Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

OCTOBER 28, 2008

Commission Chair John Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.

Commissioners Present: - Staff Present:
John Stromberg, Chair Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Michael Dawkins Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Mike Morris April Lucas, Administrative Assistant
Pam Marsh
Melanie Mindlin
Dave Dotterrer
Michael Church
Absent Members: Council Liaison:
Tom Dimitre Cate Hartzell
Debbie Miller

Mr. Molnar announced staff is planning on cancelling the previously scheduled November and December Study Session dates and holding one Study Session on December 18, 2008 instead. He indicated this meeting would likely be on the preliminary zoning amendments that came out of the Downtown Task Force recommendations and possibly an evaluation of public sidewalk encroachment permit requirements.

No one came forward to speak.

A.  Water Resource Protection Zones Ordinance

Stromberg introduced Ecologist Jeannine Rossa, who had provided input to the Commission during their most recent site visits.

Jeannine Rossa/Explained she is a professional Fish Biologist and Stream Ecologist and has been working in this profession for 23 years. She noted she is currently working as a freelance consultant and is President of the Jefferson Fish Society. She also stated she was hired by the Bear Creek Watershed Council to work on a watershed assessment, which included the streams that run through Ashland. Ms. Rossa clarified Commission Chair Stromberg had contacted her prior to the last site visits and requested that she attend and provide input.

Ms. Rossa commented on the research obtained during the Bear Creek watershed assessment and stated the stretch of Bear Creek that runs through Ashland is the healthiest part of Bear Creek and has the best rearing habitat for threatened and native fish species. She also commented on intermittent streams and recommended that the Commission think about these streams at flood stage during their planning. Ms. Rossa clarified the intermittent streams in Ashland are unnatural and don't move sediment in the same way they would naturally. She stated it is not possible to make the streams the way they were before, but they can improve their ecological function. Ms. Rossa commented on the stream that runs through the Albertson's parking lot area, and explained this is an example of a stream that could be more functional than it is now. Ms. Rossa commented briefly on the educational opportunities associated with this ordinance and stated there are a lot of things the City can do to get people excited about streams and get neighborhoods working together on restoration.

Ms. Rossa was asked to comment on the issue of intermittent streams in regards to fish habitat. Ms. Rossa explained they are finding in this region that streams that are bone dry in the summer serve as important rearing habitats for fish in the winter. However, there are only short stretches of intermittent streams in Ashland that can function as fish habitats. She added for this reason, Ashland's contribution to the fish habitat of Bear Creek is primarily water quality.

Ms. Rossa commented on the proposed riparian buffer areas. She stated the 50 ft. measurement tends to encompass the active floodplain and channel areas in most small to medium sized streams, and stated it is a nice round number for people to grasp. She stated the science behind "how much area to protect" recommends one full tree height, because that is essentially how much wood is going to fall into the creek. She added federal lands utilize this "tree height" measurement.

Ms. Rossa shared her input on the ordinance. She voiced concern with the proposed language for nonconforming structures (pg.13) and recommended if a property owner is going to do improvements to decrease problems for future flooding, this is okay; however if a structure is knocked out twice by a flood, than the owner should not be allowed to rebuild in that location. She stated the goal should be to move people's structures out of the flood areas. Ms. Rossa commented on the maintenance and replacement of existing streets, driveways, and utilities (pg.14, pgs.17-20) and stated she is fine with the language in the ordinance, but would want to work to reduce sediment and toxins from getting into the streams. She also commented on the use of herbicides, and stated glyphosate without surfactants (such as Rodeo brand herbicide) is generally accepted to be okay to use on blackberries.

Rick Landt/468 Helman Street/Stated it is not possible to go over everything he has concerns about in the time allotted. Mr. Landt voiced his concern that the Ashland Watershed's recommendations were not incorporated into the ordinance and commented on the TID canal and how this affects ephemeral streams. He commented that the main sewer line in Ashland is a major issue and stated the proposed ordinance has a "one size fits all" zone protection. He suggested they use the 100-year floodplain instead, or 40-50 ft. from top of bank, whichever is greater. He also commented briefly that the creeks move; however the ordinance assumes they stay in on place and questioned how this would be dealt with.

JoAnne Eggers/221 Granite Street/Clarified she is speaking as a citizen tonight, and not for the City's Parks & Recreation Dept. Ms. Eggers questioned if the Parks Dept. would be exempt from this ordinance and recommended that they be held to the same standards as the citizens. She stated this is only fair and stated she would like to see the City be an example to the residents of what could be done to protect our water resources.

Mr. Molnar clarified the Parks Department would not be completely exempt, but they have provided a possible provision that acknowledges Calle Guanajuato, Lithia Park and Bluebird Park, and if these areas were damaged in a flood they would be allowed to be constructed back to their existing configuration.

