Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

FEBRUARY 10, 2009

Vice Chair Pam Marsh called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.

Commissioners Present:
Pam Marsh
Mike Morris
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Tom Dimitre
Staff Present:
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Richard Appicello, City Attorney
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant
Absent Members:
Dave Dotterrer
Michael Dawkins
Council Liaison:
Eric Navickas


Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced Michael Church has resigned from his position on the Planning Commission.


A. Approval of Minutes
1. January 13, 2009 Planning Commission Meeting
2. January 27, 2009 Planning Commission Study Session

Commissioners Morris/Dimitre m/s to approve the January 13, 2009 and January 27, 2009 meeting minutes. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

No one came forward to speak.

Marsh read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.

A. PLANNING ACTION: 2009-00043
APPLICANT: Housing Authority of Jackson County
A request for modification of the previously approved Planning Action #2004-00141 for the Willowbrook Subdivision to allow a Land Partition creating three lots and Site Review to construct a 60-unit multi-family residential affordable housing development for the property located at 380 Clay Street. A previously approved request for an Exception to Street Standards to allow a portion of the sidewalk on Clay Street to be installed at curbside to accommodate a cedar tree on the southwest corner of the site remains unchanged, and the application also includes a request for a tree removal permit to remove 12 trees six-inches in diameter at breast height (d.b.h.) or greater where only eight trees were previously approved for removal. (This property is owned jointly by the City of Ashland and the Housing Authority of Jackson County. The 2004 Annexation and Performance Standards Subdivision approval for Willowbrook Subdivision was for 107 residential units. The required minimum density of the site can be met through future development of the remainder of the property.)
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Low Density Multi-Family Residential; ZONING: R-2; ASSESSOR'S MAP #: 39 1E 11C; TAX LOT #: 2500

Declaration of Ex Parte Contact
Mindlin stated she was contacted by phone by a gentleman named Huelz, who indicated his disappointment that the project did not meet Zero Net Energy standards.
Morris stated Huelz left the same message on his answering machine.
Dimitre received the same phone call, however he did not listen to the message left by Huelz.
Marsh received the same phone call from Huelz. He indicated the same concerns outlined by Mindlin and shared his concerns with the site's carbon footprint and urged the Commission to send the project back for modification. Marsh also performed a site visit.
Miller received the same phone call from Huelz and she also performed a site visit. Miller declared that she had recently contacted the Housing Authority to obtain updated subsidized housing figures, and clarified this application was not discussed during that phone call.

Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson presented the Staff Report and reviewed the size, location, and history of the property. He explained this site was the subject of the Willowbrook Subdivision approval, which occurred in 2006, and he reviewed the previously approved subdivision layout. Severson clarified the improvements associated with the Willowbrook approval, and noted the requirement for 17 affordable units and for the property to be developed to 90% of its base density.

Severson explained the current application proposes a three-lot land partition. Lot 1 would be approximately 4.32 acres in size and preserved in City ownership for development at a future date. Lot 2 (which is roughly 4 acres in size) would be owned by the Housing Authority and developed into 60 residential units. And Lot 3, which is 1.32 acres, would be preserved in City ownership to protect the wetlands. Additionally, a 20 ft. strip would be preserved to provide a potential future connection between Clay Street and Tolman Creek Road.

Severson reviewed the Housing Authority's site plan and explained they are proposing to develop 60 units in 10 buildings. He noted the Applicant's request to remove 12 trees, and clarified the removal of 8 trees was previously approved. Severson reviewed the tree removal plan, planting plan, conceptual utility plan, and proposed street improvements. He clarified the proposed turn lane would not be installed if the median is placed on Ashland Street. He also noted the Tree Commission's recommendation to preserve a Black Oak tree on the property and their suggestion to transition the sidewalk in order to preserve the Oak and the larger Cedar tree. Severson clarified the Tree Commission's recommendations have been incorporated into the Findings that are before the Commission. He reviewed the proposed bioswale in the parkrow planting strip and displayed samples of bioswales from a Portland development. Severson stated staff believes the application meets all the criteria and they are recommending approval with the noted conditions.

