Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Study Session

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JANUARY 27, 2009

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

Planning Commissioners Present:
Michael Dawkins
Tom Dimitre
Deborah Miller
Pam Marsh
Melanie Mindlin
Mike Morris
David Dotterrer
Michael Church
Staff Present:
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant
Absent Members:
Council Liaison:
Eric Navickas

POSSIBLE CHANGES TO THE SIGN CODE (Based on the Downtown Task Force Recommendations)
Dawkins noted the public hearing for this item is scheduled for the February Planning Commission meeting. He stated this is the time for the Commissioners to get their questions answers and to raise any issues so that staff knows what needs to be addressed before this ordinance comes back for approval.

Community Development Director Bill Molnar noted the packet includes a letter from the Public Arts Commission outlining their issues with the 3D sign provision. He added members from that Commission are here tonight to provide testimony. Mr. Molnar provided a brief explanation of the Sign Code and stated it is based on where the property is zoned, and then there is a formula for the overall amount of signage allowed. Then there is a breakdown for wall signs and ground signs, and an allotment for incidental signs.

Mr. Molnar stated the public hearing on this ordinance is scheduled for the February 10th Planning Commission meeting and noted Staff is in the process of scheduling a combined walking tour with the City Council that will likely be held on February 5th at 4:30 p.m.

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman provided a presentation to the Commission. The presentation included several depictions of what permitted signage with the current Sign Code looks like, and what it would look like with the proposed changes. He also displayed several photos of what the downtown area and Siskiyou Boulevard used to look like before the Sign Code was adopted. He stated the purpose of tonight's meeting is to gather input from the Commission and asked if they had any questions or comments on the draft ordinance.

Mr. Goldman provided a brief explanation of internal illuminated signs and indirect illuminated signs. He stated internal illuminated signs can be used outside the downtown area and the sign can have lighting within it, but the lighting mechanism itself cannot be visible. He added indirect illumination is when light is directed onto the face of the sign, but is not part of the sign itself. Mr. Molnar commented on neon signs and noted the Sign Code was amended to recognize neon represents the character of a certain period in time, and locations such as the Varsity theater and Palm Motel could maintain or bring back their neon signage.

Staff was asked to clarify in what ways the proposed ordinance differs from the Downtown Task Force recommendations. Mr. Goldman stated the provision to limit the use of vehicle signs was added by staff (vehicles parked exclusively for the purpose of displaying business signage). Another change not recommended by the Task Force but requested by the City Council was the opportunity for additional business frontages. Lastly, staff is recommending the ordinance include a distinction between real estate signs and construction signs. Mr. Goldman stated one last item that staff needs clarification on is whether the 3D sign (3-cubic feet) inside the downtown area is a separate allocation or whether it should be subtracted from the 7-sq. ft. allotment. He stated the current draft of the ordinance has this as a separate allocation.

Commissioner Morris asked for clarification on the public art provision. Mr. Goldman explained the ordinance removes public art from consideration as a sign, and it would no longer be regulated under the Land Use Code. He added public art would fall under a difference process and different chapter in the Code. Morris questioned which section of the Code would apply if the Planning Commission required public art as part of a large scale development. Mr. Molnar did not have an answer, but stated he would consult with the City Attorney.

Morris questioned the 35-ft width provision on page 3 of the ordinance, under "Shopping Center or Business Complex." He also questioned the language regarding temporary construction signs on page 4, item G, and asked if there was a limit on the number of signs or just the maximum square footage. Mr. Goldman stated the intent was to limit this to one larger sign per lot. Comment was made suggesting this language be revised to allow multiple signs so long as they do not exceed the total allowable square footage. Morris suggested the language on page 5, "Strings of Lights" also be clarified. Comment was made that they may want to remove the word "incandescent."

Mr. Goldman presented some sign area calculation examples and noted the different options and formulas that could be utilized. He requested the Commission provide input on which option they prefer. He noted what they are currently doing is looking at the rectangular shape that bounds the sign, and while a circle or triangle shape could be used as well, staff is hesitant to expand much beyond this.

Dana Bussell/Public Arts Commission/Noted she was also a member of the Downtown Task Force. Ms. Bussell stated the Public Arts Commission supports the exemption of public art from the Sign Code, but they are opposed to 3D signs outside the downtown area. She expressed their concerns for 3D signs of significant size and stated it is likely that many businesses would take advantage of this change. Ms. Bussell stated the object that the Task Force hoped to bring into compliance was the Alfredo statue outside Wiley's Pasta. She questioned how the size of these objects would be configured and questioned if the Alfredo statue was too big to fit within the proposed size limit. She noted the desire of businesses located near Exit 14 to be noticed and urged the Commission to be cautious. She stated once these items are in place it will be difficult to have them removed. Ms. Bussell suggested an alternative is to recognize the item that prompted this amendment (Alfredo) is not a sign and should not be treated as such.

