Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, December 08, 2009





DECEMBER 8, 2009



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


Commissioners Present:


Staff Present:

Larry Blake

Michael Dawkins

Dave Dotterrer

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller

Melanie Mindlin

Mike Morris

John Rinaldi, Jr.


Bill Molnar, Community Development Director

Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant




Absent Members:


Council Liaison:



Eric Navickas



Commissioner Marsh announced the vacancy on the Planning Commission and encouraged interested citizens to submit applications. She also requested they add review of the Planning Commission Goals to tonightís agenda.


Staff clarified the December 22nd Study Session will likely be canceled, unless pressing matters arise at tonightís meeting.



A.      Approval of Minutes
1.  November 10, 2009 Planning Commission Minutes


Commissioners Dotterrer/Miller m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion Passed 8-0.



No one came forward to speak.



A.      Adoption of Findings for PA #2009-01151, Clover Lane.


Declaration of Ex Parte Contact

No ex parte contact was reported.


Commissioners Rinaldi/Miller m/s to approve the Findings for Planning Action #2009-01151. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion Passed 8-0.



A.      Croman Mill District Plan.

Commissioner Marsh provided a brief summary of the update that was given to the City Council on November 30th. During the update, she noted the Council raised questions about employee density and enforcement, the location of office and industrial land, and urban renewal districts. Council Liaison Navickas stated in general, the Council seemed positive and supportive of what the Commission has done. Marsh stated there are still a few issues that are dangling and these will be addressed tonight; with the public hearing scheduled for their first meeting in January.


Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a short presentation to the Commission. She displayed images of the current plan and of a possible revision to the street alignment, which adjusts the streets to within 15į of a true east-west axis. She stated the revised alignment will allow for more long and narrow buildings with more southern exposure, which will minimize heat gain in the summer. She added at this point staff does not see any major red flags with moving towards this revision; however the block sizes will need to be evaluated and they will also need to look at possible impacts on existing structures. Staff clarified topographical issues will also need to be evaluated. Community Development Director Bill Molnar noted staff just received this revised version and will be better prepared to provide further analysis at their next meeting. He added as the Commission prepares their recommendation to the City Council, they could consider including a recommendation for the Council to adopt the revised street layout. 


Commissioner Dotterrer requested an update on the status of the ODOT property and asked if someone is going to have to purchase that property or if they are considering a swap. Mr. Molnar clarified staff has not discussed this with ODOT; however ODOTís property is fairly valuable, and if they sold it they could purchase property at a different location. He added the Croman plan will still work even if this property stays under ODOTís control.


In regards to the Tolman Creek Rd realignment, suggestion was made for the Commission to make it clear that a decision has not yet been made and to solicit the publicís input on this at the public hearing.


Staff provided clarification on the process from here on out. Mr. Molnar stated the most appropriate way to proceed is to make a recommendation on the package that the Council has already seen, and if the Commission feels strongly that the revised street layout should be considered, to issue this as a separate recommendation. He added the revised street layout is a significant change, and before staff makes all the necessary map changes, they need to get direction/approval from the City Council. Commissioner Marsh thanked staff for presenting the revised street layout, and several commissioners voiced their support for the revision.


Mr. Molnar provided a summary of the solar setback issues. He stated as soon as they started planning for this site, staff realized there would be conflicts with the Solar Setback Ordinance. Based on the current plan, the buildings would need to be 54 ft. apart to comply with the ordinance, and any additional heights obtained through LEED bonuses would further exacerbate the problem. Mr. Molnar clarified the January meeting materials will include suggestions on how to adapt the package to accommodate the solar ordinance. He added downtown Ashland is currently exempt from the Solar Ordinance provisions, and exempting the Croman site might be an option to consider. Ms. Harris noted she has spoken with the Cityís Conservation staff regarding this issue, and believes there will still be opportunities for solar even if the ordinance does not apply. 


