Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10, 2012

Chair Melanie Mindlin 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
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar updated the Commission on the plaza improvement project. He stated a preferred concept plan was presented at the second series of public workshops and the City Council is scheduled to review the plan at their July 16 study session. He stated the plan outlines more hardscape pavement and seating will be increased significantly, and while some trees need to be removed, the overall number of trees is increasing.
Mr. Molnar also announced the City Council will be discussing the potential legalization of vacation rentals at their August study session, and they are likely to defer this item to the Planning Commission for review and recommendation.
Approval of Minutes.
  1. June 12, 2012 Regular Meeting.
  2. June 26, 2012 Special Meeting.
Commissioners Kaplan/Miller m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
No one came forward to speak.
Approval of Findings for PA-2012-00573, RPS Legislative Amendment. 

Commissioners Marsh/Brown m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2012-00573. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
PLANNING ACTION:  #2012-00575
SUBJECT PROPERTY: 1155 East Main Street
APPLICANT: City of Ashland/Ashland Police Department
DESCRIPTION: The Planning Commission will re-open the public hearing on a request for Site Review approval to construct a 3,016 square foot addition and associated site improvements for the Ashland Police Department located at 1155 East Main Street. Re-opening of the hearing will allow consideration of new information with regard to the accessibility of the entry walkway. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 10; TAX LOT #: 900.
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported. Commissioner Mindlin noted she was not present for initial hearing but has reviewed the materials and feels confident participating.
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson reviewed the existing conditions regarding the entrance to the building. He stated as originally proposed, the applicants showed a stepped walkway; however during the Planning Commission’s deliberations a condition was approved for no stairs to be added. He stated the concern was that stairs would be an impediment for wheelchair access. Following the Planning Commission hearing, the applicants approached staff and asked for reconsideration of this element. Mr. Severson stated it has been determined that the removal of the steps would require either a ramp with switchbacks, or a sloped ramp that does not meet ADA standards.
Questions of Staff
Mr. Molnar clarified this issued has been discussed with the City’s building official and the existing accessible route does meet the requirements. He added a sloped ramp would be okay as long as they understand the slope is too great for this to be a second ADA ramp. Mr. Molnar stated staff does not support a switchback design for the ramp.
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioner Miller voiced her support for retaining the stairs. She stated the stairs look nicer and a ramp out front is not essential since they already have an ADA accessible route from the building to the parking lot. Commissioner Kaplan stated he is also in favor of the steps. He stated if the ramp cannot meet ADA requirements it should not be installed, and they should not be enticing persons in wheelchairs to use an unsafe ramp. Commissioner Brown stated when he proposed this condition he did not know the slope was that great. In light of the new information, he voiced support for the steps and agreed with Kaplan that if it looks like an accessible ramp, people will use it as such.
Commissioners Miller/Kaplan m/s to remove the ramp condition and incorporate the proposed grading plan design. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Kaplan, Heesacker, Brown, Marsh, Miller and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 7-0.
APPLICANT: DRRAM L.L.C. (Doug & Dionne Irvine) 
DESCRIPTION: A request for Site Review and Conditional Use Permit approval to construct a new 13,800 square foot, three-story mixed-use building in the vacant, private parking lot located at 160 Lithia Way. The proposed building will consist of commercial restaurant space on the ground floor, five hotel units on the second floor, and five residential apartments on the third floor. The application also includes requests for a Conditional Use Permit to exceed 40 feet in height in order to provide architectural relief in the façade, an Exception to the Site Design & Use Standards with regard to plaza space requirements, and a Tree Removal Permit to remove ten trees greater than six-inches in diameter at breast height (d.b.h.). COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Downtown Commercial; ZONING: C-1-D; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 39 1E 09 BA; TAX LOT #: 10800.
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioner Heesacker reported a site visit. Commission Dawkins reported a site visit and clarified he attended the Tree Commission hearing on this item. Commissioners Marsh, Kaplan, Miller and Mindlin noted they are familiar with the site.
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson stated the application before the Commission is a request for site review and conditional use permit approval to construct a 13,800 sq.ft. three story, mixed use building at 160 Lithia Way. He stated the proposed building will have commercial space on the first floor, five hotel units on the second floor, and five residences on the third floor. He stated the applicants have requested one exception pertaining to the plaza space requirement; one conditional use permit for the hotel use; one conditional use permit for the building height; and a tree removal permit to remove all 10 trees on the site.
Mr. Severson provided more detail of the application and reviewed the applicant’s plan submittals. Regarding the conditional use permit for the building height, Mr. Severson explained there is an outright 40 ft. height allowance and applicants can go up to 55 ft. with the conditional use permit. He added the 6 foot parapet at the top of the building was specifically requested by the Historic Commission to emphasize the sense of entry.
