Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

May 8, 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:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Eric Heesacker
Richard Kaplan
Pam Marsh
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Amy Gunter, Assistant Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
    Dennis Slattery, absent

Commissioner Marsh welcomed Troy Brown Jr. to the Commission and noted his background in architecture and redevelopment. She also explained the absence of Commissioner Miller and noted Miller has applied to be reappointed.

A.  Approval of Minutes.

  1. April 10, 2012 Regular Meeting.
Commissioners Dawkins/Kaplan m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 4-0. [Commissioner Brown abstained]
Colin Swales/143 Eighth Street/Stated he is disappointed to hear that Commissioner Miller has been removed from the commission and stated he suffered the same fate and had to go through the reappointment process for his position on the Transportation Commission. Mr. Swales stated there seems to be a new definition of what qualifies as an excused absence that hasn’t applied before. He stated he hopes the City Attorney will look at the rules and sort this out so that this does not happen again. 
Commissioner Marsh stated Miller’s removal from the Commission was a surprise to all of them, and stated in the past notifying the Commission chair ahead of time was all that was needed to constitute an excused absence.

A.  PLANNING ACTION: #2012-00018
SUBJECT PROPERTY: 2220 Ashland Street
APPLICANT: Summit Investments
DESCRIPTION: A request for Site Review approval to construct a new 4,125 square foot, single story, retail building and associated site improvements for the property located at 2220 Ashland Street. The former Pizza Hut building is currently located on the site. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Commercial; ZONING: C-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 14BA; TAX LOT: 1700. [Continued from April 10, 2012 meeting. Public Hearing is closed.]
Commissioner Marsh noted the public hearing is closed and the Commission will not be taking further public input.

Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Assistant Planner Amy Gunter explained the packet materials include new information, including a revised site plan from the applicant, a staff memo that addresses the issues raised at the last meeting, the applicant’s written response, and a staff report addendum. 
Ms. Gunter commented on the applicant’s revised site plan. She noted at the last meeting staff raised concern with the proposed median extension and how it would impact site circulation, and explained the applicant’s are now proposing to not extend the median as far and instead will add striping to the pavement. She added they are also proposing a rolled curb divider and directional signage. Ms. Gunter stated another issue from the last meeting was the pedestrian plaza area, and explained the revised site plan includes low seating walls, benches, colored and scored concrete, and a food vendor area. Lastly, Ms. Gunter stated the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) was identified by the Commission as a significant concern, as well as whether the applicants meet the exception criteria. She noted the staff report addresses this issue is further detail, but summarized the proposed FAR is 0.35 and the functional FAR is 0.40. She stated the applicants have also provided a shadow plan, even though this is not technically allowed. She explained they have proposed a building that will accommodate a 2,000 sq.ft. second floor addition, and with that future addition the functional FAR would be 0.53. Ms. Gunter noted the applicants findings address the demonstrable difficulty criteria and stated the multiple driveway locations and existing businesses could be seen as a case for the exception. She added the findings also show the applicants have made significant efforts to meet the purpose of the Site Design & Use Standards.
Ms. Gunter stated the proposed development would not negatively impact the surrounding sites, and would actually improve them and could be a springboard for a master plan and improvements to the shopping center as a whole. She reviewed the conditions of approval suggested by staff, and noted Condition #8 which states as the site develops over time, the applicants must work towards meeting the overall FAR.
Questions of Staff
Ms. Gunter clarified the criteria for granting an exception to the Site Design & Use Standards is as follows:
A.     There is a demonstrable difficulty in meeting the specific requirements of the Site Design and Use Standards due to a unique or unusual aspect of an existing structure or the proposed use of a site; and approval of the exception will not substantially negatively impact adjacent properties; and approval of the exception is consistent with the stated purpose of the Site Design and Use Standards; and the exception requested is the minimum which would alleviate the difficulty; OR
B.     There is no demonstrable difficulty in meeting the specific requirements, but granting the exception will result in a design that equally or better achieves the stated purpose of the Site Design and Use Standards.
She added it would be helpful for the findings if the Commission could specify whether they believe one is more applicable than the other.
Commissioner Marsh suggested better clarifying the phrase “under control of the applicant” in Condition #8. Staff agreed and indicated this condition could reference the map and tax lot numbers.
Ms. Gunter clarified there are 20 excess parking spaces on the larger shopping center property, and this site could develop further and still be able to accommodate the parking requirement. She added if a residential use was proposed for the second story addition the parking requirement would not increase.
Comment was made questioning if staff had included the public sidewalk in the calculation for plaza area. Ms. Gunter clarified the public sidewalk along the Ashland Street frontage is not included, however the sidewalk along the driveway, which is not required, is included in that calculation since they are going above and beyond what is required.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioner Mindlin stated she does not want to turn down the application, but is not confident that the applicants have met the exception criteria. Commissioner Dawkins stated this development will be a step in the right direction in the overall development of the shopping center, however he encouraged the property owners to provide a way for nearby residential patrons to cross over to this property. He added the subject lot size is only 3/10 of an acre short of qualifying for the shadow plan option and does not want to halt the redevelopment of this area. Commissioner Mindlin stated she could be supportive of this application if: 1) references to the shadow plan are removed from the findings and instead they acknowledge that they are granting the applicants a lower FAR; and, 2) they modify Condition #8 to state: “That future land use applications shall address the Floor Area Ratio standard and circulation plan…”. Support was voiced for the modifications proposed by Mindlin. Commissioner Marsh commented that this application illustrates the importance to dealing with this area in a comprehensive manner and noted her desire to work and collaborate with the property owners. She also voiced her opinion that exception criteria ‘B’ applies to this project and stated this is the first step towards a larger redevelopment project that will move this shopping center towards the desired FAR.