Senior Planner Brandon Goldman commented on the planís employee density goals and provided input from other communities who have tried to enforce employment numbers. He explained the cities of Canby and Milwaukie both tried to apply employee density numbers in their industrial areas and have faced many problems with this concept. The City of Canby is looking at removing this standard completely, and the City of Milwaukie cited several procedural issues they have faced in terms of enforcement. Mr. Goldman stated some of the issues expressed by these two municipalities are: how to handle phased developments, how to allocate employees per acre, how to accommodate for open space, difficulty in making an assessment for new businesses, the definition of employee, and most notably they expressed difficultly in data collection and reporting over time. Mr. Molnar noted there was quite a bit of discussion by the Council at their November 30th meeting and staff has not found a strong way to deal with this. Comment was made suggesting they learn from what other cities have done, and focus on uses that will achieve their employee density goals, rather than specifying employee numbers in the plan.


Staff was asked to comment on whether there might be any future liability against the City if the Croman property owners receive the grant for the central boulevard, but are unable to meet the job creation numbers identified in the application. Ms. Harris clarified the Croman plan is designed around fairly intense uses and the grant application was consistent with this. It was noted the grant is highly competitive and is evaluated on job creation, and if the Croman owners were to receive it, the City would not take on any liability. Mr. Molnar commented briefly on the agreement that was reached with Brammo, and stated the agreement allows the City to acquire and sell off property if any penalties are levied because of grant incompliance.


Comment was made questioning who will be responsible for paying for the infrastructure. Staff stated the infrastructure will likely be put in by either the developer or the person who buys a particular lot, both ways are common. Mr. Molnar noted the current property owners would like to build the central boulevard all at once, but phasing the installation is also an option. He noted city standards state that adequate transportation must be provided, so this will need to occur before a building is constructed. Mr. Molnar noted the City Council has also discussed the possibility of a finance district.


Commissioner Dotterrer asked if the City had an estimate of the infrastructure costs and questioned if the costs would make development economically viable. Commissioner Blake noted this issue came up at the Croman Advisory Committee meeting and concern was raised about whether this would pencil out. Comment was made that if the infrastructure costs are too high, businesses might need to cut back on the number of jobs they can provide. Commissioner Marsh cited the November 30th Council Study Session minutes and clarified a lot of thought is going into how this will be financed and does not believe this is under their purview. Dotterrer disagreed and stated recommending a pan that may not be economically viable is something the Commission needs to consider.


Mr. Goldman provided clarification on the residential buffer area and how this impacts heights in the neighborhood center. He stated a residential buffer area was established that includes much of the neighborhood center; and one of the standards for the residential buffer states the maximum height is equal to the height of the current underlying zone (which is 35 ft). He stated the idea of the residential buffer cap on height is to create a transition from the adjoining residential districts outside the plan area. Mr. Goldman stated if the Commission wants to encourage higher density housing in this area (above 35 ft), they may want to consider adjusting the residential buffer area. He stated one option may be to keep the buffer in the areas adjacent to the neighborhoods, but narrow it down to allow taller buildings in the center of the neighborhood center. Comment was made that taller buildings may be needed to accommodate the transit facilities and this is closer to what was originally envisioned for this area.


Request was made for staff to clarify whether the FAA has provided input on the proposed building heights. Staff clarified they are going through the formal process of submitting potential heights to find out what the FAAís mitigation requirement will be.


Commissioner Miller expressed her concern with residential density. She stated 60-units per acre are very small units and asked if this is the type of housing that is wanted and needed in Ashland. Mr. Molnar noted the needs analysis did show a substantial need for smaller units, and while 60-units per acre is the maximum, someone could develop a lesser number of units per acre. He stated the goal is to encourage smaller units, but clarified 60 is not the requirement, only the maximum. 


Commissioner Blake commented briefly on the sustainability standards and suggested they provide potential developers a range of options and let them choose which ones they want to incorporate (such as 6 out of 10).


Commissioner Marsh stated their next meeting on this topic will be the public hearing scheduled for January 12, 2010 and noted the importance of getting the publicís input on these issues.  


B.      Update on Timetable Extension and Timetable Tolling Ordinances.

Commissioner Rinaldi recused himself due to a potential conflict of interest.


