Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, April 12, 2011





April 12, 2011



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

Pam Marsh

Melanie Mindlin

John Rinaldi, Jr.


Maria Harris, Planning Manager

Amy Gunter, Assistant Planner

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor





Absent Members:


Council Liaison:

Debbie Miller


Russ Silbiger, absent



Commissioner Marsh noted the April 26th Study Session will be a joint meeting with the Transportation Commission to discuss the City’s TSP Update.



A.      Approval of Minutes

  1. March 8, 2011 Planning Commission Meeting.

Commissioners Dawkins/Mindlin m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 4-0.
(Rinaldi abstained)



No one came forward to speak.



A.      Approval of Findings for PA-2011-00043, 400 Allison Street.


Ex Parte Contact: No ex parte contact was reported.


Commissioners Rinaldi/Dawkins m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2011-00043. Voice Vote: All AYES. Motion passed 4-0. (Rinaldi abstained)


B.      Approval of Findings for PA-2011-01611, 260 First Street.


Ex Parte Contact: No ex parte contact was reported.


Commissioners Dawkins/Blake m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2011-01611. Voice Vote: All AYES. Motion passed 4-0. (Rinaldi abstained)



A.      PLANNING ACTION: #2011-00319

SUBJECT PROPERTY: 805, 815, 835, 843, 851, 861, 873, 881, 889 and 897 Oak Knoll Dr.

APPLICANT: Dan Thomas, Representative

DESCRIPTION: A request for a 25% Variance to the maximum fence height of six and one half (6 ½) feet. The applicants are proposing an eight (8) foot wall along the rear property lines for the properties located at 805–897 Oak Knoll Drive adjacent to Interstate I-5 and tax lot 7000.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Single Family Residential; ZONING: R-1-10; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 14 AD; TAX LOTS: 4900 – 5900.

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


Ex Parte Contact

Commissioners Dawkins, Rinaldi, Blake and Mindlin made site visits. No ex parte contact was reported.


Staff Report

Assistant Planner Amy Gunter explained the 11 homes along Oak Knoll Drive that were destroyed in a fire last year are requesting a variance to construct an 8 foot tall concrete block fence at the rear of their properties, adjacent to Interstate 5. Ms. Gunter stated the maximum fence height allowed is 6.5 feet and listed the variance approval criteria for the Commission. She stated staff believes this is a unique situation and noted this is the only residential area within the City that is directly adjacent to the freeway. Additionally, she stated the wall would provide a sense of security for the residents and would also reduce freeway noise for these homes and the homes on the opposite side of Oak Knoll Drive. Ms Gunter noted the wall would be visible from I-5 and from the properties on the other side of the freeway, and stated that while staff is supportive of the variance they believe the visual impacts should be mitigated. Ms. Gunter displayed examples of different wall surface treatments that could be used and recommended this be addressed in any conditions for approval. She concluded her presentation and stated staff is recommending approval of the variance given the circumstances of the properties and the benefits it will create.


Applicant’s Presentation

Dan Thomas/897 Oak Knoll Drive/Stated he is representing the residents whose homes were destroyed in the fire, and noted all 11 property owners have given their consent to this application. Mr. Thomas stated they believe there is a need for some type of wall between their homes and the freeway, and stated the old wood-style fencing may have contributed to the widespread fire damage. He added they strongly believe their homes would still be standing had there been a concrete wall in place when the fire occurred. Mr. Thomas stated a block wall would make the property owners feel safer about the potential for a repeat grass fire, and would reduce freeway noise and provide added security. He spoke to the issue of cost, and explained the home owners will be paying for this out of their own pockets and may not be able to afford the types of surface treatments suggested by staff. Mr. Thomas stated they are dealing with two issues, the first is the height variance and the second is what type of wall they can afford to build. He stated it is clear that an 8 foot wall would greatly reduce the freeway noise and would work well for security; however the fire issue likely won’t be affected by the height of the block wall since any grass fire would conceivably stop at the base. In terms of the type of wall and cost, he stated a masonry block wall or an ICF-stucco wall are possible options; however the stucco treatment for an ICF wall may push them over their budget. He suggested the homeowners pay for the ICF wall, and for the City to coat it however they like. Mr. Thomas stated they want the wall to look nice, since they will be the ones looking at it every day, but it has to be economically feasible. He added if this application is not approved, each homeowner would likely build their own 6.5 ft wall or fence, each in different styles and materials.


Commissioner Dawkins stated there is some conflict in regards to whether a wall would have protected these homes from the fire, and noted the Memo submitted into the record by the Ashland Fire Marshall contradicts Mr. Thomas’ testimony. Additionally, he disagreed with Mr. Thomas’ comment about the cost of block walls. He stated he recently purchased a large amount of block wall and textured blocks cost the same as smooth face blocks.


