Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Study Session

Tuesday, July 28, 2009




JULY 28, 2009



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


Planning Commissioners Present:


Staff Present:

Larry Blake

Michael Dawkins
Tom Dimitre

David Dotterrer

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller

Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris

John Rinaldi, Jr.


Maria Harris, Planning Manager

Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant




Absent Members:


Council Liaison:



Eric Navickas



Commissioner Marsh announced John Rinaldi, Jr. was appointed to the Planning Commission and welcomed him to his first meeting.


Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a brief update on the status of the SOU Campus Master Plan. She stated following the public hearing held at the last meeting, the University has decided to postpone this action in order to conduct further outreach with the community. Commissioner Blake noted a neighborhood meeting has been scheduled for October and the Master Plan Update will likely return to the Planning Commission later this fall.


Ms. Harris announced due to the changes in the City Council’s meeting schedule, the Planning Commission will meet on September 15 and September 29.



A.         2007 Commuter Rail Study and Update on Upcoming North-South Travel Demand Study

Ms. Harris introduced Vicki Guarino with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG). She briefly commented on the location reserved in the Croman Master Plan for a commuter rail platform and explained RVCOG completed a rail study in 2007. She stated Ms. Guarino is here to provide information on that study and to provide follow up on what has occurred since then.


Ms. Guarino provided a presentation to the Commission that addressed the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (RVMPO), the 2007 RVMPO Commuter Rail Study, and the RVMPO North-South Travel Study.


1)       Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (RVMPO). Ms. Guarino provided some background on the RVMPO as explained they are responsible for regional transportation planning as directed by Congress. She reviewed how the RVMPO was established and the jurisdictions that are included. She clarified federal legislation and regulation define the RVMPO’s role, and they are responsible for maintaining certain documents, including the Unified Planning Work Program, the Regional Transportation Plan, and the Transportation Improvement Program.


2)       Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Ms. Guarino stated the RTP was recently updated and forecasts to the year 2034. She stated the RTP identifies $305 million in transportation funds and identifies the projects to be completed. She indicated that based on the information they have about transportation projects and forecasts for population and employment growth, the RTP also forecasts system performance and demonstrates conformity with the air quality regulations.

3)       Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Ms. Guarino stated the TIP is the short range catalogue of projects that are happening now. She stated the TIP identifies the funding for these projects and outlines the completion schedules. She noted this document is updated by the RVMPO every 4 years and the projects listed in this document must be fully funded.

4)       RVMPO Organization. Ms. Guarino explained each jurisdiction is represented on the RVMPO’s Policy Committee and the City of Ashland’s representative is Councilor Chapman. She noted staff members from each jurisdiction are also represented on the RVMPO Technical Advisory Committee. She commented on how projects get into the RVMPO arena and explained it all starts with communities identifying local needs in their Transportation System Plans (TSPs). Regional projects identified in the TSPs are then forwarded to the RVMPO and once funding is received and the project is approved, it moves forward.

5)       Rogue Valley Commuter Rail Project. Ms. Guarino stated this study was published in 2007 and evaluates the possibility of a commuter rail system from Ashland to Central Point (16 miles) and possibly extending to Grants Pass. She stated the study analyzed two different scenarios; 60 minute service intervals and 30 minute service intervals. It was determined a 30 minute interval would need to be the minimum, and would require 4 sets of trains with 180 seats per train. Ms. Guarino stated the costs would run approximately $10 million per rail car; however, there is a wide discrepancy to these costs. She noted track upgrades would be needed, plus the additional costs for parking, platforms, and maintenance. She stated the study identified a total capital cost of approximately $26 million, and annual operating costs of $3 million. Ms. Guarino commented on the potential benefits of a commuter rail system, and stated the next steps include researching alternative rail cars that might be less costly, tracking the changes in rail ownership, identifying and exploring alternatives, and quantifying future demand.

6)       North-South Travel Demand Study. Ms. Guarino explained a key piece in determining the feasibility of a commuter rail is identifying future demand. She stated a North-South Travel Demand Study is being developed and is scheduled for completion this fiscal year. She stated the study will include the Croman property south of Ashland and will extend to the Seven Oaks interchange to the north. Ms. Guarino stated the study will evaluate future growth (residential dwelling units and employment opportunities) within Ľ mile of the railroad track and Hwy 99, and explained the purpose of the study is as follows:


·         To develop a long-term multimodal concept plan for the Hwy 99 corridor area as an alternative to I-5 north-south travel.

