MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR MEETING
August 2, 2011
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Silbiger, Chapman, and Slattery were present. Councilor Lemhouse was absent.
Mayor Stromberg noted vacancies on Housing, Historic, Forest Lands, Planning, Conservation, Airport and Tree Commissions, and the Audit Committee.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS
The Mayor's proclamation of August 6, 2011 as Hiroshima Day and August 9, 2011 as Nagasaki Day were read aloud.
SHOULD THE COUNCIL APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THESE MEETINGS?
The minutes of the Study Session of July 18, 2011, Executive Session of July 19, 2011 and Regular Meeting of July 19, 2011 were approved as presented.
1. Will Council approve the minutes of City Boards, Commissions, and Committees?
3. Does Council approve the recommendation of the Public Art Commission (PAC) to implement The Wishing Tree, a mural proposed for installation at Helman Elementary School?
4. Does Council have questions regarding an amendment to increase the Transportation and Growth Management grant by $40,000 providing additional funding for the Transportation System Plan update?
5. Will Council approve reconvening the Public Safety Bond Committee to evaluate the options for expanding or relocating the Police Station and to evaluate possible funding options for the expansion or relocation?
6. Will Council repeal resolution 2011-01, which created the AFN Advisory Board?
Councilor Voisin requested that Consent Agenda item #5 be pulled for discussion.
Councilor Slattery/Chapman m/s to approve all items except #5 on the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Councilor Voisin requested adding a member to the Public Safety Bond Committee from the Facility Master Plan Committee with Council consent.
Councilor Voisin/Chapman m/s to approve item #5 on the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
1. Will Council approve a one-year pilot project for a road diet on North Main between Helman Street and the city limits? If so, should the road diet be delayed until after the Wimer/Hersey/N. Main intersection is realigned?
Public Works Director Mike Faught introduced Engineering Services Manager Jim Olson, Susan Wright from Kittelson and Associates and former Transportation Commission Chair Eric Heesacker. He explained the four-lane configuration on North Main created left hand turn conflicts off or onto the road and traffic tended to go faster than the legal speed limit. The lack of a buffer between pedestrians and cars was detrimental and crossing four lanes of traffic difficult. Additionally, there were no bike lanes for bicyclists.
The proposed road diet would slow traffic to the posted speed and eliminate left hand turn conflicts by establishing a turn lane. The three-lane configuration would allow for bike lanes, provide a buffer for pedestrians, and make crossing the road safer. Reducing the street to three lanes would increase vehicle travel time by 22 seconds during peak periods.
Intersections at Coolidge, Van Ness, Central, and Hersey/Wimer streets would have left turn restrictions but minimal impact on traffic with the exception of Hersey/Wimer. The impact to that intersection concerned staff who recommended doing the realignment prior to the road diet. It would eliminate the left turn restrictions the road diet imposed and be funded using Surface Transportation Program Funds (STP), and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds.
Mr. Heesacker explained the Transportation Commission supported the Road Diet based on State and local mandates to promote multi modal facilities. It was inexpensive, $50,000, would solve the City’s worst traffic problem, endorsed by the Chief of Police, promoted safety for all and would calm traffic. Traffic pattern changes would not exceed City street capacities anywhere in the network. The Transportation Commission recommended moving forward with the pilot first because the left hand restrictions might negate the need for the Hersey/Wimer intersection realignment and save the City money.
Staff explained public notification regarding the road diet included announcements in the paper, personal mailings, a radio interview, and two public meetings.
Public Hearing Open: 7:44 p.m.
Deltra Ferguson/345 Maple Street/Spoke in favor of the plan and hoped neighbors would think about the safety issues involved. This was an issue of overall quality in their neighborhood and the road diet would contribute to that. Additionally, this was a pilot project only.
Ron Parker/501 Schofield Street/Was not in favor of the plan and requested Council deny the road diet. The three-lane configuration would create additional traffic, make it even more difficult to turn off or onto side streets that subsequently would incur more traffic. He commented on the negative affect it would have on senior citizens and noted the congestion issues that occurred around the Methodist Church during the 1997 Flood. Staff should have researched how to widen the road. He predicted travel on Maple Street would increase and jeopardize the current flow of traffic. The project was rife with neighborhood concerns. He thought the City should use the money for other urgent needs.
Doyne Mraz/95 Meade Street/Shared his personal experience of traffic on North Main, the accidents reported in the Kittelson Associates report averaged one a month with only one death and did not pose a difficult safety problem. He wanted a survey sent to residents from Laurel Street to Jackson Street on how much more they would use those roads for walking and biking than they do now. Traffic was heavy coming in and going out and the road diet would increase that.