Stromberg closed the Public Hearing at 8:00 p.m.

Senior Planner Maria Harris provided a brief explanation on why it is necessary to adopt the amended Comprehensive Plan maps and adopt the Local Wetlands Inventory as a technical study.

Commissioners Dotterrer/Marsh m/s to recommend approval to the City Council of adoption of an Ordinance amending the Ashland Comprehensive Plan to adopt the Water Resources Map including significant wetlands and riparian corridors identified in the "Local Wetlands Inventory and Assessment and Riparian Corridor Inventory", and to amend the Floodplain Corridor Land Map to provide consistency with the stream classifications on the Water Resources Map. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Marsh, Mindlin, Church, Morris, Dotterrer and Stromberg, YES. Motion passed.

Commissioners Marsh/Dotterrer m/s to recommend approval to the City Council of adoption of an Ordinance adopting the "Local Wetlands Inventory and Assessment and Riparian Corridor Inventory" by reference as a technical study supporting the Ashland Comprehensive Plan. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Morris, Mindlin, Dawkins, Church, Marsh, Dotterrer and Stromberg, YES. Motion passed.

Stromberg noted the handouts submitted to the Commission at the beginning of the meeting, which included: 1) comments submitted by Commissioner Dimitre, 2) additional recommendations submitted by Commissioner Mindlin, 3) a letter submitted by Laura Smith, and 4) the Stream & Wetland Enhancement Guide submitted by staff.

Ms. Harris commented on the substantive revisions outlined in the staff report and noted these changes were included to address the concerns expressed by the Planning Commission during previous meetings. A recommendation was made for Ms. Harris to only address the new changes made since the September 9 meeting.

Maintenance and Replacement of Existing Streets, Driveways and Utilities
Ms. Harris stated if less than 5% additional area is disturbed it is an exempt activity; if it is more than 5% it requires a Limited Use Permit. She clarified this language was expanded from the previous draft to address the maintenance and replacement of public utilities. Comment was made questioning how the 5% area would be determined.
Historic Parks & Properties
Ms. Harris noted language was added that exempts the maintenance and replacement of nonconforming features of Lithia Park, Bluebird Park and Calle Guanajuato.
Native Plant Requirements
Ms. Harris stated language has been added to the definition of local native plant species and noxious and invasive vegetation allowing plants to be added and removed from the lists if approved by the Staff Advisor and the City Horticulturist.
Ground Cover, Under-Story & Canopy Tree Standards
Ms. Harris clarified these standards have been expanded to include plant coverage standards, minimum plant size requirements, and standards for existing vegetation.
Enforcement & Penalties
Ms. Harris noted this section was added and references the General Penalties section of the Ashland Municipal Code. It also includes language requiring an owner to re-establish the natural condition when a water resource protection zone is illegally altered.

Recommendation was made for the Commission to begin their deliberations by working through the 13 changes outlined in the staff report.

Overlapping Regulations
No discussion was had on this item.

Top of Bank
Ms. Harris clarified the ordinance indicates center line will be used for local streams and intermittent/ephemeral streams; and the top of bank definition will be used for the larger streams. Mr. Molnar clarified new home sites cannot be located in the floodplain. He also commented on the Ashland Watershed Partnership and stated their concerns stemmed from the original top of bank definition, however the ordinance now includes further information to help describe top of bank. Comment was made questioning whether the protection zone will move if the stream moves. Mr. Molnar indicated "Yes."

Restoration Standards for Exempt Activities
No discussion was had on this item.

Outdoor Use Area and Pervious Paving
Ms. Harris commented on this language and recommended the Commission delete this section from the ordinance if they go with the native plant approach because it would add an additional 150 ft. to the 50% they are allowed for non-native vegetation. Suggestion was made for staff to include language that allows for a pervious outdoor use area no larger than 150 sq. ft in size in the 50% non-native vegetation area. Dotterrer stated he does not think 150 sq. ft is enough space and feels people should be allowed to use their riparian areas. Comment was made questioning the use of the language "outdoor use area shall be located at least 10 ft. from the top of bank" since the ordinance does not use the top of bank definition for the local and intermittent streams. Recommendation was made for staff to make this consistent with the rest of the ordinance. Statement was made that this is a difficult issue since it deals with two issues; the 50% non-native planting provision and the 150 sq. ft. patio.