Mr. Severson commented on the applicant’s request for a partial exception to the plaza space requirement. He noted the current standard and stated the applicant’s have proposed to provide 60% (or roughly 800 sq.ft.) of the required plaza space with this development. Mr. Severson reviewed the proposed outdoor seating area and commented on the plaza space that would be provided along the existing corridor between the Jasmine Building and this site. He stated the applicants assert, and staff agrees, that if you were to increase the plaza space along the frontage of the building, it would push the building out of line with the facades of the other adjacent buildings. However he requested the Commission discuss whether the proposed design meets the intent of providing people-friendly spaces, and he provided an example of the plaza space area in the Clear Creek Development.  
Mr. Severson concluded his presentation and stated staff is supportive of the application with the proposed conditions of approval.
Questions of Staff
Staff was asked to comment on the adequacy of parking. Mr. Severson explained there are typically no parking requirements in the downtown, except for hotels, motels and hostels. He stated the proposed parking spaces at the back of the building meet the parking requirement and will be utilized by the hotel.
Comment was made that Will Dodge Way is often used as a delivery route, and it was questioned how this development might impact that alleyway. It was noted that delivery vehicles block off the alley at times, and people parked behind the Kendrick and Jasmine buildings must wait for the vehicles to move before they can get out.
Comment was made questioning the plaza space requirement when no one else downtown is required to do this. Mr. Severson explained large scale developments (buildings over 10,000 sq. ft. in size) are required to provide 10% plaza space and the intent is to mitigate the impact of large buildings and provide interface and space for human engagement. He clarified the Jasmine building, which is adjacent to this site, was required to provide plaza space and is the only building over 10,000 sq.ft. that has been built downtown since this requirement went into effect. Mr. Molnar added when this standard was looked at in the early 1990s, they were primarily looking at spaces outside of the downtown along major arterials, since most of the lots downtown are narrow and will not hit the 10,000 sq.ft. threshold even if they build to the maximum height allowance. Comment was made suggesting this one-size fits all requirement for plaza space might need to be evaluated in terms of how to apply this downtown. 
Applicant’s Presentation
Mark Knox, Applicants Representative/ Mr. Knox thanked staff for their thorough presentation and noted the obstacles with this site, including the utilities and curvature of the road. He stated they have been working on this project for one and half years and believe they have produced a very nice building. Mr. Knox noted the City’s policies and standards for infilling parking lots, and stated since this property was previously owned by the City it became a catchall for new development utilities along Lithia Way. He explained all of the nearby buildings utilities (storm drainage, sewer lines, etc.) extend through this lot without easements, and it has been complicated to work through this. Mr. Knox stated the design of the building was evaluated by the Historic Commission and they were very supportive of this application. He commented on the plaza space requirement and stated these standards have a good intent, but sometimes they create a situation where they don’t produce the desired results. He stated meeting the 10% plaza requirement would have really manipulated the design, and they believe their proposal meets the intent and is better product.
Jerome White, Project Architect/Mr. White clarified the height of the building is 40 ft. to the cupola, and they are asking for an exception for the center portion above it. He commented on the public space design along the side of the building and stated they have incorporated most of the elements displayed on the Clear Creek example. In regards to the plaza space out front, Mr. White stated be believes the large portion of front sidewalk could be counted towards this requirement.
Mr. Knox added the 15 ft. sidewalks this building is providing allows for sidewalk tables and dining, which is exactly the definition of public space. He stated if you count this area they exceed the 10% requirement. He stated there was discussion early on in this project about whether to build two buildings on this lot instead of one in order to avoid these standards, but the property owner wanted this building to be right and was willing to apply for the additional variance requests. Mr. Knox stated they have created something that looks better, is better for the business to function, and hopes the Commission realizes this.
Doug Irvine, Property Owner/Mr. Irvine stated he wanted to create something beautiful and something the community could be proud of. He commented on the proposed use and explained the first floor will be a tasting room and gourmet market for local wineries and artisans to sell their products. He added the wine industry and tourism is growing in Southern Oregon and they are trying to create opportunities for the shoulder season. He noted the small boutique hotel on the second floor and residential units on the third, and stated their goal was to create a fun, unique, beautiful building that the community would be proud of, and believes they have succeeded.