Mr. Molnar provided some background on the two issues. He stated this started with the City Council and they forwarded it to the Planning Commission to get their feedback. The issues then went back to Council where they voted to send both items back to the Planning Commission to draft an ordinance and take it through the standard process. Mr. Molnar stated the Planning Commissionís hearing on this ordinance will likely be in late January or at their first meeting in February.


In terms of the recession extension, Mr. Molnar explained three other communities in Oregon have adopted similar provisions. The direction from the City Council was for the Planning Commission to consider an extension, but to apply criteria to it.


Mr. Goldman commented on the recession extension provision and listed the following questions that need to be answered before staff can draft an ordinance: 1) Who is eligible (all projects that have not allowed approval to lapse or all projects during a specific timeframe regardless of whether approval has expired), 2) How long should the extension be for (it was noted 18-months has been suggested), and 3) What process should they use to evaluate requests. Mr. Goldman noted Council felt applications should be subject to a review process that is consistent with the current 18-month extension process.


Mr. Goldman stated the provision on appeal tolling is a separate issue and deals with applications that are approved by the City, but are then appealed to a higher court. After an application is approved, the applicant has 12-months to commence construction. The question before the Commission is whether that 12-month period should be put on hold until a decision is made on the appeal. 


Philip Lang/758 B Street/Stated this is a bad proposal and should be disregarded. Mr. Lang questioned if the applications would be reviewed again to ensure compliance with current codes, and if so, what type of review will be done and who will pay for the costs. He also commented on who would benefit from this relief and stated this is essentially a subsidy to speculative developers. Mr. Lang stated this proposal would cost taxpayer money and feels it is bad public policy.


Commissioner Marsh requested they separate their discussions on the two provisions and asked for the commissionís input on the questions posed by staff.


Appeal Tolling

Question: Should a maximum period be established?

Comment was made that an appeal is out of the applicantís control and it does not serve any purpose to apply a maximum period. It was added the odds of an appeal taking several years are pretty small. Opposing comment was made that the extension should not be open ended. Comment was made that the application should be exempted for the full length of the appeal, or else there is no point in passing this provision.


Timetable (Recession) Extension

Question: Who should be eligible?

Comment was made that reaching back to 2006 is going too far, and they should start from when the economy really started to turn bad in mid-2007 (possible start date of 7/1/07). Additional suggestion was made for them to include applications from this date up until mid-2009. Comment was made that applicants should have been aware that the bubble was about to burst and voicing opposition to this provision. Commissioner Marsh stated it is clear they are not going to have a consensus and asked if there are specific pieces of input they have for staff in preparing the ordinance. Opinion was given that only applications that are active or at least communicating with staff should be eligible.


Question: What length is appropriate?

No concern was expressed with the proposed 18-month extension length.


Question: What process and criteria should requests be evaluated against?

Comment was made voicing support for keeping the process the same as the current 18-month extension. Additional comment was made supporting the current process and to not require applicants to provide proof that financing had been denied.


Commission Marsh clarified these two provisions will come back to the Commission for further discussion and a formal public hearing.


Commissioners Dawkins/Dotterrer m/s to extend meeting past 9:30 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.


C.      Planning Commission Goals

Commissioner Marsh noted the City Council will be holding their annual goal setting on January 24, 2010 and stated unless the Commission has any changes, the goals that were drafted at their annual retreat will be forwarded to the Council:


1.       Adopt Croman Mill Redevelopment Plan

2.       Transportation Planning Ė TSP.
        Transit and Pedestrian Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay.

3.       Sustainable Land Use Codes.
        Solar Orientation, Green Street Standards, and Stormwater Management.

4.       Railroad District Parking Management Plan.

5.       Arterial Setbacks
        Evaluate existing standards for Ashland Street, E. Main Street, Siskiyou Blvd, and

                N. Main Street.


Commissioner Marsh stated this is an ambitious list, but believes 1-3 are achievable in the next year. She added this list will be sent off to the Council for consideration during their goal setting process.


Meeting adjourned at 9:40 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Assistant

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