Severson was asked to comment on the future development potential for the area where the house is located. Severson stated there has been some discussion of the City's Parks Department purchasing this property for a future parks connection to the YMCA fields. He noted at this point, this not certain and depends on whether the Parks Department can obtain the necessary funding to purchase the property.

Council Liaison Navickas arrived at 7:35 p.m.

Miller expressed concern with the additional vehicle trips per day that would be created by the 60 new units and asked if staff had considered the traffic impacts. Severson clarified the original subdivision approval included a traffic study and outlined necessary street improvements to accommodate 135 units. He stated these same improvements will occur with the development of this property, even though the number of units has been reduced.

Marsh requested additional clarification on the proposed trail system through the property. Severson stated the intention is for the trail connection to the YMCA to go in during the development of Lot 1. Marsh asked about the possibility of an interim connection. Staff noted this lot will be under the ownership of the City and staff could work with the YMCA on this possibility.

Severson briefly commented on the street improvements and clarified the sidewalk would be required even if the right turn lane goes away.

Applicant's Presentation
A revised planting plan was distributed to the Commission.

Mark Knox/485 W Nevada/Project's Representative/Mr. Knox introduced Landscape Architect Laurie Sager, Jason Elzy and Betty McRoberts with the Housing Authority, Civil Engineer Mark Kamarath, Project Architect Dan Horton, and Wetlands Specialist Lee Brennan.

Mr. Knox presented a site plan illustrating the street system, parking system, and context of the property in relation to the surrounding neighborhood. He clarified the revised planting plan includes a community garden, which is a concept that came out of the Tree Commission's review of this project. He also clarified they have no issues with adjusting the location of the sidewalk, as requested by the Tree Commission, to protect the Oak tree.

Mr. Knox commented on the goals of this project, and stated this application meets all of the requirements that have been imposed. He noted this project is 100% affordable housing and commented on the efforts of the Applicant to go above and beyond the City's requirements in terms of wetland improvements, bioswales, and storm water quality. Mr. Knox noted the common lawn area and playground on the site plan, and stated this is the where they would like to install the garden beds. He commented that the buildings themselves are attractively designed, are oriented to the street, and respect the human scale. He noted almost all of the units have porches, and all of the units have sidewalks that lead from the street to the buildings. Mr. Knox commented on the improvements along Clay Street. He noted the possible future connections and felt the temporary connection suggested by Commissioner Marsh was a great idea.

Lori Sager commented on the tree removals, and stated they believe they can reduce the number of removals to 11 and preserve the Black Oak as suggested by the Tree Commission. She clarified 2 of the trees proposed for removal are dead, and stated they have proposed the installation of 130 trees for this project, even though only 76 are required. Ms. Sager also provided a brief overview of the proposed enhancements of wetland area.

Jason Elzy commented on the pedestrian connectivity throughout the project and the livability of the building design. He noted the Housing Authority has been working on these types of projects for over 20 years and feels they have a good handle on what works and what doesn't.

Public Testimony
Yehudit Platt/862 Michelle Ave/Commented on the number of rental properties currently available in Ashland and questioned whether this project was appropriate at this time. Ms. Platt expressed her concern that the small pieces of natural area in Ashland are being bought up, paved over, and developed. She stated the nature of Ashland is being transformed and feels it is turning into a congested town. She felt that more public outreach should have been done and asked if there are other options besides putting in 60 more units.

Marsh clarified this project satisfies the R2 zoning requirements for density, and this is not at issue tonight.

Greg Gargus/400 Clay Street/Commented on the petition to save the trees that was circulated during the previous subdivision approval. He asked why these trees are not being taken into consideration now, and stated the proposed road could be jogged around the trees without a lot of effort. Mr. Gargus stated he is not opposed to affordable housing but thinks this project could use some modification.

Cate Hartzell/881 E Main St/Stated she is a Housing Authority board member and is very proud of this project. She addressed the tree removal issue and noted the previous approval had proposed to remove 8 trees, and this proposal is to remove 11. She stated if anyone has concerns with this they should query the age and condition of the tree, and noted the additional landscaping that would be installed. Ms. Hartzell noted the previous traffic study that was completed and noted it was based on a more rapid buildout of the property than is currently proposed. She voiced her support for the proposed enhancement of the wetland. She also indicated the number of rental properties currently available in Ashland reflects what is happening throughout the country and does not believe this will be sustained into the future. She stated this project goes a long way towards sustainability efforts and encouraged the Commission to approve this project.