Questions of the Applicant
Comment was made questioning if they could do something with the pedestrian environment out back to make it better. Mr. Knox commented on the design of the back of the building and stated they wanted to provide an attractive façade. He noted the imbedded sidewalk and enclosed trash enclosures, but wished there could have been more they could have done with the utilities. He explained they looked into merging these, but the City does not have the equipment to accommodate that size of transformer. He added while the residences have entrances in the front and back, the front door for the residences and the hotel is on Lithia Way.
Comment was made questioning if it is possible to provide more plants at the back entry. Mr. White stated it is tight back there and while they did include landscaping, the location of the transformers was an issue.
It was questioned if the applicant will ask the City to designate a loading zone in front of the building on Lithia Way. Mr. Knox stated they would like to talk with the Public Works Department and the Transportation Commission about this. He stated in addition to being a hotel guest check-in, mid-block is a good location for a 10-minute loading zone. Comment was made that this fits in with the alleyway issues mentioned earlier.
The applicants were asked to comment on the round element in the walkway. Mr. White stated the landscape architect recommended the offset in the circular seating area between this building and the Jasmine building and believes it gives it more intrigue, as well as getting it away from the corner of the building.
Comment was made suggesting the architect run the central pilasters all the way up to the top of the building, and to raise the seating wall height to provide for a better seating area.
Public Testimony
Dr. Vanston Shaw/180 Lithia Way, #208/Stated he is the president of the condo association for the Jasmine Building and has a balcony that will face this building. Dr. Shaw voiced his support for the building as proposed and thinks it is a nice design. He explained his concern is regarding the alley access and stated the only saving grace the Jasmine Building residences have had is being able to use the existing parking lot as ingress and egress, as the alley is often blocked on both ends. He stated this might be an enforcement issue, but believes the hotel parking in back will be a problem. He stated the delivery vehicles impact him as a resident, will impact the hotel and everyone else that parks in the alley, and recommended there be a comprehensive look at this. Dr. Shaw commented on the plaza space along the side of the building and noted he currently maintains the Jasmine Building’s walkway. He voiced his support for the design features on the walkway and stated he is not bothered by the offset circular seating area.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mark Knox/Stated when the City owned this property the intent was to sell it as an affordable housing project. Mr. Knox stated the design took access off Lithia Way and down into a sublevel parking lot, and while this would have worked it would have been disastrous. He noted one side of the building has to act as the back, and noted the need for utilities and trash enclosures as well as parking for guests. He stated it has been challenging to provide all the best urban amenities and recommended the function of the alley be looked at comprehensively and at the leadership of the City.
Commissioner Mindlin closed the public hearing and the record at 8:30 p.m.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Dawkins stated he is troubled by the delivery situation and asked if there is any way they can resolve this. Mr. Molnar provided some history and explained the City previously went through a process in which the property owners, fire department, building official, and police department looked at what could be done to improve the environment. He stated the City Council issued a directive to make the alley one-way and to limit where deliveries could occur. He stated it sounds like the deliveries are still a problem and this is an enforcement issue. Mr. Molnar stated the plan has always been to infill this site and stated this would be a good time to reinstitute neighborhood discussion about what options could be reviewed. He added the Transportation Commission has expressed interest in loading zones along Lithia Way and this would be a good time for them to bring this back up.
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioners Dawkins/Marsh m/s to approve Planning Action #2012-00740 with conditions as presented by staff. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Marsh asked if this includes a condition for a loading zone out front. Commissioner Dawkins stated he strongly suggests this be done, but it is not their purview to require this. Commissioner Brown requested a friendly amendment to add a condition for the seating wall height to be increased and also for the two pilasters to run all the way up the building. Commissioners Dawkins and Marsh stated they are more comfortable directing the architect to look into this, rather than including it as a condition of approval. Commissioner Marsh stated this is a beautiful building and will positively change the feel of Lithia Way, and recommended the plaza space requirements for downtown buildings be looked at. Commissioner Mindlin voiced her support for the building design, but stated she would have liked to have seen something more for the public spaces. She stated it would have been nice for the residences to have more outdoor space and stated the public space at the opposite end of the building is a long ways away. Commissioner Marsh noted the hotel guests will be coming and going through the alley and the owners will have an interest in making sure the alleyway is as comfortable and convenient as possible. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Kaplan, Dawkins, Heesacker, Brown, Marsh, Miller and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 7-0.
Commissioner Dawkins recommended they look into requiring energy savings measures on future building applications.
Bi-Annual Attendance Report (January – June 2012)
Informational item only. Several commissioners voiced concern with the Transportation Commission/Planning Commission joint meetings counting towards their absence record. It was stated the regular and study session dates are established at the beginning of the year and the commissioners can plan their travel around these, but they were not told about the joint meetings very far in advance.
Meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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