Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13, 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
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery
Commissioner Marsh welcomed Dennis Slattery and announced he is the Commission’s new council liaison.
City Administrator Dave Kanner introduced himself and stated he is always available if the Commission has questions or concerns regarding City business.
Commissioner Marsh announced the Planning Commission will hold its annual retreat on May 5; and asked the group to submit agenda topics and places to visit on the field trip.
Commissioner Dawkins commented on the Green Codes public hearing before the City Council last week, and noted the significant amount of public testimony regarding the keeping of chickens. He stated when the Commission held their hearing no one came to speak, and wished they had received this same level of input. Councilor Slattery stated it was an interesting meeting and the term “urban farming” was used quite a bit. He added the Council will likely be looking at this as a new Council goal. Commissioner Marsh questioned how to raise more awareness of the issues before the Planning Commission in order to improve public participation, and stated it would have been better if they could have been aware of the public’s concerns before this item went before Council. 
Approval of Minutes.
  1. February 14, 2012 Regular Meeting.
  2. February 28, 2012 Special Meeting.
Commissioners Dawkins/Mindlin m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
No one came forward to speak.

A.  Council Memo – Pedestrian Places Re-Review
Community Development Director Bill Molnar stated the Pedestrian Places Re-Review will be on the Council’s April 3rd agenda. No objections were raised to forwarding this Memo to the City Council.
PLANNING ACTION: #2011-01523
DESCRIPTION: A proposal to revise the Historic District Design Standards found in Section IV of Ashland’s Site Design and Use Standards.  These standards are approval criteria for Site Review applications for multi-family residential, commercial and industrial applications in the four National Register-listed historic districts, as well as for exterior modifications requiring building permits on single family residential properties that are individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The proposed revisions are intended to bring the standards more into line with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, and to provide greater internal consistency within the standards themselves.  In conjunction with the revisions, supporting educational materials have been created to further explain and illustrate the standards with regard to specific topics including living with historic buildings, windows, exterior materials, additions, garages and outbuildings.  
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson provided a general overview of the Historic District Design Standards update. He explained the Standards have served the City well since the 1980s, however in preparing the Historic Preservation Plan it was found that there are occasions where the existing Historic District Design Standards contradict with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Mr. Severson stated this update is intended as a fine tuning of the standards to address those conflicts.
Mr. Severson explained the Historic District Design Standards apply in the City’s four historic districts, and only apply to construction that requires site review or conditional use permit approval. He reviewed the locations of the Ashland historic districts and also provided the contributing and non-contributing property figures for each district.
Mr. Severson provided an explanation of the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and reviewed the specific sections of the Ashland Historic District Design Standards that are proposed to be changed. He noted the Historic Commission met several times to review these changes and have recommended approval by the City Council. Mr. Severson also commented briefly on the Historic Briefs that were prepared, which provide additional information on: Living with Historic Buildings, Windows, Exterior Materials, Additions, and Garages/Outbuildings.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioner Mindlin suggested two minor corrections to page one: 1)  she stated the word “lavish” is used incorrectly in the first paragraph, and 2) she stated the following sentence in paragraph three seems dated, “Wrought iron columns, asbestos shingles, and aluminum frame windows have only one thing in common – the local hardware store.” She also commented that some of the language makes it sound like these things are required and not advisory, and asked staff to clarify. Mr. Severson clarified for single family homes that do not require site review or a conditional use permit, the standards are advisory. He added the Historic Commission Review Board has the opportunity to make recommendations to the applicant, and typically meets with homeowners or contractors and makes recommendations when the building permit is issued. Commissioner Mindlin asked what would happen if someone wants to tear down their home and build a brand new one. Mr. Severson stated the applicant would have to first obtain a demolition review permit, and the Historic Commission is notified and given opportunity to comment. He also clarified as part of the demolition review, the applicants must provide sufficient evidence that rehabilitation is financially unfeasible.
Commissioner Dawkins voiced concern that the standards don’t have enough “teeth”, and that ultimately it is all just a recommendation. Mr. Severson noted the Historic Preservation Plan outlines a request for the City to consider residential site review for homes in the historic districts, and review by the Historic Commission for things that do not require permits (replacement of siding, etc.). He added the Historic Commission has also voiced their desire to revise the demolition ordinance and give it more teeth. He clarified when the ordinance was first adopted, you could not prohibit demolition based on a structure’s historic significance. He added as future grant cycles come up, this might be something the City wants to pursue.
Commissioner Dawkins asked if the City could require an additional fee if people decide to not follow the standards; and Commissioner Miller asked if it is legal to have more restricted standards for single family homes in the historic districts. Mr. Molnar commented that 95% of people who purchase properties in historic areas do so because they like the resource and want to maintain those features. He stated more often than not people choose to follow the guidance given by the Historic Review Board, even if it is not mandatory. Mr. Severson commented that in some cases, removing the old building is not bad. He cited the LEED certified mixed-use development on A Street and stated the old building was dilapidated, had no discernable historic features, and was a non-contributing structure. He added there are some instances where demolition is appropriate and supported by the Historic Commission.
Commissioner Marsh commented that one of the best things they can do is to affirm as a community people’s choices when we see them doing great projects; to give them easy to understand handouts; and to continue to applaud and promote the historical buildings in our community. She also suggested the City assemble a map of the national historic structures in Ashland and believes this would be a great promotional piece for the City.
Commissioner Marsh noted the planning application at 400 Allison and questioned if the Floor Area Ratio issue that came up with that action has been resolved. Mr. Molnar indicated staff will add this to the list of items that need to be addressed.
Commissioners Miller/Heesacker m/s to approve the Historic District Design Standards as revised and forward to the City Council. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Dawkins stated he is supportive of these standards, but would like to reopen this discussion as it relates to the Downtown Plan, particularly on Lithia Way. Suggestion was made for this to be an agenda topic at the Commission’s annual retreat. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
Commissioner Dawkins commented further on Lithia Way. He stated this is a transition zone and suggested they discuss rezoning the north side of the street. He commented on the Northlight property and suggested this area be rezoned as high density residential; and stated a viable downtown needs smaller housing units where people can live, work, and walk. He added he does not believe the downtown area needs to get any bigger.  Comment was made questioning if the City has the ability to rezone a property and increase the density to allow for a much taller building. Staff clarified this is possible, however when you rezone a piece of property you do not own, it is best to have support from the property owner.
Commissioner Mindlin stated she has some of the same concerns as Dawkins and noted her desire to talk about pocket neighborhoods and denser neighborhood communities. Commissioner Marsh stated she would like to hear about the research Mindlin has done in these areas and asked her to bring this forward for discussion at the retreat.
Meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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