·         The study will focus on the role land use and multimodal transportation can play to improve peak-hour travel.

·         The plan will include strategies that reduce vehicular traffic congestions, greenhouse gases, and support economic development along the north-south corridor and beyond the study area.

·         A major focus of the study will be to determine the appropriate population density and land use patterns necessary to support transit alternatives such as enhanced commuter transit, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail.

·         The study will identify transportation options and strategies to reduce vehicle trips and improvements needed to improve bicycle and pedestrian connectivity.

·         The project will use and build on preliminary work by the RVMPO on the feasibility of commuter rail on existing rail paralleling Hwy 99 through the study area.


Ms. Guarino concluded her presentation and explained while the commuter rail system is a hugely popular concept with people, currently the region falls short in terms of density. She stated if communities want to see this happen in the future, they will need to meet certain density and employee numbers within that Ľ mile radius of the rail line and Hwy 99. She noted the RVMPO is currently working on identifying what the various comprehensive plans outline for developing these corridors, but until the region meets the necessary figures, they can only talk about this concept.  


The commissioners shared their input and questions regarding the commuter rail concept and the North-South Travel Demand study.

Commissioner Dawkins noted he worked on a Transportation Committee in Colorado and suggested the RVMPO research other communities who have tried to do a commuter rail.


Commissioner Miller questioned where the money to pay the operating expenses would come from and asked how much public outreach has been done. Ms. Guarino noted the neighborhood meetings and open house sessions that were held, but had no answer as to where the operational funds would come from. She noted with the new Obama administration, there may be new funding opportunities that become available.  


Ms. Guarino clarified it is possible for a commuter rail system and a freight line to utilize the same tracks. She also clarified the rail cars they looked at would be able to move either forward or reverse and no turn-a-rounds would not be needed (however the study did identify several locations were bypasses would be needed).


When asked whether the RVMPO is coordinating with other MPO’s in the state, Ms. Guarino answered No, since our valley is mostly self contained. She added the MPO’s in the northern part of the state are working hard to become a high speed rail corridor and are working with other jurisdictions to the north.


Ms. Guarino clarified Planning Manager Maria Harris is a member of RVMPO and will receive up to date information as this study moves through the process. She also noted information will be posted on their website at Commissioner Marsh noted the City’s commitment to multimodal transportation and asked that the Planning Commission be kept informed by staff and our Council representative.


B.         City Council Goals, Values and Vision

Commissioner Marsh briefly reviewed the four goals the Planning Commission had provided to the Council and stated she is interested to see if and how these were incorporated. Marsh summarized the four goals provided to the Council: 1) Strategic vision and visioning, and the Commission’s offer to be involved in the City Council’s process; 2) Transportation planning, incorporating a planning vision, and active participation in the transportation planning process; 3) Continue with the Croman planning process and incorporate such issues as solar orientation and water infiltration design standards; 4) Look at sustainability and research what other public entities have done.


Council Liaison Eric Navickas presented the Council Goals, Values, and Vision presentation. He noted feedback sheets were included in the commissioner’s meeting packets and asked that they complete these and return to staff by the deadline indicated.


Councilor Navickas noted the primary theme of the goals is sustainability and stated the goals are separated into six categories: Economy, Environment, Social Equity, Municipal Organization, Public Facilities, and Partnerships. The goals presented to the Commission are as follows:


Economy Goals:

1)       Develop and implement a comprehensive economic development strategy.

2)       Complete the Croman Mill Master Plan and develop an implementation strategy for funding and infrastructure.

3)       Increase the clarity, responsiveness, and certainty of the development process.


Environment Goals:

1)       Develop an integrated land use and transportation plan to increase the viability of transit, bicycles, walking, and other alternative modes of transportation.

2)       Adopt an integrated Water Master Plan that addresses long-term water supply.

3)       Implement specific capital projects and operation programs to ensure City facilities and operations are a model of efficient use of water, energy, land, and other key resources.

