Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24, 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
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Debbie Miller, absent   Dennis Slattery
No one came forward to speak.

Unified Land Use Code Kick-Off
Planning Manager Maria Harris provided an introduction to the Unified Land Use Code project.
Why are we doing this project?
Ms. Harris explained the Ashland Land Use Ordinance (ALUO) was originally adopted in 1964 and has been amended many times throughout the years; with each amendment prepared and adopted independently. In addition, the City has several documents containing approval standards that are not contained in the land use ordinance. The end result is a fairly old document that has inconsistencies, is repetitive, is formatted differently, and does not contain all of the approval standards.
In 2006, a review of the ALUO was conducted by Siegel Planning Services and a phased work plan was presented. In 2008 the Planning Commission completed the first phase, which consisted of general housekeeping amendments. During the last Council goal setting process, the City Council adopted a goal to increase the clarity, responsiveness, and certainty in the development process, and to develop an action plan that responds to the recommendations in Siegel report.
Project Approach
Ms. Harris stated the goal is to take the existing standards and codes and put them into one document that is clear, consistent, concise, and user friendly. To do this, staff is presenting a four-step approach:

  • Step #1– Evaluate and Review. Take the ALUO and separate documents and reorganize them, make the formatting consistent, add graphics, and reword it to make it easier to read.
  • Step #2 – Review and Revise. Address inconsistencies. Substantive changes to code content will be flagged for discussion.
  • Step #3 – Evaluate Planning Application Process and Green Development Measures. Review and prepare amendment options addressing concerns regarding timing and predictability of the development process and facilitating the use of green development measures.
  • Step #4 – Adoption Process. Conduct the formal public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council. 
Ms. Harris stated staff is anticipating a 12 month timeline, beginning now and ending March 2013. She stated the Planning Commission will oversee this project and it will come back in pieces at each Study Session.
Public Involvement
Ms. Harris explained staff has put together an approach that has multiple opportunities and includes different ways for people to participate in the process, including:

  • Open Houses. Two to three open houses will be held to introduce the project to the public and offer opportunities for questions and comments.
  • Planning Commission Study Sessions.
  • Advisory Commission Updates. Staff will be attending City advisory commission meetings to explain the project and bring forward potential changes that may affect their areas of specialty.
  • Local newspaper notices, project bulletin by subscription, project webpage, and online Open City Hall forum.
  • One-on-one staff assistance.
Two types of work
Ms. Harris explained there are two types of work being done. One is reorganizing the code, reformatting, and making the graphics consistent. The other is amending the code to address any problem areas that are discovered, and drafting options to improve the
timing and predictability of the development process and facilitate the use of green development measures.
Commission Feedback for Staff
The commissioners issued the following comments to staff:

  • Suggestion was made for the Commission to have a stronger role in the open houses.
  • Comment was made that the general public is not going to be interested in this project and staff should do a concerted mailing that targets the members of the professional community and those who have recently gone through the land use process.
  • Comment was made that this is a constrained, technical project and staff’s resources would be best spent trying to engage those in the professional community who use and are familiar with the ALUO.
  • Comment was made questioning if the Commission will have backlash from the public if their input is not solicited early in the process. Commissioner Marsh stated they need to keep in mind that they don’t anticipate changing a lot of things; they may find places where the existing language is in conflict, but this project is about taking a document and organizing the material to make it more user friendly, and they do not want the intent of this project to be misperceived.
  • Concern was expressed with not taking public input until the first public hearing in November; since by that point the Commission will have already spent several months working on the project.
  • Comment was made that the Siegel Report outlined four phases and it appears they are jumping from phase one to phase four, with phases two and three being the downtown plan and a policy on infill. Mr. Molnar clarified this project is based on the current Council goal and the Council would need to issue specific direction to the Commission before they can take on the downtown plan and infill issue. Staff added the Council has been talking about the downtown plan and infill issue as potential future goals.  
  • Comment was made that if they wrap too many controversial items into this it could cause the whole project to implode, and support was voiced for the project scope as put forward by staff.
  • Council Liaison Slattery voiced his support for targeting people who have gone through the land use process.
  • Commissioner Mindlin voiced concern with not being able to address some of the larger issues, and explained one change in particular she would like to see is changing our standards for passive and active solar orientation. Mr. Molnar clarified solar orientation is one of the areas identified by staff for potential changes since it relates to the green development component.  
  • Comment was made that as issues arise they should group them together and do targeted publicity to make sure the public is aware of what is being discussed.
  • Concern was expressed with the project timeline and whether it will be difficult to get people to participate during the holiday season.
Commissioner Marsh noted the importance of undertaking this project. Staff thanked the Commission for their feedback and clarified they will bring forward an outline for discussion at the next study session.