Albert Pepe/321 Clay Street/Stated he likes this proposal better than the previous project, but feels they have an opportunity to create a more sustainable project. Aside from the housing development, he suggested using the remainder of the land for a farm/garden project. Mr. Pepe suggested other concepts be included in the project, including orienting the buildings for a more passive solar design and incorporating a water catchment system. He recommended the Commission rethink the overall scope and design of this project.

Ruth Alexander/2645 Butler Creek Road/Indicated she was speaking on behalf of the Ashland School Board and commented on the enrollment problem in Ashland. She stated there is not enough affordable housing in Ashland and families are not moving here. She stated the location of this project is perfect and noted its close proximity to the various surrounding schools. Ms. Alexander noted the results of a demography study completed by the School District and stated there is a good chance the School District could see an increase in enrollment if more affordable housing was available in Ashland. She asked that the Commission approve this project and stated it will help the town and help the schools. [An except of the demographer's report was submitted to the Commission]

Heidi Parker/344 Bridge Street/Read aloud a letter from the Ashland School Board. The letter voiced the School Board's support for this project and noted their awareness of Ashland's shortage of housing for working families. It stated Ashland has been experiencing declining enrollment for nearly a decade and the most recent demographic report cites the lack of affordable housing in Ashland as a major contributor to this problem. The letter voiced support for the location of this project and noted its close proximity to local schools. The School Board letter voiced support for the Housing Authority in its endeavor to bring this project to fruition and encouraged Oregon Housing and Community Services to provide the essential funding to make it a reality.

Ms. Parker clarified the demography report was completed last year, and the number of available rental properties in Ashland was taken into consideration.

Jody Zonnenshein/75 Brooks Lane/Stated her main concern, aside from what has already been said, is about the wetlands. She stated wetland area was destroyed when Abbott Street was put in, and stated protecting the wetlands for the future does not include building right up next to them. Ms. Zonnenshein stated the wetlands will not last if you build all around them and asked the people involved with this project to pay close attention to this issue.

Bernice Koch/60 Crocker Street/Voiced her concerns regarding increased traffic. She stated there is already a speeding problem in this area and stated an increase of 100-120 vehicle trips per day will also affect Abbott Street. She added Abbott is a very narrow street and should not be used as a major thoroughfare. Ms. Koch also voiced her concerns regarding the protection of the trees and wetlands.

Stan Druben/125 Brooks Lane/Agreed that there needs to be a better demographic mix in Ashland, but stated there are better ways to create affordability than this project. Mr. Druben noted the Applicant's request to cut down 3 additional trees and questioned what this projects overall impact on the environment will be.

Joyce Woods/2308 Abbott Street/Stated Abbott Street has no posted speed limit, no crosswalks, no stop signs, and is becoming more of a thoroughfare. She stated Abbott is just wide enough for two cars to pass and expressed her concerns with how this project will impact this situation. Ms. Woods asked the Commission to not just consider the traffic impacts of the development itself, but also the movability around the project. She also questioned how the water flow into the existing wetlands would be impacted and voiced her concerns with the tree removals.

Brent Thompson/582 Allison Street/Stated the Planning Commission needs to reassure applicants that if they bring in a project that includes structures up to the allowable height limit, it will be approved. He noted this projects two-story building design and felt, in general, structures up to the height limits would allow for more open space and would be a more efficient use of the land.

Applicant's Rebuttal
Mark Knox/Commented on some of the issues raised in the public hearing. He stated this project should be well known throughout the community and noted the numerous meetings that were held during the annexation hearings. In regards to jogging the location of the street, he stated this option was evaluated and was determined to not be a viable option. He noted they addressed this issue with the Tree Commission and received unanimous approval for the current layout. Mr. Knox clarified a number of the comments made tonight have already been addressed and noted the difficulty in getting to all the details in the time allotted. He encouraged the Commission to support this project and stated it meets all of the criteria.

Marsh closed the record and the public hearing at 8:45 p.m.