4)       Adopt land use codes, building codes, and fee structures that create strong incentives for new development that is energy, water, and land efficient, and supports a multimodal transportation system.

5)       Develop a strategy to use conservation and local renewable sources to meet Tier 2 power demands.

Social Equity Goals

1)       Complete the development of affordable housing on the Clay Street property.

2)       Conduct a comprehensive study of Ashland’s homeless.


Organization Goals:

1)       Develop a plan for fiscal stability, manage costs, prioritize services, and insure key revenue streams for the City Parks & Recreation.

2)       Address the issues regarding the stability of the organization.


Public Facilities Goals:

1)       Develop a plan to replace Fire Station #2.

2)       Refine a long term strategy for the Ashland Fiber Network that improves its financial viability, provides high quality services to residents, and promotes healthy economic development.


Partnership Goals:

1)       Foster strong collaboration of the local community, City, State, and Federal leaders in efforts to improve the health of the Ashland watershed through reducing fire hazards and restoring forest health.

2)       Restore rail service to and through Ashland.


Councilor Navickas next addressed the proposed Council Values. The key elements of the values were identified as the following: 1) good government, 2) natural environment, 3) responsible land use, 4) free expression, 5) diversity, 6) economy, 7) independence, 8) personal well being, and 9) sense of community. Navickas asked the commissioners to respond on their feedback sheets as to which values should be added or changed. He also welcomed their feedback on any portion of the presentation given so far.


Commissioner Blake noted the Economy Goal that states “Increase the clarity, responsiveness, and certainty of the development process” and questioned how property development fits into this. Navickas stated his interest is in doing more outreach to the development community to ensure they are educated on what our code requirements are; however there may be conflicting opinions on how to address this goal from the rest of the Council.


Commissioner Marsh questioned what happens after the Council adopts these goals. Navickas clarified in the past, the Council has held Study Sessions and undertaken further discussions in order to reach an agreement on how to actually implement the goals.


Commissioner Blake commented on the goal that states “Adopt land use codes, building codes, and fee structures that create strong incentives for new development that is energy, water, and land efficient, and supports a multimodal transportation system” and asked what kind of incentives the Council has envisioned. Navickas stated his personal opinion is to be more conservative when it comes to giving incentives that loosen regulations, but he does support density bonus incentives in certain situations.


Commissioner Mindlin stated she was looking for the sustainability element in the values statement and found it hard to find. She commented that there should be a way for the Council to articulate their sustainability values and define what it really means to conserve resources for future generations. Mindlin voiced disappointment that rainwater infiltration was not listed as a goal and requested the City adopt a prescriptive path for rainwater infiltration so anyone can do this. She also commented on incentives versus requirements and asked if the City could require people to do the things they find valuable. Planning Manager Maria Harris provided some clarification and stated there are potential legal problems with requiring people to go above and beyond what is required by the State Building Code.


In regards to the Economy Goals, Miller recommended the Council work with SOU to determine who the underemployed in the community really are.


Commissioner Dimitre voiced disappointment with the level of sustainability in the goals and stated he does not feel sustainability has been adequately addressed. He added the legislature may be a road block now, but it might not be a year or two from now and suggested they could solicit their local representatives serving in the legislature.


Commissioner Morris questioned why there is no Economy Goal about keeping families in Ashland and drawing back kids who leave for college. Marsh added there should also be a value that addresses the role of children and families in our community.


Councilor Navickas resumed his presentation and read aloud the Draft Vision statement. He asked if the commissioners had any final comments regarding the information presented. Marsh commented on the “lack of people” from the vision statement and stated there is nothing that says Ashland addresses the needs of vulnerable residents, families, children, and senior citizens. Dawkins commented on the loss of community, voiced his frustrations with the Croman plan, and stated the draft plan takes energy and focus away from the downtown core. Mindlin stated the vision statement is very pretty and safe and recommended the Council get serious about what the future is really going to look like and what they need to do to prepare.


Commissioner Marsh requested Councilor Navickas keep them up to date as this item moves forward.



