Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Mtg

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 2012
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:
Michael Dawkins
Eric Heesacker
Richard Kaplan
Pam Marsh
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery, absent
Commissioner Marsh reviewed the Commission’s upcoming meeting schedule and announced Dennis Slattery is the Commission’s new Council Liaison. She also noted that May 5 and May 19 have been proposed for the Commission’s annual retreat and asked each member to check their schedules so that they can make a selection at their next meeting. 
No one came forward to speak.

A.  Approval of Findings for PA-2011-01731, Green Codes Updates.

Commissioner Mindlin questioned why the Commission’s decision is moving forward as a recommendation rather than changing the draft ordinance as discussed. She stated she does not support sending this onto the City Council in this format and stated since the Commission is bringing this change forward, the proposed ordinance should say what they want it to say.
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman explained the public hearing before the City Council has already been noticed for March 6 and in order to stay with that timeline it was not possible to bring a revised ordinance back before the Planning Commission. He stated the Findings do reflect the direction given by the Commission and they will be presented to the Council along with the draft ordinance. Mr. Goldman commented on items the Commission had requested further research on, and stated the following recommendations will also be presented to Council: 1) front yard deer fencing shall be 85% pervious, 2) mesh materials placed in a front yard shall have a minimum open diameter of 1.5 square inches, 3) deer fencing (wire or polypropylene) shall be supported by structural supports or tension wire, 4) eliminate the requirement to screen chicken coops and runs from public right of ways and adjacent properties, 5) eliminate the prohibition again outdoor slaughtering of chickens, and 6) modify the rain barrel requirements to state barrels shall not exceed 6 ft. in height and shall be located so that a minimum clear width of 3 ft. is provided between the barrel and property line.
Commissioner Miller agreed with Mindlin and stated she also would have preferred to see their recommendations incorporated into the draft ordinance. Commissioner Marsh stated she is not concerned with moving forward the materials in this format. Commissioner Dawkins agreed and stated the current format makes it much clearer for the Council to understand what was discussed and flushed out by the Planning Commission.
Commissioners Dawkins/Kaplan m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2011-01731. Voice Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Kaplan, Miller and Marsh, YES. Commissioner Mindlin, NO. Motion passed 4-1. [Commissioner Heesacker abstained]

A.  PLANNING ACTION: #2011-01734
DESCRIPTION: A continuation of the January 24, 2012 public hearing to review the pedestrian access and circulation standards (AMC 18.92) that were adopted as part of the Pedestrian Places project. The zoning and land use ordinance amendments associated with the Pedestrian Places project were approved by the City Council on November 15, 2011 and went into effect on December 16, 2011. Subsequent to the approval, the City Council directed the Planning Commission to re-review the ordinance amendments that apply to the Detail Site Review Zone and citywide, and make recommendations to the Council for changes as appropriate.
Pedestrian Access and Circulation
Planning Manager Maria Harris commented on the pedestrian access and circulation standards and clarified these standards only apply to multi-family and commercial developments. She provided an overview of the site layout and design standards and stated:


  • To the greatest extent possible, walkway systems should be extended throughout the development and connect the buildings to adjacent public sidewalks; parking areas; trails, public parks and open space areas; building entrances; and future phases of the development.
  • Walkways have to provide safe, reasonably direct and convenient walkway connects.
Ms. Harris clarified walkways through parking lots are only required for lots with 50 or more parking spaces (or greater than 100 feet in width or depth). She also noted the provision which states “topographic or existing development constraints may be cause for not making certain walkway connections” and stated this language was intentionally included to provide flexibility.
Ms. Harris also reviewed the walkway design and construction standards, which state:

  • Walkways must be 5 feet wide.
  • Be made of concrete, asphalt, brick or masonry pavers, or other durable surface.
  • Be raised and curbed through parking areas of 50 or more spaces or when adjacent to driveways; however the decision body may approve same grade walkways.
  • Provide crosswalks where walkways cross parking areas or driveways.
  • Meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
  • Provide pedestrian scale lighting no greater than 14 feet in height.
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman provided several visual samples of existing multi-family and commercial developments in Ashland, and displayed how the developments might look if the new standards were applied.  
Commissioner Mindlin questioned if her co-housing development on Calypso would have violated these standards. Staff noted there is flexibility built into the ordinance and the decision body has the ability to approve same grade walkways like what was approved for the Calypso development. Commissioner Marsh commented that there are all different types of lots and while it is beneficial to set guidelines, they need to acknowledge that the intent is the most important part and incorporate flexibility that people can trust. Mr. Molnar stated the main goal of this ordinance is to get applicants thinking about how pedestrians will get through a site early on in the process. He also commented on the possibility of modifying the ordinance to provide additional leniency for residential developments.
Arterial Setbacks
Ms. Harris provided some history of the arterial setback requirements and stated prior to the Pedestrian Places ordinance the requirement for all arterials (except in the downtown and the croman mill areas), was for buildings to be setback 20 ft. from the property line. She explained the revised ordinance establishes a “build-to line” approach and instead of working from the property lines, you are working from the curb line and reserving enough space for future parkrow and sidewalk improvements. Ms. Harris reviewed the benefits of this approach and stated: 1) buildings located in the commercial and employment zones have the ability to come closer to the back of the sidewalk and therefore utilize the land more efficiently, 2) the character of the residential zones is maintained because the underlying property line setback still applies and properties will have 10 ft. to 20 ft. for front yard space, and 3) you gain predictability because when you work from the curb line you are dealing with a fixed point whereas property lines are fairly arbitrary and can shift.
Mr. Goldman provided several visual samples of properties located along the arterials and displayed what development under these new standards might look like.  
Commissioner Dawkins expressed concern with applying this standard to North Main and questioned if this approach would eliminate their opportunity to widen the street and install bike lanes. The Commission discussed whether there is potential to install bike lanes on North Main, and also discussed the proposed Road Diet. Commissioner Marsh stated the Road Diet would be a great solution to this problem and hopes it will move forward.
Ms. Harris stated staff believes there are some areas that could use refinement, and noted there will be opportunity to adopt some housekeeping measures through the Unified Land Use Ordinance project. She stated staff is starting to work on this project now, and it will come before the Commission starting in April and will continue for the next 12 months.
Commissioner Marsh clarified these changes were passed by the City Council and are currently in effect, and asked how the Commission would like to proceed. She stated they could keep everything the same, request modifications to the entire ordinance, or affirm the actions to this point and ask staff to place specific refinements in the code cleanup project. Mr. Molnar noted one other option is to direct staff to come back immediately with the housekeeping updates and not wait for the Unified Code to come forward.
Commissioner Dawkins restated his concern with the arterial setbacks on North Main and how to establish a bike corridor; but noted this concern is dependent on whether the City adopts the Road Diet. Commissioner Marsh agreed that a bike lane is essential there, but stated this is a corridor issue and asked if the group was comfortable revisiting this after they see what happens with the Road Diet. The group voiced their support for the adopted amendment to the arterial street setback for Ashland, Siskiyou and East Main; and if the Road Diet does not occur, to revisit the setbacks on North Main to address the bike lane issue.
Commissioner Mindlin stated she is unsatisfied with the circulation language and having a rule that is left to discretion, and suggested removing the parking lot standards for residential developments. Commissioner Marsh noted staff had recommended taking another look at whether to apply the parking lot standards to multi-family developments and in lots greater than 100 feet in width or depth, and asked if the Commission was comfortable dealing with these issues in the next 12 months during the code cleanup project. The group voiced their support for revisiting this issue during the Unified Land Use Code project.
Mr. Molnar clarified staff would capture the Commission’s decision in memo format and bring it back to the Commission for review and approval before sending it along to the City Council.
Commissioner Dawkins stated he would still like to revisit the sidewalk requirements for areas where they aren’t necessary and don’t get used.
Commission Marsh encouraged the members to think about retreat topics. Suggestion was made by Commissioner Mindlin for them to add pocket neighborhoods to the agenda.
Meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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