--------- 50% Non-Native Vegetation Area
Comment was made questioning the language "the area from water's edge to the midpoint of the riparian buffer" and suggesting it may be preferred to standardize these measurements. Ms. Harris clarified the reason staff wrote it this way is because typically when restorations happen, people plant from the water's edge up. Mindlin voiced her support for the proposed language. Staff was directed to remove Section E from Outdoor Uses (pg. 12).
Outdoor Use Area
Dotterrer voiced his opinion that 150 sq. ft. is too small, but stated he is okay with letting this go if the rest of the Commission does not agree. Stromberg questioned the one-size allotment regardless of the size of the lot. Church suggested this language be removed and does not think this is an appropriate use in this area. He added everything that is unnatural in that zone will eventually end up in the creek. Dotterrer commented that they are talking about urban areas and re-stated his support for pervious patios in this area. Mindlin commented that she sees this issue as an opportunity for compromise. Marsh commented that she does not think the patio area should be in the native plant zone and should be located behind it instead. She suggested patios (up to 150 sq. ft in size) be allowed in the 50/50 portion of the zone. The majority of the Commission voiced support for this concept.

Unpaved Trails
Ms. Rossa came forward to comment on the unpaved trails provision. She expressed concern with the language that allows trails in the stream bank protection zones to be located closer to and within the stream bank if approved by state and federal agencies. She clarified there is a certain amount of work that needs to occur before it triggers needing to notify the Department of State Lands, and stated there are not a lot of triggers that involve the federal agencies. She recommended this phrase be changed to not include state and federal agencies since it will be very difficult for these agencies to work with individuals.

Commissioners Dotterrer/Church m/s to extend the meeting to 10:00 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

No other individuals wished to comment. Stromberg re-closed the Public Hearing at 9:30 p.m.

Non-Conforming Structures
Stromberg read aloud Commissioner Dimitre's input for the group. Marsh voiced her support for allowing the replacement of legally established non-conforming structures, but is not okay with the replacement of all non-conforming structures in non-residential areas. Additionally, she voiced her discomfort with treating residential properties different from commercial properties. Stromberg commented that how long it takes to rebuild a business is a major issue and they might not get rebuilt if the process takes too long. Morris suggested they make commercial and residential the same and speed up the process for both. Ms. Harris clarified the proposed language states legally established non-conforming principal structures in residential zones may be replaced, and all non-conforming structures in non-residential zones may be replaced. Comment was made noting Ms. Rossa's suggestion for two tries and then you are done. Dawkins noted there is only a very small percentage of residential properties that are built out to the creek, and stated most of this issue pertains to businesses within the downtown area. Comment was made questioning if staff could apply the exemption to properties located within historic commercial and historic employment zoned areas. Several members voiced support for this concept.

Historic Parks & Properties
No discussion was had on this item.

Previously Approved Building Envelopes & Driveways
Ms. Harris provided a brief explanation of this provision. No discussion was had on this item by the Commission.

Maintenance and Replacement of Existing Streets, Driveways and Utilities
Mr. Molnar clarified there is typically a 10 ft. wide utilities easement and this could be used to define the area. He stated individuals would then be allowed an additional 5% outside that easement. He indicated staff would look into this concept further.

Commissioner Marsh/Church m/s to extend meeting to 10:30 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

Stromberg suggested they recommend that the Council place removing public facilities from the floodplain in the City's Capital Improvement Plan.

Removal of Invasive Vegetation
Stromberg noted Commissioner Dimitre's written suggestions. Mr. Molnar noted Ms. Rossa's suggestion for the ordinance to refer to herbicides that are approved and kept on a list at the City. Dotterrer commented that if a product is safe to use, they ought to allow it. Dawkins commented that blackberries can be managed on a manual basis. Church noted that not everyone is going to be willing to remove them manually. Comment was made expressing concern whether individuals would use these "safe" herbicides the way they are suppose to. Stromberg conducted a straw poll on this issue and the Commission was split. It was agreed that they would move on and come back to this issue at the next meeting.

Ground Cover, Under-Story & Canopy Tree Standards
Morris questioned the language that states "the minimum planting size should be 3/4 to 1-inch" and stated the ordinance should specify the exact minimum. He also questioned the language that states "planted in a triple row with staggered spacing of 20 ft. along the length of the stream bank." Morris stated there are many places where you would not be able to plant in this configuration and suggested this language be added to the guidelines, rather than the ordinance. Mr. Molnar indicated staff could insert language into the ordinance that provides for some flexibility.

Enforcement & Penalties
Stromberg stated that he expects this to be a challenging discussion and recommended they deal with this issue at their next meeting.

Mindlin briefly reviewed the recommendations she had submitted to the Commission, which included a recommendation for the Council to consider a mandatory review of the native plant requirement every 3 years to determine how well the native plantings are performing.

Stromberg announced the deliberations on this ordinance would be continued to the Thursday, November 6, 2008 Planning Commission Special Meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant


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