Questions of Staff and Legal Counsel
Staff was asked to comment on whether there is a buffer around the wetlands. Mr. Severson explained the previous subdivision approval had the development right up next to the wetlands, however in this proposal the wetland is on its own lot protected by City ownership. In addition, there is a 30 ft buffer.

Mr. Severson clarified all 60 units would be deed restricted affordable rentals. He also commented on the potential traffic impacts and noted this project has a lesser impact than what was originally approved. In addition, the City's Engineering Department reviewed the current proposal and did not indicate any issues. He noted the proposed right turn lane would be installed before occupancy of these units, unless the median on Ashland Street is installed which would negate the need for the turn lane. Mr. Severson commented on the concern raised about increased traffic on Abbott Street, and noted the reserved space on this property that has been set aside for a future east-west connection. He clarified this is not part of this proposal, but is something the Council wanted to see happen.

Staff commented on the development potential for Lot 1. Mr. Severson explained this lot could be developed with 47 units, which would bring the entire property to 107 units and be consistent with the previous approval. However, if the Parks Department acquires the land, there would be approximately 1-acre left for housing. And since 47 units is too many for 1-acre, this would likely need to come back for modification at that point.

Mr. Molnar noted the questions raised by the Commission in regards to the traffic study and wetlands, and encouraged them in the future to ask these types of questions when the Applicant and their professionals are before them, since it is ultimately the Applicant's burden to satisfy their concerns.

Deliberations and Decision
Marsh asked each of the commissioners to cite their major and minor issues.

Mindlin noted the basic concept of this project has already been approved by the City Council and their decision criteria is fairly slim. She stated she is disappointed that a project of this size does not have solar orientation, and has concerns about the traffic impacts and the overall need for this type of development, but stated this is not under their purview tonight.

Morris cited his concerns regarding the amount of asphalt and parking, but agreed that the proposed project satisfies the required criteria.

Dimitre shared his concerns with the tree removal and transportation issues and felt this project could have been done differently.

Miller stated she does not believe this project meets the criteria for adequate transportation. She indicated the farmland was lost as soon as this property was annexed into the City, and said the only way to reclaim some of that land is to have community gardens.

Marsh commented on the difference between macro and micro planning. She stated a number of the speakers talked to the larger "macro" issues, however that is not what is being reviewed tonight. She stated it is clear this project meets the criteria, but recommended an additional condition for the installation of an interim connection to Tolman Creek before the final lot is developed.

Commissioners Morris/Marsh m/s to approve Planning Action #2009-00043 with the proposed conditions, and an additional condition for the temporary connection to Tolman Creek before the final lot is developed. DISCUSSION: Mr. Severson clarified the following language would be added as Condition #10: "Prior to the occupancy of Lot 2, a temporary bicycle and pedestrian path and any necessary modifications to the gate and fencing be provided across Lot 1 to the YMCA fields." Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Marsh, Mindlin and Morris, YES. Commissioners Dimitre and Miller, NO. Motion passed 3-2.

Marsh asked staff to clarify the issue of community gardens and open space, since this issue has come up several times recently. She also requested staff investigate the issue of height limits and what they are communicating to applicants.

Commissioners Morris/Mindlin m/s to approve the Findings for Planning Action #2009-00043. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dimitre, Marsh, Mindlin, Morris and Miller, YES. Motion passed 5-0.

Commissioners Miller/Dimitre m/s to extend the meeting to 10:00 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.


A. PLANNING ACTION: 2008-02013
APPLICANT: City of Ashland
Public Hearing regarding Ordinance Amendments to the Sign Regulation Chapter (18.96) of the Ashland Land Use Ordinance, relating to changes in the type, size, number and materials of signage allowed within residential and commercial zones.