Elizabeth Markell/495 Chestnut Street/Noted she lived in the area affected by the project and was concerned impatient drivers would divert through the neighborhoods instead. She was hesitant to see one project increase safety in one area but possibly hinder it in other areas of the neighborhood.
Greg Conaway/301 Sheridan Street/Shared that he rides his bike to town three times a day and will only ride on the sidewalk and not on North Main Street because it was dangerous. He encouraged Council to listen to the science and not the emotion of public testimony that did not support the facts and to go forward with the project.
Susan Rolle/311 High Street/Thought the impact study did not include High Street or Manzanita Street and expressed concern regarding safety and bottlenecking. She asked Council to postpone the decision until the impact to other neighborhood feeder streets were evaluated thoroughly. She added she never received notice regarding the project.
Ken Wells/602 Fair Oaks Court/Disagreed that North Main Street was the biggest traffic problem in the City and thought the Hersey/Wimer intersection was more of an issue. The road diet was a solution looking for a problem. He commented on the affects winter weather had on Wimer Street. The road diet would have significant impact on all the roads in the pilot area.
Stef Seffinger/448 Taylor Street/Expressed concern on the affect the road diet might have on side streets and the safety for children on those streets. Additionally, the community needed more time to feel comfortable with the plan.
John Fisher-Smith/945 Oak Street/Shared his personal experiences of traveling on roads identical to the road diet and the positive benefits. He suggested improving North Main Street and dealing with the ancillary problems as it progressed. North Main terrified him as a cyclist and motorist. He trusted City staff to determine the best ways to facilitate the project.
Donald Stone/395 Kearney Street/Addressed the statistics provided and commented on the lack of statistics on bicyclist and pedestrian use on North Main Street. The number of accidents did not add up to what he thought was a problem. He conducted his own traffic tests at 25 mph and 31 mph and experienced a 2-4 minute delay. The signaled crosswalks currently used on Siskiyou Boulevard could resolve any crosswalk issues on North Main Street. Finally, he did not see proof there was a problem that needed solving.
Mary Ruth Wooding/727 Park Street/Stated that she drives the area frequently and always experienced heavy traffic and thought reducing the lanes to three would make it worse.
John Javna/219 Almond Street/Supported a decision making process that included community participation, inclusiveness, and respect for one another’s viewpoints. He also supported neighborhoods. If done correctly and in the right community, a road diet could improve the quality of life and traffic safety. He was open to the pilot but did not think it should begin in September. There were many unanswered questions and the project seemed poorly planned. His concerns were the need of more public participation in the process and more focus on the transportation impact to surrounding neighborhoods.
Kerry KenCairn/147 Central Avenue/Explained her main issue was how Central Street, Van Ness Street, and High Street would take on additional traffic when the road diet occurred. She supported the three-lane configuration if the actual flow of traffic coming into that section was less than it actually was. Currently drivers sped on Central Street and there was no one patrolling the side streets because the focus was North Main Street. Until there were more studies on the impact to side streets or ways to change the traffic pattern on those streets, she did not think the project should move forward.
Gwenne Wilcox/107 Manzanita Street/Expressed concern she was not aware of the project until that afternoon. She questioned the project timing in September and thought the Transportation Commission was jumping ahead before trying intermediate fixes and shared some alternatives. She thought the pilot encouraged a redirection of hazard into residential neighborhoods off North Main Street.
Julia Sommer/1158 Village Square Drive/Read the 2011-12 Council Goal that included alternative modes of travel and added the Transportation Commission voted 5-1 to implement the North Main Street road diet. She commented on the time and research that went into the decision. If the pilot did not work, it was easily reversible and paid for by grant money unlike the Hersey/Wimer intersection realignment. If the road diet worked, the realignment would not be necessary. The Transportation System Plan also recommended a road diet for North Main Street.
Susan Brook/125 Susan Lane/Agreed with concerns regarding Manzanita Street and High Street. She questioned why some of the $400,000 for the Transportation System Plan did not fund more busses or a parking lot with trams. Ashland needed to support working families and safety. Additionally, the City should look at the neighborhood impact and the safety of the children playing on side streets.
Robert Goldberg/320 N Main Street/Represented himself and the residents of his apartment complex and questioned the common sense of the project. Over the past 32 years he had lived in Ashland, the population tripled. The idea of taking the only main artery and as vehicle population increases, decreasing the number of vehicular lanes was ludicrous and beyond comprehension. The Hersey/Wimer intersection was fatal. He urged the council to take the time to evaluate North Main Street thoroughly.