Commissioner Dawkins asked Mr. Thomas to explain how they plan on installing one continuous wall when some of the owners aren’t rebuilding. Mr. Thomas agreed that this is an issue and stated as a group they are asking for the option to build up to 8 feet tall. He stated some people may not want to go as high as 8 feet and clarified they are not in contract with each other to build this as a single wall. Concern was expressed about this wall being built in stages and with varying materials. Mr. Thomas noted they will be going before the City Council to request a portion of their building permit fees be credited back to them and stated this would really help to build this as a single wall with the treatments suggested by staff. However, even if the application is approved, his neighbor could decide to build a 6 ft tall cedar fence and that’s their option. He stated unless the City wants to step up and build the wall, this is a gray area that they are trying to work out. He stated their best chance is to keep their costs down and if they can get a fair price he thinks all of the property owners will jump on board.


Commissioner Blake noted there is not a consistent grade across those properties and a fence or wall would likely be stepped to adjust to the varying grades. Ms. Gunter clarified there is a 3% slope; and Mr. Thomson stated he believes some height variation would be aesthetically appealing.


Commissioner Marsh asked Mr. Thomas about painting the concrete blocks. Mr. Thomson stated this could be done, but it is another cost that would be added on. He suggested if this is desired the City should consider painting it.  


Public Testimony

Nanosh Lucas/873 Oak Knoll Drive/Requested clarification about the process and asked if the wall or fence were constructed at the permitted 6.5 foot height, could it be whatever material they wanted. Commissioner Marsh clarified “Yes”, and added the application for a variance opens the door to these types of requests, since they are asking for something that would not normally be allowed. Mr. Lucas asked the Commission to look at the aesthetics of the wall and the height variance as separate issues.


Applicant’s Rebuttal

Dan Thomas/Requested clarification about the appeal process.


Commissioner Marsh clarified the applicants can appeal to the City Council if they do not like the Planning Commission’s decision.


Commissioner Marsh closed the record and public hearing at 7:50 p.m.


Deliberations & Decision

Commissioner Rinaldi stated there are two different wall issues, one along the freeway and one along tax lot 7000; and questioned whether they should require them to treat the wall abutting the Caldera property. Rinaldi stated he believes some type of treatment on the freeway side is rather important and likes the idea of at least paint.


Commissioner Dawkins stated he just completed a project with 1400 colored and textured blocks, and the blocks he purchased were the same price as the smooth block face.


Commissioner Mindlin stated this application came forward with the argument about fire safety, and between the Fire Marshall’s letter and the applicant’s own testimony, it is clear this variance is not for fire safety. She stated it does not seem that the applicant has met the burden of proof in terms of why an 8 foot fence is necessary.


Commissioner Blake commented that a 6 foot fence is not a reasonable height limit for these properties along the freeway. He stated there is an added benefit in terms of sound control and stated he is comfortable with an 8 foot fence.


Commissioners Blake/Dawkins m/s to approve an increase in height from 6.5 ft to 8 ft and require the material to be at a minimum concrete masonry, and encourage some form of aesthetic treatment. DISCUSSION: Blake stated he is sympathetic to the home owners and noted the taller walls you see in other areas along the freeway are typically built by bigger organizations with greater funding resources. Dawkins stated it is a false premise to state this wall would stop a fire from spreading, but he is sympathetic to the noise abatement. In terms of the material, he recommended the motion be amended to require some sort of textured block. The option of painting the wall was briefly discussed, and Dawkins noted blocks now come in different colors and stated paint would not adhere to the block very well. Comment was made that they could add a condition for all of the home owners to construct the same wall, or at least a certain number of homes in a row to participate. Marsh stated this is unrealistic and people are going to build whatever they want. She stated if they approve something that is a reasonable cost they will have a greater number that participate, but you can’t guarantee what the owners will build. Dawkins stated if they allow them an extra 1.5 feet, he would like some assurance that they don’t all do their own thing. Dawkins made a friendly amendment for the block wall to be textured and colored; Blake agreed to this addition. Rinaldi questioned if they should remove the decorative treatment requirement for the three lots that don’t abut the freeway. Rinaldi made a friendly amendment to exempt the northerly three lots from the texture and color requirements; Blake agreed to this addition. Marsh made a friendly amendment to include the language “or an alternative method for surfacing the wall as approved by staff”; Blake agreed to this addition.

Roll Call Vote on motion as amended: Commissioners Dawkins, Blake, Rinaldi and Marsh, YES. Commissioner Mindlin, NO. Motion passed 4-1.



A.      Pedestrian Places Follow-up.

The Commission held a brief follow-up discussion regarding the Pedestrian Places presentation given at their last meeting. Rinaldi asked if they will be prioritizing which locations they want to look at first. Blake commented that this is private property and the property owners are going to determine which develops first, but if there is civic investment that could accelerate one site. In terms of how to proceed, Planning Manager Maria Harris clarified five main suggestions have been presented: 1) Reduce the parking standards, 2) Increase the allowable floor area ratio, 3) Require buildings to be closer to the street, 4) Require a minimum building height, and 5) Revise the landscape area requirements. The Commission briefly discussed various topics, including a history of the setback issue, opportunities at the Shop‘n Kart/BiMart shopping center, and which areas they might want to focus on. Marsh requested they reserve time on the regular meeting agendas for Planning Commission discussion only of items that come up at these joint meetings.


Meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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