Staff requested clarification about the circulation plan component. Commissioner Mindlin stated she does not feel compelled to make this more specific and believes the applicants understand what the Planning Commission is looking for. Ms. Gunter indicated Condition #8 would be revised as indicated and would also specify the map and tax lot numbers as previously discussed.
Commissioners Dawkins/Mindlin m/s to approve PA-2012-00018 with conditions as stated during discussion. DISCUSSION: Ms. Gunter clarified the condition modifications include the revision to Condition #8 as discussed and the addition of Condition #10 regarding the landscaping and irrigation plan. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Mindlin, Dawkins, Heesacker, Kaplan, Brown and Marsh, YES. Motion passed 6-0.

B.  PLANNING ACTION: #2012-00265
APPLICANT:  Ashland Food Cooperative
LOCATION(S):  C-1- & C-1-D-zoned portions of Ashland's "Historic Interest Area"
REQUEST:  A proposal to amend the Ashland Municipal Code (AMC 18.32.035.E) as it relates to drive-up uses in Commercial districts. Drive-up uses are currently a special permitted use in the C-1 zoning district, but only in the area east of a line drawn perpendicular to Ashland Street at the intersection of Ashland Street and Siskiyou Boulevard.  Drive-up uses are currently explicitly prohibited in the Historic Interest Area as defined in the Comprehensive Plan. The proposed legislative amendment is to provide exception language which would apply only to existing drive-up uses within the Historic Interest Area and would allow them to relocate to a new site elsewhere within the Historic Interest Area provided that they are located predominantly underground or otherwise screened from view from the public right-of-way.
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson explained the request before the Commission is a proposal to modify the regulations in the C-1 and C-1-D districts relative to drive-up uses in the Historic Interest Area. Mr. Severson reviewed the existing regulations and stated drive-up uses are currently prohibited in the Historic Interest Area. He explained this proposal would modify Section 18.32.025.E to read:
 “Drive-up uses are prohibited in Ashland’s Historic Interest Area as defined in the Comprehensive Plan; except that drive-up uses already existing and located within Ashland’s Historic Interest Area may be relocated to another property or site within Ashland’s Historic Interest Area subject to the following additional requirement.
a.     Existing drive-up uses within Ashland’s Historic Interest Area seeking to relocated to another site or property within Ashland Historic Interest Area must be either underground drive-up uses or drive-up uses that are predominately screened, as defined in Section 18.08.805.
Mr. Severson stated the applicants are also proposing to define underground drive-up uses as: “Underground Drive-up Uses are located within the underground portion of a building where a majority of the drive-up facilities, such as the teller window or ATM kiosk, are either located underground or are predominately screened and have limited visibility from the adjacent public right-of-way. Underground drive-Up Uses within the Ashland Historic Interest Area shall be subject to Type II review.”
Mr. Severson explained the Ashland Historic Interest Area consists of the four historic districts in town (Skidmore Academy, Downtown, Railroad, Siskiyou/Hargadine), and the four drive-up uses that would be impacted by this proposal are Umpqua Bank (250 N Pioneer), Wells Fargo Bank (67 E Main), U.S. Bank (30 N Second), and Chase Bank (243 E Main). Mr. Severson reviewed the policies and standards that have been adopted that discourage drive-up use and asked whether the Planning Commission would support a change in policy as a means to encourage relocation and redevelopment of these four uses; and if so, does the Commission support the request as submitted or wish to impose additional performance standards as outlined in the staff report and supported by the Historic Commission. 
Questions of Staff
The following comments and questions were issued to staff:

  • Comment was made questioning why they would want to force the drive-ups underground, since underground entries can be more disruptive than a driveway leading to a window.
  • Umpqua Bank currently has three drive-up stalls, if they were to relocate would the city limit the number of stalls? Mr. Severson clarified at the time of transfer the new location would be only be granted one stall.
  • What is the difference between a conditional use permit and the process for obtaining a special permitted use? Mr. Severson clarified the conditional use process provides more discretion and allows the Commission to compare the propose use with the target use of the zone.
  • What is the difference between a Type II and Type III Planning Action? Mr. Severson clarified the City Council makes the final decision on Type III actions.
  • Comment was made expressing concern with limiting the number of drive-up uses in town; with the recent talk of the gentrification of Ashland’s residents, there may be a need for drive-up pharmacies in the downtown.
Applicant’s Presentation
Mark Knox, Applicant’s Representative and Richard Katz, General Manager of Ashland Food Cooperative addressed the Commission. Mr. Knox stated they have been working on this proposal for over a year and have had lots of dialogue with City staff. He stated this is a straightforward, good idea and the two main objectives are to encourage redevelopment of the existing drive-up sites in the Historic Interest Area and allow some flexibility to relocate a drive-up use. He added they are not suggesting an increase in the number of allowed drive-up uses, but rather the ability to improve the sites that are already there. Mr. Knox stated this amendment would be a tune-up of an ordinance that has been working well, but has created a lockdown on these four sites. He spoke against the conditional use permit process and stated this process is too subjective and as a result the owners of these properties are not willing to attempt it. He commented on the City’s desire to be pedestrian friendly and believes this proposal will allow these four sites to be improved.
Mr. Katz stated the Ashland Food Cooperative has been in Ashland for 40 years, they employ 160 people, sold $27 million in products this year, and are one of the larger employers in Ashland. He added half of the citizens of Ashland are not only shoppers, but are owners of the Co-op. He explained most everyone agrees there is a parking issue at the store, and overall congestion in the railroad area. He stated there is almost a constant gridlock of cars idling for parking spaces and it is not a good situation. Mr. Katz stated they have looked at many alternatives, and they believe if Umpqua Bank had the ability to relocate in the downtown, this would free up some needed space for the Co-op. He stated the bank has expressed interest in this idea, but they do not want to relocate outside of the downtown area. He stated this is an awkward position for the Co-op, but this is the only step they can take. He added the bank properties downtown are eyesores, and there is currently no initiative for them to do something different. He voiced his support for this proposal and believes this is a win-win situation.
Ms. Knox noted the Q&A in the packet materials explain the intent and what they think will happen. He stated they believe they are on the right track with this amendment and would like the approval process to be less subjective and contain more tangible criteria.
Public Testimony
Colin Swales/143 Eighth Street/Stated he has never seen a legislative amendment from a private party and it appears a private party is trying to change our planning laws for their benefit. Mr. Swales clarified he is a member of the Transportation Commission but is speaking on his own behalf. Mr. Swales stated the Transportation Commission is required to comment on Type III Actions at the pre-application level, and he was looking forward to this application coming forward at a regular meeting. However when it did come before them, it was under Public Forum and not as a discussion item. Mr. Swales requested the Planning Commission postpone this action until the Transportation Commission has had a chance to review this application. He questioned the need for bank drive-up lanes and stated the laws were adopted to cut down on auto-centric uses in the downtown core. He stated even if the Co-op was able to acquire the bank’s parking, they are not allowed to exceed the required parking by more than 10%, and he is not sure how this amendment would help their situation.
Rebuttal by the Applicant
Mark Knox/Clarified citizens are permitted to request legislative changes and he believes this proposal will help solve the non-confirming issues of the downtown drive-up sites. He stated the current regulations have locked these banks in and it is short-sighted to think these sites will improve on their own. Mr. Knox voiced his support for additional public input, however does not want to delay this action from moving forward. He suggested the Planning Commission move forward with their deliberations and for the Transportation Commission to review this action before it is presented to the City Council.
Questions of Staff
Mr. Molnar confirmed there is a code provision that allows an applicant to exceed the parking requirement by 10%; however, the property could apply for a parking variance. He added most people would agree that parking is in high demand in that area.
Commissioner Brown commented that underground and above grade parking has the tendency to create skateboard ramps, and there may be a need for a barrier at the sidewalk level when the bank is closed. He added he would not support underground drive-ups for a community this small and with such an established walking relationship.
Mr. Molnar commented there is a clear history of policies that discourage drive-up uses, and it boils down to redevelopment vs. relocation. He stated redevelopment is possible, however the applicants must obtain a conditional use permit. He stated if the Commission believes this process is too onerous, they could choose a process like the applicants have recommended. He stated with the issue of relocation, right now that is prohibited. He added if the Commission believes that should be changed, what would be the appropriate approval process – Conditional Use Permit or Site Review?
Commissioner Dawkins stated he is reluctant to send this on to Council and wishes this had been vetted more thoroughly through the Transportation Commission before it came before them. He stated an action of this magnitude warrants more public input and he does not support moving it on to Council as this point. Commissioner Brown questioned why the Transportation Commission would have a major impact on this issue, since the concerns are regarding the site itself and not the traffic. Commissioner Heesacker stated if nothing else, sending this back to the Transportation Commission will allow the public more time to review this and provide comment. Commissioner Marsh stated there appears to be general agreement that they want input from the Transportation Commission, but added they can still hold general discussion on this action and bring it back at their next meeting.
Commissioner Mindlin stated the applicants have a goal for their store, and there is nothing wrong with that, and it would benefit the community to keep the Co-op downtown. She stated this proposal raises some important issues regarding the potential to redevelop those sites and create a better environment. Commissioner Kaplan stated anything they could do to foster redevelopment of those businesses would be a positive, and noted they would be keeping the same number of drive-ups. Commissioner Dawkins commented that they are not getting enough public input about what the negatives might be. He agreed that the redevelopment opportunities are good, but would like to hear more from the public.
The Commission continued their general discussion of this action. Support was voiced for limiting relocated drive-ups to a single lane, and the question was raised regarding whether this proposal should be limited to financial institutions. Commissioner Heesacker stated his opinion that it should not be limited to banks; and suggestion was made to exclude food uses. The Commission also discussed and agreed these actions should require a public hearing before the Planning Commission.
Mr. Molnar clarified staff would take this issue before the Transportation Commission and it would come back for deliberations and decision at the Commission’s June meeting.
Commissioners Brown/Dawkins m/s to continue the public hearing to June 12, 2012. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
Commissioner Dawkins recommended they hold all future annual retreats on the first Saturday in May, and stated he would bring this up at the next meeting when they select their officers.   
Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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