Steve Morjig/610 Chestnut Street/Thought there were elements to the road diet that were safe and not safe. The Hersey/Wimer intersection alignment was an issue and more important to safety than the road diet. He thought the road diet was more about people who wanted bike paths and indicated they should use the Bear Creek Greenway Bike Path instead. Currently it was easier and safer to rides bikes through the neighborhoods and that what many people did.
Nancy Keeley/78 North Third Street/North Main Street needed a center turn lane and she supported the pilot. Because North Main Street was dangerous and difficult for bicyclists, they cycled on the sidewalks. It was not safe for pedestrians but North Main Street was not a safe place to cycle. Having bike lanes would improve pedestrian safety. She described negative experiences she incurred as a bicyclist on North Main. It was confusing for cyclists and motorists. The fog line looked like a bike lane but was not. Adding a bike lane would increase safety for all. The Bear Creek Greenway Bike Path was great but not feasible for trips downtown.
Gary Peterson/625 Chestnut Street/Used North Main Street for over 30 years and agreed that Hersey/Wimer intersection was the real problem and should be realigned prior to implementing the road diet. He also agreed with reevaluating the project. Eliminating left turns on Wimer and Van Ness would dump more traffic into neighborhoods not designed to be arterial streets. There was no need to adopt the pilot at this time.
Vicki Capp/59 Manzanita Street/Clarified the vehicular death on North Main was due to a drunk driver not road conditions. Her concerns were traffic going into neighborhoods that lacked sidewalks and bicyclist safety. Pedestrian concerns centered more on sidewalk safety and lighting than traffic. She encouraged Council to slow down the process and allow for more input.
Leslie Gore/92 Church Street/Found out about the road diet just the day before. She commuted by bike daily and was concerned about additional traffic on side streets and safety issues. There was a need to restrict speed in the neighborhoods, currently people sped down Church Street, and she had not noticed police patrolling the area. She appreciated more access for biking but not at the risk of pushing traffic into the neighborhoods.
John Baxter/831 Liberty/Explained he was the former chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission and currently the Administrator for the United Bicycle Institute. He received notice the year before regarding a Transportation Commission meeting that included a road diet on North Main Street. He expressed his full support of the road diet concept. As an experienced bicyclist, he frequently rode his bike on North Main Street and provided examples that it was a dangerous stretch of road. Statistics showed if a car hit a bicyclist at 35 mph, the bicyclist had a 60% of dying. He concluded that many of the similar concerns the public had regarding the Ashland Street realignment were unfounded.
Ilana Rubenfeld/104 Bush Street/Lived in the area for 12 years, described the current speeding issues on Church Street and Manzanita Street and expressed concern the road diet would increase that type of traffic.
Jenna Stanke/670 C Street/Often traveled North Main Street by car and bike and shared her experiences with both. The Bear Creek Greenway Bike Path was not a viable alternative for cyclists and actually added six minutes to her bike commute. The project had drawbacks, increased vehicular travel time, increased traffic on side streets due to the turn restrictions that would mostly be resolved with the Hersey/Wimer realignment. Traffic monitoring was not an exact science but this was an opportunity to try a road diet at a low cost to the City. During the pilot the City could add traffic calming on the side streets as needed. She asked the community to try out the pilot project and be creative innovative leaders of the Rogue Valley.
William Heimann/647 Siskiyou Blvd/Commented on the goal of Ashland as a sustainable City by encouraging non-polluting transportation. The road diet would bring this last major street up to that standard by producing a road that reduced vehicular crashes, was safe for bicyclists and more comfortable for walkers. This was a real opportunity for the community to live up to their reputation as a caring, concerned city. Two studies conducted over the years both recommended reducing the travel lanes on North Main Street and adding bike lanes. North Main Street was the most dangerous road in Ashland and there was no viable commercially accessible bike route on the north side of the city. Community supported sustainability and that was attainable through the provision of friendly sidewalks and roads safe for both cars and bikes. He encouraged Council to approve the project.
Councilor Chapman/Voisin m/s to extend meeting until 9:30 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
David Young/747 Oak Street/Explained he was a member of the Transportation Commission and voted in favor of the plan. It was not an easy decision but it was the right one. The City of Ashland, the region and state adopted a policy of reducing vehicle use where possible and creating modal equity. North Main Street was the most dangerous road in Ashland. He supported the road diet because it was a pilot project. It would give the City an opportunity to try it at a low cost with expert input and that situation did not happen often. The Transportation Commission did extensive research, deliberated well, and could not find one case in the nation where a community asked to undo a road diet once established. The primary concern with North Main was pedestrians crossing the street and the lack of bike lanes.
