serious about it.  Mr. Dimitre stated that it seems like the best way to deal with this is to get the process in place, see how it works, and if we are getting too many appeals, the fee could be reconsidered.  Mr. Morris stated he would go along with the fifty dollar fee because the reconsideration should be looked at first, which has no fee.  If that falls through then an appeal happen but there should be a fee associated with the appeal, even if it is a minor fee.  Mr. Stromberg stated that he would prefer to have no fee, see if we have a problem and then the Council could make the decision to have a fee.  He believes that for many people fifty dollars is not a small amount.


Dimitre/Fields m/s that they recommend to Council that there be no appeal fees.  Voice Vote: 5 ayes.  1 no.  Motion passes.


Mr. Stromberg read the summary of the Type II Planning Action procedural modifications from the Staff Report.


Mr. Stromberg stated this was the only Type II procedural modification.  He reminded the Commission that they did this process with the Verde Village permit.  Mr. Stalheim stated that they did start this process but were unable to complete it because they ran out of time.


Mr. Stromberg asked Mr. Stalheim if he had any additional comments regarding this change.  Mr. Stalheim stated that he thinks it is a tool that could be used it is not a requirement it is an option.  He thinks it will increase the ability to have a different type of hearing which might allow a little bit more participation and might allow the Commission to have more information when they begin their deliberations.  The record would be more complete.


Mr. Stromberg asked how this would affect the 120 day rule.  Mr. Stalheim stated it shouldn’t affect the rule because the process gives staff some flexibility on when the hearings take place.


Mr. Dawkins asked for some simple examples of the process.  For example, with the Northlight permit which is just starting through the process, would the Commission be the ones doing the hearing?  Mr. Stalheim stated no, that the initial, evidentiary hearing would be conducted by staff for information gathering only – no decision making.


Ms. Mindlin stated she has a concern about requiring the applicant and the public to come to two meetings to do the same thing.  Mr. Stalheim stated that they are not required to attend both meetings.  Mr. Fields said in public hearings where the public is heard in a more informal setting (rather than in front of the Commission) it allows people to articulate their ideas and concerns without it being such a formal, rigorous setting.  Mr. Stalheim stated that additionally, with the informal hearings you have much more time to discuss issues, whereas in the formal public hearings you are limited by the agenda and the constraints of time of the meeting.  Additionally, there is the possibility to stop the hearing and allow the parties to work out issues before they go on the record in a formal public hearing.


Mr. Morris stated that he likes the idea of an evidentiary hearing to allow all parties the opportunity to work out all the details without wasting time in front of the Commission attempting to do so.


All agreed that it would be useful to use this method and see how it works.


Mr. Stromberg read the summary of Type II Planning Actions Reconsideration and Appeal from the Staff Report.  He stated that the reconsideration portion seems to be fairly straight-forward it is just that the Planning Director can do it and it is only for factual errors.


Mr. Stromberg asked for clarification regarding the appeal changes as to why this allows for a greater public comment period.  Mr. Stalheim stated that it has been his experience that for appeals which go to Council as de novo we see entirely new information presented in front of the Council which never was brought in front of the citizen commissions.  In some projects it comes before quite a few commissions; historic, tree, planning, etc. and so when you have a de novo process suddenly this whole new body of evidence can be presented to Council so rather than it becoming an appeal it really becomes a whole new public hearing process.  On the record appeals really encourage the public to get involved early in the process so that they present all their information in front of the citizen commissions.


Mr. Stromberg also noted that the other part of this process is that the City Administrator would be authorized to selectively allow new information in.  He questioned how that would work and if the State rules allow this.  Mr. Stalheim stated that the State rules state each city has to adopt its own procedures.  One of the things that came up was that sometimes there is new information which comes to light, which may not have been available at the original hearing process so it is necessary for those exemptions to be made.  The reason for involving the City Administrator is to avoid any pre-judgment on the part of the Council.  This also takes away the Council’s ability to appeal to themselves but not their ability to call an item up.


Ms. Marsh asked what is contained in the public notice for a Type II or Type III permit.  Mr. Stalheim stated that they send a notice of application and a notice of public hearing which has all the dates for all the meetings for all commissions the item will be sent to.


Fields/Marsh m/s to recommend that appeals to Council be on the record rather than de novo. DISCUSSION: Ms. Mindlin questioned why Mr. Fields think on the record is a good idea.  Mr. Fields stated that we go through all the effort to develop a record and then no matter what is decided people can introduce new evidence at the last minute which causes these cases to drag on for months and months and finally a decision is made based on information that the Commission didn’t even have the chance to hear or consider.  It seems the process, rather than being extended longer and longer, needs to be compressed and clear.  The obligation is to make the case, have the hearing, and if the decision is faulty then you appeal that decision but that is different than saying, well we didn’t like the decision so we want to do it all over again.  At a certain point a decision just has to be made.  Mr. Stalheim stated that part of the reason to have a de novo hearing is to cure any procedural problems which occurred during the earlier process but that is why, if we make this change, we need to give the City Administrator authority to review these things to cure any procedural issues.  Voice Vote: all ayes.  Motion passes.


V.                  UNFINISHED BUSINESS




VI.           Other

A.                  Regional Problem Solving: Discussion and overview of population and urban reserve issues

Mr. Stalheim gave an overview of the current Regional Problem Solving (RPS) population and urban reserves issues.  In 2003 the City of Ashland decided to notify the RPS process that they did not intend to propose and new urban reserves.


Mr. Stromberg asked for a definition of urban reserves.  Mr. Stalheim stated urban reserves are land that the City identifies in the comprehensive plan as areas which will be urbanized in the future but which are not currently within the urban growth boundary.


