Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22, 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
  Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
  Dennis Slattery, absent
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman stated Professor Pat Acklin has been working on two projects with her SOU students. The first is a homeless strategy and the second is an evaluation of housing options for working families. Both will be presented to the Housing Commission at their meeting tomorrow night, and the Planning Commissioners are welcome to attend. Mr. Goldman stated the students were asked to present their materials to the Planning Commission but the scheduling did not work out. He added the final report will can be forwarded once staff receives it. Commissioners Kaplan and Dawkins indicated they would attend the meeting and report back to the full commission.
Commissioner Marsh reviewed the group’s upcoming meeting schedule.
No one came forward to speak.

A.  Normal Avenue Neighborhood Plan.
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman explained the master planning effort for the Normal Avenue Neighborhood Plan is soon to begin. He stated a neighborhood meeting was held and was very well attended, and the project is scheduled to start June 1.
Mr. Goldman provided an overview of the project area and displayed several photos of the area. He explained while there are buildings and houses in this area, it is largely undeveloped. He also commented on the wetlands and floodplains, and private railroad crossing. Mr. Goldman reviewed the 15-month project timeline and stated staff will try to maintain constant communication with the neighbors and those who are interested in the project. He stated the City will utilize the online Open City Hall forum and will also have a dedicated project website so that citizens can stay informed and up to date.
Commission Discussion
Mr. Goldman clarified at the conclusion of this project, this property will not be annexed into the city limits; that decision rests with the individual property owners and they will still have to go through the land use annexation process. He noted the Housing Needs Analysis and Housing Framework will be done in the beginning stages of this project, and stated a Housing Market Analysis will also be completed as part of this process. Mr. Goldman further clarified that in order to annex into the city limits, the applicant must demonstrate there is less than a 5-year housing supply.
Staff was asked whether property owners can still develop under the county standards. Mr. Goldman clarified the owners can still develop their property under the current country standards and they will not be required to annex into the city limits.
Request was made for the Commission to do a site visit, and staff indicated this could be arranged. Support was voiced for this and Commission Marsh suggested the field trip be scheduled prior to a regular commission meeting.  
Mr. Goldman commented on the neighborhood meeting and stated some of the larger issues that came up were the railroad crossing, concern of increased traffic along Normal generated by new development, and future connections through the area.
Commissioner Dawkins questioned how the City will address the railroad crossing and stated he is still unclear about whether an existing crossing will need to be closed for a new one to open. Mr. Goldman stated the Normal crossing is a legal crossing for the private residences, but it is not legal in terms of a public access road. He stated if its designation were to change that would trigger the requirement to close another crossing. Commission Marsh stated Public Works Director Mike Faught told them this was not the case at a recent TSP meeting and asked staff to follow up with him and get clarification about this.
Commissioner Marsh noted that their three big projects (TSP, Unified Land Use Ordinance, and Normal Avenue Plan) all have December conclusions, and is concerned this will be a problem. Planning Manager Maria Harris stated staff is aware of this and is keeping an eye on it. She stated the timelines may be too optimistic and it is likely there will be some shifting.

B.  Unified Land Use Ordinance.
Planning Manager Maria Harris stated staff would like feedback on three issues tonight: 1) Outline, 2) Simplifying the Lists of land uses, and 3) Policy issues and recommendations from the 2006 Siegel land use ordinance review.
Ms. Harris explained the proposed outline takes similar code functions and groups them together. The sections would be grouped as follows:  18-1  General Provisions, 18-2  Zoning and Plan Districts, 18-3  Site Development and Design Standards, 18-4  Administrative Procedures, and 18-5  Definitions. Ms. Harris stated grouping the sections in this manner is more intuitive and understandable for applicants and anyone else using the code.
Ms. Harris clarified the standards contained in the Street Tree Guide and Site Design and Use Standards will be included in this document, however there is additional background information contained in both those documents and they will need to determine how to handle that.
Support was voiced for the proposed outline as well as the table format for the standards. Ms. Harris commented that it may be cleaner to leave the Croman and North Mountain overlay standards separate from the general zoning information. Suggestion was made that people should be able to find all the necessary information all in one place, and Ms. Harris clarified how the language could be organized.
Commissioner Mindlin asked if it will be possible to propose changes to the site standards in this process. Ms. Harris stated it was her understanding that the Commission had agreed to stick with minor changes and the focus would be on reorganizing the code and making it easier to understand. She stated there will be some small to intermediate policy changes and this includes the Siegel recommended changes, but if large policy issues arise staff will need to review these with the Council and get direction. Commissioner Marsh stated if minor issues come up they should incorporate them into this project, but items that will generate lots of interest and comment might need to be handled separately. Commissioner Mindlin stated her desire to address solar orientation in this process. She stated she does not think these would be complicated changes, however it would be adding new language. Concern was expressed that this change could generate quite a bit of public interest and Commissioner Marsh clarified they will establish a white board where they highlight items they want to see addressed, and they will have to wait and see if these can be folded into this process.
Simplifying the Lists of Land Uses
Ms. Harris explained there are currently 12 base zones and there is a lot of repetition in the code. She stated the idea is to consolidate the information and this approach would simplify the land uses into general categories. She added this is considered a contemporary approach and would focus on the physical characteristics of the site rather than uses.
Comment was made that dictating the use has been more of a political issue and people may think that you are opening the door to more uses if you have fewer delineations. Ms. Harris stated she does not believe this will open the floodgates to unusual uses and clarified our land use ordinance has language about unspecific uses and the unified code will include that same language. Commissioner Dawkins stated removing the use would put the emphasis back on the building’s design. He stated on one hand it is nice to know what the building will be used for, but in the end it does not matter much since the use is often temporary and the space is changed into something else. Ms. Harris stated if the use changes, they will still need to comply with the parking requirements for that use, and clarified all business license applications are routed through the Planning Division to ensure compliance with the zone and staff checks the parking demand for the new use at that time.
General support was voiced for the simplification of the uses. Comment was made that there are safeguards already in place to ensure the uses stay consistent with the zone.
Policy Issues and Recommendations from 2006 Land Use Ordinance Review
Ms. Harris stated the Siegel report included recommended policy changes and staff is looking for direction from the Commission on which items they want to include in this project. Commissioner Marsh recommended they go through the list one by one.


