Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Mtg

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26, 2012


Vice Chair Michael Dawkins called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Siskiyou Conference Room, 51 Winburn Way.  

Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Eric Heesacker
Richard Kaplan
Pam Marsh
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin (Arrived at 7:15 pm)
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery

Commissioner Dawkins noted he attended the Plaza Design Public Outreach Meeting and the architects have requested feedback from the Planning Commission. Dawkins shared his preference for more hardscape and trees in large containers, and requested the Commission take a few minutes to discuss the conceptual designs at the end of the meeting.
No one came forward to speak.

A.  Ethics & Commission Guidelines (Dave Lohman, City Attorney)
City Attorney Dave Lohman provided a presentation on public records law, definition of public meetings, public meeting requirements, rules and regulations, and ethics. (Copy of presentation is attached to minutes.)
General Questions
The commissioners posed several questions to Mr. Lohman, including:

  • What is the statute of limitation for how long members need to keep meeting notes and recordings?
    Answer: 6 years.
  • Can commissioners attend public events if there is a quorum of members present?
    Answer: As long as the commissioners are not deliberating on a particular issue, this is not considered a public meeting and members are free to attend.
  • The Planning Commission is subject to Oregon statutes, Ashland’s Code of Ethics, and state statutes specific to Planning Commissions; which one takes precedence?
    Answer: The Commission is subject to all three laws and need to make sure they are adhering to the most strict rules (Ashland Code of Ethics)
  • Does the Commission have to elect a new chair every year, or does “term” indicate a member can be chair for two consecutive four year terms?
    Answer: Mr. Lohman stated there are different practices on the different commissions and this needs to get cleared up. He stated his opinion is that term means four years, but others have disagreed with him. Commissioner Dawkins commented that he believes when the Commission discussed this, the intent was for a one-year term for officers. Comment was made that this may be an issue with small commissions that have frequent turn-over; and perhaps this should be a recommendation instead of a requirement. Additional suggestion was made for the vice chair to take over as chair after their first year, which could provide for a learning period.
  • Are commissioners allowed to testify before the City Council?
    Answer: Mr. Lohman cited the language in AMC 2.10.110 and stated it is his understanding that commissioners can speak before the City Council as private citizens, however he will need to get back to the Commission on this question.

Commissioner Marsh commented that it is unfortunate when a member goes before another body and speaks out against the position the Planning Commission has adopted.

  • Does Commissioner Miller have a conflict of interest regarding the Normal Avenue Neighborhood Plan?
    Discussion/Answer: Commissioner Miller explained she owns property in the project area and asked if she could participate in the deliberations. She added she could provide some background information which may be helpful. Mr. Lohman stated under state law, it is an actual conflict of interest if the outcome could benefit or hurt her financially. He stated she likely has an actual conflict of interest and advised that she not participate in the discussions or deliberations. He added she could testify as a private citizen in front of the City Council, but should not testify before the Planning Commission. The Commission held general discussion about the bias issue. Comment was made that when a member is on record of having a clear bias or a predisposed position, it undermines the decision making process and that person should step aside.
  • What is the definition of an excused absence?
    Answer: Mr. Lohman stated this is an issue that needs to be addressed and asked for the Commissions input. Suggestion was made to establish a yearly minimum attendance percentage, rather than a limit on unexcused absences in a row. Comment was made that it is important for a member to notify staff if they cannot attend. Support was voiced for an annual attendance rate and 80% was suggested.