David Wilkerson/Public Arts Commission/Noted he is also a local architect and is familiar with the City's Sign Code. Mr. Wilkerson voiced his concerns with the unintended consequences that the Task Force recommendations would allow. He stated the City is not allowed to limit the sign content and stated the current ordinance is what has prevented the visual clutter that you see in Medford. He stated the Sign Code has helped to maintain Ashland's charming environment and encouraged them to take another path. Mr. Wilkerson suggested if these items are considered public art, they could be subjected to a separate process and thinks this is a much safer approach. He concluded by urging the Commission to consider the alternative presented by the Public Arts Commission.

Council Liaison Navickas indicated that the City Council was reluctant to the 3D allowance outside the downtown area, but wanted the Planning Commission's opinion before they moved forward.

Commissioner Mindlin presented an update of the Sustainability Work Group. She commented on the Planning Commission's decision to make sustainability a priority this year and stated the two paths the Group wanted to look into were: 1) what is going on in the community, and 2) what are the other local governments doing. Mindlin commented on how they went about gathering this information and their decision to not take the public hearing approach. She noted the ongoing meetings that were held at the Ashland Library and noted some of the regulars who attended those meetings are also here tonight.

Mindlin reviewed the questionnaire that was used by the Work Group during their telephone interviews and clarified most of the interviews took 30-45 minutes and the individuals were anxious to share their input. Mindlin commented on the different sustainability frameworks that are utilized and commented on how her contacts were formed. She noted they ended up with 300 contacts and were able to inventory 150 of them.

Mindlin stated that Ashland has been considered a leader in sustainability for a long time, and a lot of this has to do with the City's Comprehensive Plan. She noted some of the cities who are working on sustainability plans, and clarified a lot of this reference material has come from California. Mindlin commented on Portland, Oregon and noted the recent merging of Portland's Bureau of Planning with the Office of Sustainable Development. She shared some information from the City of Portland's website and what they are doing to support sustainability.

Mindlin provided an overview of the information gathered by the Work Group, which was submitted to the Commission at the beginning of the meeting. The sustainability inventory submitted by Mindlin was separated into the following categories: 1) Nature Stewardship, 2) Built Environment, 3) Transportation, 4), Recycling & Reusing, 5) Energy, 6) Education and Culture, 7) Health & Spirituality, 8) Economics and Business, 9) Local Government, 10) Community Connections, 11) Food Resources, and 12) Youth.

Mindlin noted the work of Triple Bottom Line for the 21st Century and THRIVE. She stated Ashland has a program for certifying Green Businesses which is administered through the Conservation Department. She also commented on the efforts of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. Mindlin noted the Work Group prioritized contacting Ashland based businesses and stated 80% of those inventoried are Ashland based.

Mindlin provided a brief overview of the work being conducted by Lomatski. She also commented on Willow Winds, the Wilderness Charter School, and stated Southern Oregon University is listed as one of the Top 20 Green Colleges by the EPA. She noted the Sentient Times, Plan-It You, Heart Circles, and Transition Town. Mindlin commented on the need for intergenerational dialogue. She stated there are a lot of young people in the community that want to make a difference in the world and stated Ashland needs to think about what it can do to keep our young people here.

Mindlin commented on how this inventory might be accessed, including a possible database housed on the Chamber of Commerce website. She commented on how the information is organized and noted a lot of things did not fit within the City's Comprehensive Plan, including food security and sustainable food resources. Mindlin commented on the huge upwelling of sustainability projects that were started in the past year and stated people are really concerned and want to find out what they can do. She stated when individuals were asked what three issues were of most concern, she received a variety of responses. However the most common responses were: 1) solar orientation, 2) rainwater catchment and infiltration, 3) food security, 4) city land for community gardens, and 5) clustering housing on farms.

Comment was made questioning what the next undertaking is for this Work Group. Mindlin stated that her sense is that the Planning Commission as a whole needs to take this issue up at a future meeting and discuss where they would like to go from here. She noted the City Council usually sets their annual goals in the spring and this might be something that comes up in that context.

Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a brief overview of the Croman Mill Site Redevelopment Draft Plan. The presentation outlined the elements in the Plan, including the following:

Locations of the Office & Employment District, Compatible Industrial District, Neighborhood Center, and Open Space
Traffic Circulation
Street Framework
Pedestrian & Bicycle Framework
Transit Framework

Harris indicated the next steps for this project includes an update to the City Council on February 17, 2009, and then the City will take the Plan through the local land use process for adoption. She noted this project is similar to the North Mountain Plan and the City will need to draft a new chapter in the Zoning Ordinance. She noted if any of the Commissioners wish to look at the full Draft Plan, it is available on the City's website.

Meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant


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