Mr. Stromberg asked if it were true the City of Ashland can not expand the urban grown boundary unless the City first got approval from the State based on the urban reserves.  Mr. Stalheim stated that the RPS regional plan will start affecting that, and he will discuss this more later in the presentation.


Mr. Stalheim gave information on the population allocation.  In 2006 the County did a population allocation for cities in the county.  The consulting firm of ECONorthwest assisted them and sent population allocation information to the cities.  They identified that by 2026 the city would have 5,177 more people than currently and 12,260 by the year 2056.  Three weeks later they sent responses to the allocations, and noted that Mr. Molnar had sent a memo stating that the figures allocated to Ashland are reasonable.  With this response they also re-sent out the population allocation numbers which were still the same as before.


Less than 9 days later ECONorthwest sent out preliminary population allocations with no explanation as to why Ashland’s figures had changed to 1,439 by 2026 and 2,176 by 2056.  As a side note, Ashland population has consumed nearly 50% of the total population allocation we were given for then next 20 years in the last two years.


Mr. Stromberg asked for clarification on allocation versus prediction and if it means that, for example, Central Point took some of our growth.  Mr. Stalheim stated this is exactly what happened.  The total population allocation for Jackson County did not change between the two letters only Ashland’s portion of that population.


After ECONorthwest’s work, the County went through a process to amend their comprehensive plan.  They adopted the same population allocation as the later ECONorthwest figures.


Ms. Mindlin asked if the lower numbers were the numbers presented to the Commission.  Mr. Stalheim stated that the numbers were in the Economic Opportunity Analysis and it was that presentation which first got Planning Staff to start questioning the figures.  They particularly questioned why population and employment numbers didn’t seem to match up.


The Regional Plan is only reviewed every 10 years, with 2012 as the first year of review.  There currently is no process in place for review of the population allocation and the county allocations (based on the lower numbers) has now been ratified by the State.  If the Regional Plan needs to be amended because there is a new unallocated population the State says Jackson County has grown by more than previously estimated then all the other signatories need to consider the amendment.  Basically, Ashland and all the other cities will have to sit down together and agree on the allocation numbers.  Mr. Stalheim also reminded the group that the Regional Plan has no specific population allocations – they only have population for the entire region, not specific cities – the only place that does have these figures is the County comprehensive plan.  The effect, though, is that the Regional Plan sets aside urban reserves and Ashland has requested none.  In order to, in the future, ask for urban reserves to expand the urban growth boundary the population allocation issues then comes back into question.


Cities who choose to expand the urban growth boundary into land not designated in the urban reserves will be required to go through the RPS plan amendment process.  Since Ashland had no urban reserves if we needed to expand, the City could not make that decision, we would need to go to RPS for approval.  This change can only happen during the 10-year periodic review and, of course, at that time there will be a question of population allocation numbers.


Ms. Marsh asked for clarification on if we had said before that we could handle the 5,177 population growth within our existing UGB.  If so, then what is our argument?  Even if we get the 5,177 in population increase, we are still on the record as saying we could accommodate that increase.  Mr. Stalheim stated that the difference is that Ashland has a higher density standards and he believes RPS is trying to aim for those standards.  He thinks that our buildable lands inventory needs to be updated to ensure we still are accurate with our assumptions.


Mr. Stromberg asked if, when we do the inventory, we would be using the allocated figures?  Mr. Molnar stated that when the County adopted their new population element they did put in a provision that they will review the coordinated population estimates every five years.  This was the only concession they could make to us.  They didn’t say they would change anything, but that they would be willing to look at the numbers in 2012.  To answer Ms. Marsh’s question, when Mr. Molnar went and spoke to the RPS policy committee months ago, to give updates and to re-affirm the City’s position, the one concern RPS had was that almost 3 ½ years had gone by since the City gave their initial suggestion not to do any urban reserves and two items had come out which could affect that original position.  These were, 1) we conducted our wetland inventories and one of the chief in-fill areas turned out to be a wetland (south of east main) and 2) Measure 37 was approved, which brings up many impacts on a community that weren’t even considered in 2003.  The question now is if there is more of a tool to the City to have identified urban reserves to accommodate growth within the style of the City rather than be at the unknown hands of Measure 37?


Mr. Stromberg asked if the State has other agencies who have told RPS that this draft of their plan is not acceptable and RPS has decided to push ahead anyway?  Is there a chance RPS will have to re-work their plan?  Mr. Stalheim stated the State submitted a letter to RPS policy group and RPS has reviewed that and has gone to Salem to talk to the State agency.  He thinks there have been some adjustments so a change might not be necessary.


Mr. Stalheim stated that his recommendations are: 1) Regional Plan should review the population allocation prior to concluding that there should not be any more urban reserves for Ashland.  Mr. Stalheim sent a letter to the RPS technical and policy group but has not been put in place.  He believes Ashland should have first opportunity to add urban reserves, if Ashland so wishes.  2) Ashland should review the decision about urban reserves perhaps holding those areas while the Comprehensive Plan is reviewed and updated.  The 5 or 10 year review in the Regional Plan will greatly limit Ashland’s opportunities to consider adding to the Urban Growth Boundary.  3) An alternative would have the Regional Plan formally recognize that Ashland could come forward to add urban reserves, if it wishes after our public process, without having to wait for the periodic review of the Regional Plan in 2012.


Notes for future meetings:

Mr. Morris will be out of town for hearings board, Mr. Dawkins agreed to take his place.



ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.



Respectfully submitted by,

Diana Shiplet, Executive Secretary




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