Diane Paulson/156 North Main Street/Lived on North Main Street for 23 years and witnessed two car accidents. She was confused why the Transportation Commission thought the road diet was a good idea other than wanting to take the grant money from the State. The intersection at Hersey/Wimer was the bigger problem. Additionally, public noticing only went to homeowners, everyone around her rented and subsequently did not receive notification. She did not think it was fair using the 2005 vehicular death by a drunk driver as a reason to establish the pilot.
Michael McRae/151 Coolidge Street/Thought the report from Kittelson and Associates overlooked the increased traffic on side streets and did not include some neighborhoods. He had lived on Scenic Drive in the past and described personal experiences of pet loss and injury due to people speeding. The intersection realignment on Hersey/Wimer would do a lot to solve the problems along with pedestrian crosswalks but would not address bicycles. He concluded by noting his offense at a statement made by Transportation Commissioner Colin Swales on the City website that referred to a concerned neighbor’s report as a “field mongering piece of spam,” and thought Mr. Swales should recuse himself from the project.
Gary Shaff/516 Herbert Street/Addressed statute ORS 811.065 that required a vehicle overtaking a bicyclist to give the bicyclist an equivalent distance “head to pavement,” basically more than 3 feet when passing. Doing this on North Main would require moving into other lane and causing more congestion. He noted as a cyclist riding that route most vehicles fail to meet this law.
Public Hearing Closed: 9:04 p.m.
NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS
1. Will Council direct staff to initiate changes to the City’s land use process to implement recommended changes to the Historic District Design Standards?
Planning Manager Maria Harris introduced Associate Planner Derek Severson and the consultant J. Todd Scott. She explained how the Historic District Design Standards were part of the Site Design and Use Standards implemented by Chapter 18.72 of the Ashland Land Use Ordinance and used in reviewing the building permit and planning actions that take place on properties located in the Historic District. The standards were revised to make them clear and understandable to users. One of the high priority actions was improving and clarifying the Historic District Design Standards specifically establishing detailed rehabilitation standards that were consistent with the Secretary of Interiors and provide clarification between the Historic District Standards that apply to commercial and residential development.
Ashland had four historic districts first mapped in 1970, adopted with the Comprehensive Plan in 1982, recognized by the State Historic Preservation Office in 1984, and listed on the Federal National Register for Historic Places from 1999 to 2002. Ashland became a certified local government in 2000 awarded through the National Park Service to promote historical preservation at the local level. The City receives matching grant monies for historic preservation projects that funded this project and others. As part of the certified local government designation the City was required to protect historic properties.
Council and staff discussed removing language allowing wood shingles in IV-B-9 of the Historic District Design Standards. Fire Chief John Karns clarified the ordinance banning wood shake roofs was progressing slowly. The State of Oregon sets Building Code and there was a process when a municipality wanted to vary from the code.
Councilor Chapman/Voisin m/s to accept the suggested changes to Ashland’s Historic Design Standards including the discussion regarding roof shingles and direct staff to prepare the relevant code amendments for implementation into the City’s land use approval process. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
PUBLIC HEARINGS - CONTINUED
1. Will Council approve a one-year pilot project for a road diet on North Main between Helman Street and the city limits? If so, should the road diet be delayed until after the Wimer/Hersey/N. Main intersection is realigned?
Mr. Faught confirmed there were 114 car accidents on North Main Street over a 10-year period with a high percentage occurring at the Hersey/Wimer intersection. Staff looked at widening North Main Street to five lanes and determined it was too expensive to purchase all the right-of-way requirements to widen the road and it would not address multi modal well. The road diet came up in 2007 and 2009 as a feasible option. It met multi modal and would decrease the accident ratio 25%-30% but not eliminate them.
Ms. Wright explained the affect of the turn lane restrictions and neighborhood street issues. There would be impacts to High Street and Scenic Street. The assumption was traffic on Manzanita Street would disperse within two blocks back to its original path. Mr. Faught further explained residential roads were designed to carry 1500 trips daily. The current average daily traffic counts for Coolidge Street were 403 and after the road diet would drop to 243. The existing average daily trips for Manzanita Street was 690 and the road diet would increase that to 1140 trips if left turns to Wimer Street were restricted. However, the Hersey/Wimer intersection realignment would retain the average daily trips for Manzanita Street at 690.