B.  TSP Follow up – Sidewalks / Fourth Street Crossing / Downtown PlanSidewalks
Commissioner Dawkins explained the street standards mandate the installation of sidewalks, but in certain areas he believes they are unnecessary and a waste of resources. He stated he is bringing this issue forward for discussion and hopes they can move to a more common sense approach.
Commissioner Dawkins presented a slide show of sidewalks in the north-west hills of Ashland and listed the issues he has observed, including:

  • On steep roads, there is more traction when walking on the road than walking on the sidewalk.
  • Unused sidewalks in steep areas can accumulate dirt and gravel, and exacerbate the safety issue.
  • Sidewalks vary in width, with some sections being very narrow.
  • Some sections of sidewalks have obstacles placed in the center, including mailboxes and fire hydrants.
  • Sidewalks are not contiguous in certain areas, while others lead to nowhere.
Commissioner Dawkins suggested rather than requiring a sidewalk they consider creating a fund that could be used to install sidewalks where they are most needed.
Commission Discussion
Commissioner Marsh asked whether the commission wanted to maintain the current standards, which require a sidewalk and parkrow on both sides of the street, or whether the standards should be modified so that in certain areas of town sidewalks are either not required or required on one side of the street only. She added the next question they should address is whether there is a way to use requirements or funding more efficiently, and prioritize sidewalks in specific areas.
Ms. Harris stated there is a bit of misinformation that has been occurring in the TSP discussion and clarified the basic standard is for sidewalks to be installed on both sides of the street, however there are exceptions for areas that have physical constraints (hillside areas or steep slopes) or for projects that involve retrofitting a street (rather than building a new street). She also clarified that sometimes individual property owners are responsible for the patchwork of unconnected sidewalks. She stated in her experience the most common reasons are the owner wanting a place to unload or if someone is in a wheelchair.
Commissioner Dawkins acknowledged the exceptions mentioned by staff, but stated he believes these are still too rigid. He commented on the decomposed granite soils in Ashland and believes this is a suitable alternative to sidewalks in some locations. Staff requested clarification on whether Dawkins would recommend some kind of spacing requirement so that pedestrians could step off the roadway when vehicles approach. Commissioner Dawkins answered Yes, and stated he thinks the City should support a land-banked area rather than a specific requirement for sidewalk installation.
Commissioner Marsh gave her opinion that every street in town needs a sidewalk on at least one side in order to make it safe for children. She stated in order to obtain continuous sidewalks throughout town they should start talking about how to plan this ahead of time so that they are not relying on scattered development for installation. Commissioner Dawkins voiced his disagreement with Marsh’s statement and believes not having a sidewalk is appropriate in certain locations.
Councilor Slattery was asked to comment on whether the downtown plan and infill issues were on the Council’s list of goals. Slattery clarified these are not current goals, and the Council will undertake their next goal setting session in January 2013.
It was noted that the TSP Update project is evaluating sidewalks and recommendations have been made for where sidewalks on one side only is acceptable. Regarding the question about setting priorities for where sidewalks are most needed, support was voiced for having this discussion. Commissioner Dawkins clarified he is not anti-sidewalks, but still believes there is no need for them in some of the hillside areas. No other comments were issued regarding this topic.
Fourth Street Crossing
Commissioner Marsh stated she will be bringing this topic forward at the next joint Planning and Transportation Commission meeting, and explained she has given more thought to whether there should be a car crossing at Fourth Street and the railroad tracks. She stated the more she thought about it and considered the way a true commuter railroad works, she realized and now strongly believes this should be a pedestrian and bicycle crossing only. She stated if they plan to put a transit station at this location than this is not the place you want cars to be crossing. She voiced her desire for vehicle access to be taken off the work plan and for a pedestrian/bicycle crossing to be installed instead. She added she believes this is necessary whether or not the transit station goes in.
Mr. Molnar provided a short slideshow of the at-grade pedestrian crossing in Lake Oswego. He commented on how well it functions and believes this is a good example for Ashland to consider.
Downtown Plan
Mr. Molnar announced the City Council is interested in undertaking some interim improvements to spruce up the downtown; and stated the Council will be discussing this at their upcoming Study Session.

A.  Planning Commission Retreat Topics
The commission briefly discussed the upcoming retreat and the following topics and site visit locations were suggested:
Agenda Topics:

  • Plaza Development
  • What is a small town and small town character?
  • Rolling curbs vs. 90°curbs
  • How to get the word out on Planning Commission discussions and decisions
  • Look Ahead/Work Plan for the next year
Field Trip Suggestions:
  • LEED Building on A Street
  • Clear Creek Development Area
  • Fourth Street/Railroad area
  • Fordyce Co-Housing Development
Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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