Staff Report
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman delivered a presentation on the Sign Code ordinance amendments. He noted the two prior meetings where the Commission has reviewed this item, and provided the following list of key changes and options for consideration:

1) Area Definition: Option 1 calculates the area of a sign as bounded within a rectangle. This is how staff has historically calculated the area. Option 2 creates new opportunities to consider circles, triangles and other geometric shapes in calculating the area.
2) Public Art Definition: Mr. Goldman noted the recommendations from the Public Art and Historic Commissions, and stated Staff's recommendation is to exempt public art from the Sign Code and revise the Site Design Review standards to expand review of exterior changes to historic buildings to include public art.
3) Construction and Real Estate Signs: Option 1 limits the number to one 16 sq. ft. or 32 sq. ft sign (residential/commercial), essentially requiring construction sites to aggregate their signs onto one sheet of plywood. Option 2 permits multiple signs, up to 4, up to the allowable square footage.
4) Wall Graphics Definition: Mr. Goldman clarified currently wall graphics are prohibited, but the proposed ordinance would allow wall graphics as long as they comply with the sign area limits.
5) Buildings with Multiple Frontages: Option 1 provides an additional 30 sq. ft for buildings with 3 or more frontages with a maximum of 60 sq. ft. on any business frontage. Option 2 provides an additional square footage allowance that is half that of the primary entrance for buildings with 3 or more frontages.

Mr. Goldman's presentation also addressed the maximum signage allowance, exempt incidental signs and three-dimensional signs. He clarified a 3 cubic ft. three-dimensional (3D) sign would count as one incidental sign, and noted all 3D signs have to be located on private property in the current draft. Mr. Goldman also indicated that after further review of the Downtown Task Force recommendations, the 3 cubic ft. 3D sign limit is applicable to all of the City's historic districts, not just the downtown area, and the current draft of the ordinance reflects this correction.

Mr. Goldman cited the Staff Report Addendum that was submitted to the Commission at the beginning of the meeting and clarified in order to have public art on private property, an easement dedicated to the City would need to be provided. He added public art has to be under the City's control, however it has been discussed that easements could be granted for a limited amount of time.

Commissioners Miller/Mindlin m/s to extend meeting to 10:30 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.

Public Testimony
George Kramer/366 North Laurel/Indicated he was a member of the Downtown Task Force. Mr. Kramer voiced concern with the proposed change to allow wall graphics on historic buildings. He stated these graphics are virtually impossible to remove from brick buildings, but applicants like to do them because they are inexpensive, and asked that the Commission leave the prohibition in place. He commented on the 3D sign options and encouraged the Commission to consider Option 2. He commented on the larger (20 cubic ft.) 3D sign provision and stated the parameters included in the ordinance will alleviate the issues people are afraid of. He added large structures are expensive and he does not believe they will see many businesses take advantage of this provision. Mr. Kramer commented on the public art provision and stated "Alfredo" (the statue outside Wiley's Pasta) is not art and shared his concerns with blending the distinct lines between art and signs.

Steve Cole/1323 Mill Pond Rd/Owner of Sound Peace. Mr. Cole commented on the Tibetan prayer flags that were in front of his business for over 10 years. He stated he does not know whether this is a sign or art, but stated these flags are seen all over Ashland and add to the character of this town. He asked the Commission is there was anyway to allow him to keep his flags.

Dana Bussell/Vice Chair of the Public Arts Commission and also a member of the Downtown Task Force. Ms. Bussell voiced concern with the 3D object provision and recommended the Commission proceed with caution on this issue. She warned once these types of objects are allowed, they cannot be removed, and recommended they make individuals go through the public art approval process instead.

Brent Thompson/582 Allison/Proposed the following option to simplify the wording of the additional frontages provision: "Buildings shall be permitted one square foot of sign area for each linear foot of business frontage; the maximum sign area on any single business frontage shall not exceed 60 sq. ft." Mr. Thompson added that he would differ to staff's expertise and as the petitioner for this provision voiced his support for the proposed ordinance.

Marsh closed the record and the public hearing at 10:18 p.m.

Questions of Legal Counsel and Staff
Marsh requested each commissioner outline their issues for staff and the following items were listed: 1) request of staff to review possible options that would allow the prayer flags, 2) in regards to the additional frontages provision, request staff consider making a differentiation between multiple businesses in one building and one business that has multiple frontages, 3) request for staff to provide clarification on the 3D object material restrictions and sandwich boards in non-historic zones, and 4) address how this information in going to be presented to the public in a graphic way.

Commissioners Miller/Marsh m/s to continue this hearing to the February 24, 2009 Planning Commission meeting. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

Meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant


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