  1. Lot Coverage and Porous Paving. Ms. Harris stated the intent is to encourage more pervious areas. Commissioner Mindlin commented that pervious surfaces can become less effective over time if they are not properly maintained. Comment was made that porous materials will get better over time and if they believe porous is a good idea than they should give some incentive for people to use it. General support was voiced for included this change in the unified land use code project. Commissioner Mindlin voiced her concern that people might use this to increase the surface area on their lots. She added she would support this change as long as applicants don’t get to increase the size of their house by using pervious paving.
  2. Slopes. General support was voiced for restricting development to slopes of 35% of less.
  3. R-1 Corner Lots. General support was voiced with reducing the minimum for corner lots to 5,000 square feet.
  4. R-1 Lot Depth. Ms. Harris stated staff would like to take a closer look at this item. Comment was made questioning if they would be opening the door to flag lots by doing this, and whether there are other applications that would be controversial if they change this. Commissioner Marsh stated this change is worth looking at and the Commission agreed.
  5. R-1 Front Porch. Support was voiced for changing the porch setbacks to 10 feet to be consistent with the R-2 and R-3 zones.
  6. R-1-3.5 Housing Types. Support was voiced with clarifying desired multifamily housing types and encouraging innovative housing.
  7. Distance Between Buildings in R-1-3.5, R-2, and R-3.  Support was voiced for including this change in the unified land use code project. 
  8. Affordable Housing Density Bonus in R-2 and R-3. Support was voiced for this change.
  9. North Mountain Core Overlay – MultiFamily. Ms. Harris stated she is not sure this change is worth pursuing since so much of the North Mountain area is already built out. The Commission agreed and indicated they do not want to pursue this change.
  10. C-1 Residential Uses. Commissioner Marsh questioned if this is a language clean-up or a change to the actual numbers. Ms. Harris clarified the intent is a language clean up and some minor language changes could clarify this provision. Support was voiced for pursuing this change. Ms. Harris clarified staff will perform additional research to make sure they are keeping with the intent of the ordinance.
  11. Solar Access Setback in C-1. Commissioner Mindlin stated the solar setback requirements make it difficult to obtain the desired density levels for commercial developments, however the solar access requirements should be maintained for commercial properties that abut residential zones. General support was voiced for pursuing this change.
  12. C-1 Building Height. Commissioner Dawkins voiced his interest in taller, denser buildings in the C-1 zone, and in particular would like to see higher density housing on the Copeland lumber site. The Commission agreed to pursue this change.
  13. HC Lot Depth and Yards.  Ms. Harris stated this is another recommended change that may not be worth pursuing. The Commission agreed and indicated they do not want to pursue this change.  
  14. Non-Conforming Uses.  Commissioner Marsh questioned why we would want to give someone more time. Opposing comment was made that given the current economic climate, allowing longer might be a good idea. Ms. Harris stated this issue does not come up that often and staff does not have a strong opinion about this. Mr. Goldman noted the Commission could consider clarifying when the 6-month clock starts.
  15. Parking for Small MultiFamily Units, Assisted Living, Etc. Support was voiced for this change.
  16. Parking for Medical Offices. Ms. Harris clarified when development was more active parking for medical offices was enough of a problem that several offices received approval for standalone parking lots because they did not have enough space to accommodate their clients. She added this was six years ago and had a lot to do with the location of those offices. Commissioner Marsh suggested allowing medical offices to go 20% above the required parking amount and support was voiced for this change.  
  17. Accessory Residential Units. Ms. Harris recommended removing the CUP requirement and having these go through site review only. Support was voiced for this change.
  18. Railroad District Conditional Uses. Ms. Harris stated this is probably one of the bigger hot button issues and applies to all of the historic districts, not just the railroad district. Commissioner Marsh commented on the value of having residential stability in these neighborhoods and that too many professional offices or commercial uses can have a cumulative effect on the neighborhood. Commission Dawkins stated he likes the mix of uses, but does not want to see the district overcome with professional uses. General support was voiced for looking into this change.
Meeting adjourned at 9:30p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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