Staff would hydro remove and restripe the area. The additional costs involved the bike lanes and signs. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) would provide funds and contractors. The cost to retain the road diet permanently was approximately $200,000 in addition to the pilot. The pavement markings would last up to three years for the one-year pilot so the City would not incur immediate costs if the road diet were successful. Other items needed to make the pilot permanent included raising some of the striped medians, potential plantings and widening sidewalks at the north end of the project.
Ms. Wright noted the five evaluation measures for success were monitoring the reduction in car accidents and speed, an increase in pedestrian and bicycle volumes, maintaining an average travel time of 4 minutes 20 seconds or less from Helman Street to the end of the project area and gaining community support.
Council suggested including crash data on side streets and traffic volumes in the measurements as well as criteria to determine impact on neighborhoods.
Ms. Wright explained intersections and intersection capacity controlled road diet success, not traffic volumes. The traffic signals on Maple Street and Laurel Street on North Main Street had relatively low cross traffic.
Councilor Slattery/Silbiger m/s to direct staff to proceed with plans necessary to fix the Wimer/Hersey intersection. DISCUSSION: Councilor Slattery wanted to keep the intersection realignment separate from the road diet pilot. Councilor Chapman thought the project should have a higher priority and be fast tracked. Councilor Silbiger commented the motion was contrary to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process. Mr. Faught explained it was initially an unfunded project but due to community feedback staff looked for another solution that cost less. Council could move CIP money for the overlay projects to the intersection realignment. The two overlay projects were important for the life cycle of the streets but the realignment was a higher priority due to safety issues.
Councilor Chapman/Voisin m/s to amend motion to authorize staff to substitute money from the overlay project schedule to complete this project. DISCUSSION: Councilor Silbiger understood the change to the CIP was for safety but was uncomfortable circumventing the CIP and Budget Committee processes. Councilor Chapman agreed and added the intersection realignment was critical six years before and would have occurred if funds were available. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Voisin, Silbiger, Chapman, and Morris, YES; Councilor Slattery, NO. Motion passed 4-1.
Roll Call Vote on amended main motion: Councilor Voisin, Slattery, Silbiger, Chapman and Morris, YES. Motion passed.
Councilor Chapman thought it was important to move forward on the realignment so people could cross North Main Street safely and wanted to see it finished before the next school season started concurrent with the road diet.
Councilor Chapman/Voisin m/s to move forward on the road diet plan in early spring concurrent with fixing the Hersey/Wimer intersection weather permitting. DISCUSSION: Councilor Chapman thought the road diet should happen as early as possible so citizens could adjust to the changes before traffic increases for the tourist season. Construction on the Hersey/Wimer intersection would reduce lanes providing the opportunity to test the road diet during that two-month period. The biggest concern was the barrier North Main Street created for children walking. Councilor Slattery would not support the road diet at this point, questioned the immediacy, and thought it required further discussion with the public. Councilor Morris supported the road diet and thought the realignment was an opportunity to address the divisiveness in the community. However, he did not support both projects happening concurrently. Councilor Voisin thought staff’s proposal was a good compromise, the road diet was temporary and worth trying. Councilor Silbiger added forcing the road diet would cause more problems and preferred doing the pilot after the Hersey/Wimer realignment. Councilor Chapman suggested changing the word “concurrent” to “sequential” in the motion. It would allow 6 months for community dialogue and design adjustments if needed. He explained having the project done in spring or summer would allow time to fix any failings before fall and weather prohibited immediate corrections.
Councilor Chapman/Voisin m/s to amend motion to substitute the word “sequentially” with “concurrent.” Roll Call Vote: Councilor Slattery, Morris, Chapman, Voisin and Silbiger, YES. Motion passed.
CONTINUED DISCUSSION ON MAIN MOTION: Councilor Slattery was not comfortable asking for a public process when Council was directing staff to do the actual project regardless. Councilor Silbiger commented on the greater good and that safety was important. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Morris, Chapman, Voisin and Silbiger, YES; Councilor Slattery, NO. Motion passed 4-1.
PUBLIC FORUM - None
ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS AND CONTRACTS -None
OTHER BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS/REPORTS FROM COUNCIL LIAISONS
1. Does Council wish to provide direction to City staff to investigate possible changes to the City’s listserv?
Delayed due to time constraints.
Meeting was adjourned at 10:30 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John Stromberg, Mayor