A.  PLANNING ACTION: #2012-00573
APPLICANT: City of Ashland
LOCATION: Not property-specific
ORDINANCE REFERENCE: 18.108.170 Legislative Amendments
REQUEST: A Legislative Amendment is proposed to adopt a new "Chapter XV - Regional Plan" element to the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan to incorporate applicable portions of the Greater Bear Creek Valley Regional Problem Solving Plan (“the RPS Plan”)  and to acknowledge revised population allocations for the City of Ashland.  Jackson County recently adopted the RPS Plan which identifies urban reserve areas to accommodate a doubling of the region’s population, but before the RPS Plan can take effect, each of the six participating cities in the region (Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, Central Point and Eagle Point) must adopt the applicable portions of the plan into their comprehensive plans and implementing ordinances. (Ashland is the only participating city which has not identified urban reserves as the city’s existing urban growth boundary was determined to be sufficient to accommodate anticipated growth.  Adoption of the new element incorporates those portions of the Regional Plan applicable to Ashland as a signatory participant with no identified urban reserves.) 
Associate Planner Derek Severson gave a brief overview of the Regional Plan and the Regional Problem Solving process (RPS). He explained the proposed adoption of the new “Regional Element” to the City’s Comprehensive Plan incorporates the portions of the Regional Plan applicable to Ashland and clarified Ashland is unique among the six participating cities in that we are the only jurisdiction to not identify urban reserves and have chosen to accommodate growth through efficient land use planning instead. He stated this new Element serves primarily as a placeholder to acknowledge the City’s participation in the plan and to provide a framework if the City chooses to pursue the creation of urban reserves in the future.
Mr. Severson provided some background and noted the Planning Commission issued a recommendation in 2010 to ensure Ashland’s values are pushed forward through the RPS process, and the City Council adopted a resolution in 2011 that reiterated those recommendations. Mr. Severson stated the primary issues identified in the 2011 resolution included: 1) retaining Urban Fringe minimum lot sizes, 2) to not require jurisdictional exchange, 3) regional housing strategy timeline, 4) population figures consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, 5) address high value farm lands, and 6) more efficient land use transportation. He stated through the City’s participation in this plan, there has been a 110-acre reduction of farm lands in the URA’s; all jurisdictions must adhere to specific density commitments; 49% of new dwellings and 44% of new commercial must be mixed use, pedestrian friendly, or in a transit oriented district by 2020; and conceptual land use and transportation plans will be required for urban reserves.
Mr. Severson stated staff believes the Plan addresses the issues raised by the City of Ashland and participation in this process has created stronger and more positive working relationships between staff and the elected and appointed official across the region, and has given Ashland a seat at the table for on-going discussions of regional growth.
Staff was asked to clarify how we got to the 6.6 d.u./acre density commitment. Mr. Severson clarified this is based on the density levels set by the state’s safe harbor provision, and staff is comfortable with this requirement since it is less than what we have been doing. Comment was made questioning how this Plan might be affected by Governor Kitzhaber’s decision to open up farm lands in Jackson County. Mr. Severson stated he cannot answer this and this is something that will need to be discussed if that happens.
Comment was made thanking staff for their work on this Plan and having a positive influence on it.
Public Testimony
Colin Swales/143 Eighth Street/Stated he does feel Ashland has influenced the Plan enough and his main concern is regarding the population projections. He stated Ashland has not been given its true allocation and the population figures should be based on the 2010 census report which shows that the previous estimates have not materialized. Mr. Swales stated these figures affect our policies on annexation, transportation planning, water usage, and infrastructure projects and wants it to be clear that our population figures are way down.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioners Miller/Heesacker m/s to adopt the recommendation for Planning Action 2012-00573 and forward this to the City Council. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Marsh stated she will support this motion, but does not support the plan put forward by the City of Medford and does not want her vote to be interpreted as supporting what they are doing. Commissioners Dawkins and Mindlin concurred with this statement. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
Commissioner Dawkins noted the architects desire to receive feedback from the Planning Commission on the conceptual designs for the Plaza Improvement project. Commissioner Marsh noted she had prepared the following comments to provide to the architects:
“First and foremost, the plaza design should support the basic function of the place -- to serve as a lively, well-used community gathering place for residents (of all kinds) and visitors. The plaza is not a passive park, nor should it be (as it is today) simply a thoroughfare from one commercial point to another. Rather it is (or should be) the central meeting point in downtown -- a place where friends meet up for coffee, family members regroup after shopping, or individuals sit to read a newspaper or people watch. Sometimes it will be the site of large gatherings or demonstrations.

With these functions in mind, the design should include the following elements:


  • Minimal (if any) turf.  It's a plaza, not a park.  Use planters (walls and/or pots) to provide greenery and help define the space. Potted trees can provide a wonderful, full canopy.
  • A variety of seating options.  Walls, moveable cafe tables and chairs, etc.  Furniture is key to function.
  • Trash and recycling containers.   Well-designed and even beautiful containers don't have to be relegated to the outskirts of the site. Instead, they can help define the space.
  • Thoughtful site planning.   A layout that provides a sense of protection for people at tables, but doesn't obstruct views into or out of the plaza.

The Planning Commission is very excited by the opportunities posed by the plaza redesign.  We look forward to helping in any way we can as the project moves forward.”
The Commission voiced support for the statement prepared by Marsh and staff was directed to place the statement on the Commission’s letterhead and submit it to the architects.
Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor


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