A.         Croman Mill Site Redevelopment Plan

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman and Planning Manager Maria Harris addressed the Commission. Ms. Harris presented an update on the first Croman Advisory Committee meeting and explained staff presented the latest refinements to the Croman plan and received input from the group. She stated questions came up about the parking garage and suggestions were made to keep the location flexible, as well as possibly put the structure partially below grade. She stated the area between Mistletoe Rd. and Hamilton Creek also came up and whether this area could be open space. Councilor Navickas shared his perspective of the meeting and noted that Alan DeBoer, who attended as the Airport Commission representative, had advocated for larger parcels with minimal oversight. It was noted that Commissioner Blake also attended the meeting and he commented on the interest expressed regarding extending the industrial area along the rail way.


Staff presented a brief presentation that reviewed the timeline, draft AMC 18.53 Croman Mill zoning district, and proposed land use table. Senior Planner Brandon Goldman commented on the maps that were included in the packet materials and noted the differences from the previous draft. He explained on the Land Use Designations map, the light industrial area is now on both sides of the main boulevard, and the roads were shifted slightly to create even block lengths. Mr. Goldman reviewed the Pedestrian and Bicycle Framework map and the Transit Framework map as well. He noted the rail connectivity through the site and the inclusion of a placeholder for a future rail spur. He also noted the potential bus stops on the maps, and the proposed location for a rapid transit system should it ever manifest. Ms. Harris briefly reviewed the outline of the Development and Performance Standards and asked if they had any questions or comments on what has been presented.


Commissioner Marsh asked if the Commission wanted to make changes to the land use map, when would that happen. Ms. Harris answered if the change is significant, staff would likely have to take it back to the City Council and get direction. Marsh questioned if extending the industrial area to the north would be considered a major change. Ms. Harris explained the property owners have been clear that they have an entity interested in a specific location on the Croman site and this type of change would impact that. She added this entity (Plexis) would prefer similar buildings and uses surrounding the location they have chosen. Ms. Harris noted Mike Montero, who is the representative for the Croman property owners, is here tonight and he may want to speak to this.


Mike Montero came forward and stated the Croman property owners are his clients. He explained the Plexis group has expressed interested in four parcels at the northwest end of the property. He stated their concern is that they want assurance that what will be constructed adjacent to them will be compatible. Mr. Montero stated his clients support this conceptual master plan and they are sensitive to the Commission’s concerns about preserving the character of the community while providing for new and sustainable employment. He stated they are quite pleased with what the City has come up with to this point and believes this plan will provide opportunities for local firms to grow and expand.


Commissioner Dimitre left the meeting at 9:30 p.m.


Commissioner Rinaldi asked about the residential component and asked where these workers will live. Staff noted the mixed use and neighborhood commercial areas identified on the land use map. The Clay Street housing project was also noted and Senior Planner Brandon Goldman commented on the remaining undeveloped housing areas within the Urban Growth Boundary and stated there is a significant supply of single family land available.  


Mr. Montero was asked how the property owners feel about giving up developable lands for the park and parking structure. Mr. Montero stated for property developers, one of the ways they recognize their value is the rate at which the property absorbs. He stated constructing urban amenities into employment complexes helps this to occur and accelerates the absorption of the project.


Mr. Montero was asked how Plexis would feel about changing the two office employment blocks to the south of the park to industrial land. He stated he cannot answer for Plexis, but through the discussions they have had he believes Plexis’ concern is not as much of a specific use being adjacent, but rather visual continuation and compatible design standards. He indicated even if the adjacent uses are similar, Plexis would want to ensure the architectural standards are compatible as well. He added he would be happy to forward this question to Plexis. Commission Dotterrer noted this type of change could be made later through the major amendment process. Ms. Harris agreed, but noted this type of change deviates from the guiding principles of the plan in regards to splitting the acreage evenly between the two types of uses.


Commissioner Mindlin commented briefly on the meeting she and Commissioner Marsh had with Mr. Molnar in regards to how sustainability could be incorporated into the Croman Master Plan. She noted City staff is looking at the LEED Neighborhood Program and possibly incorporating these elements into the Croman plan. She stated would like to see a more detailed explanation of what the LEED Neighborhood Program is and how we are working with it. In particular, she is interested in incorporating solar orientation and green streets standards.


Commissioner Marsh requested staff continue this discussion to the next reasonable agenda.  



Meeting adjourned at 9:55 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

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