Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 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:
Michael Dawkins
Richard Kaplan
Pam Marsh
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
  Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Eric Heesacker
  Dennis Slattery, absent
Commissioner Marsh announced the Dignity Village presentation will be held Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at Wesley Hall, 175 N. Main Street.
A.   Approval of Minutes
       1.  August 14, 2012 Regular Meeting
Commissioners Kaplan / Dawkins m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: All AYES. Motion passed 5-0.
No one came forward to speak.
A.      Approval of Findings for PA-2012-00981, 541 Strawberry Lane/48 Westwood Street.
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported.
Commissioners Marsh / Kaplan m/s to approve the Findings for Planning Action 2012-00981. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Miller, Dawkins, Marsh, Kaplan, and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 5-0.  
A.   PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2012-01122 
APPLICANTS:  First Place Partners                                                                   
DESCRIPTION:  A request for preliminary plat approval of a six-lot subdivision for the four vacant properties located at 165-175 Lithia Way, at the corner of Lithia Way and First Street. Also included is a request for Site Review approval to construct a three-story 18,577 square foot mixed-use building with a basement consisting of commercial and residential space on the first floor and residential space on the second and third floors. An Exception to the Site Design and Use Standards’ Downtown Design Standards (VI-B-3) is also proposed to allow for recessed balconies on the front of the building. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Commercial; ZONING: C-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 09BA; TAX LOTS: 10100, 11601, 11701 and 15000.
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
All members indicated they are familiar with the site; no ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson explained the request before the Commission is for preliminary plat approval of a six-lot subdivision including five building lots and a sixth open space/common area lot; site review approval to construct a three-story 18,577 sq.ft. mixed-used building with basement parking, commercial and residential on first floor, residential on the second and third floors; and an exception to the Downtown Design Standards to allow balconies on the Lithia Way façade.
Mr. Severson called attention to the eight-lot subdivision approved for this site in 2007-2008, and a subsequent approval to combine two of the lots and construct a mixed use building. Following this approval a fair amount of site work occurred, including the demolition of the existing buildings and the installation of the majority of the infrastructure, however the approval expired before construction of the mixed-use building could be initiated.
Mr. Severson stated the current request is largely similar to the previous application. The differences include: 1) reducing the number of lots facing Lithia Way from five down to three, 2) removing the plaza area from the front of the building, and 3) increasing the residential component to 10 units. Mr. Severson clarified an exception to the Downtown Standards for the small, recessed balconies was requested and approved under the previous application. 
Mr. Severson briefly outlined the proposed site plan and highlighted several elements of the application, including the plaza space area, the walkway connection from First Street, the affordable unit proposed for the first floor, and the additional two feet of sidewalk to be installed along the front of the site. Mr. Severson went on to say staff is recommending approval with the conditions as proposed.
Questions of Staff
Mr. Severson commented on the code section that speaks to balconies. He stated the desire for downtown properties is to have a strong storefront presence with buildings placed at the back of the sidewalk, and having second or third stories that are significantly recessed back can degrade the sense of enclosure that is desired. He explained the exception criteria allows for small balconies since the bulk of the façade remains at the zero setback, and noted the Historic Commission reviewed this application and felt the small balconies worked well on this building.
Comment was made questioning what would happen if Lot 2 is not development, and whether the City could come back and require the applicant to make the side of the building facing Lot 2 more attractive. Mr. Severson stated to his knowledge the City has never gone back and asked an applicant to change their building after it has been approved and built, and stated the applicant intends on placing a building on Lot 2 sometime in the near future.
Concern was raised about the nightly closure of the walkway through the building. Mr. Severson stated the applicant’s have indicated the nightly closure is for security reasons, and the applicants can speak to this when they come forward.
Mr. Severson restated the elements of this application and also commented briefly on the plaza/open space area proposed for the site.
Applicant’s Presentation
Mark Knox, John Galbraith, Jerome White and Randy Jones/Mr. Knox addressed the Commission and stated this project is a re-do. He stated in many ways it is the same, but there are a few areas where it has been improved upon. He called attention to the changes in the City Code since their last approval which required them to alter the design, including moving the building up 8 ft., expanding the sidewalk width by 2 ft., and shifting the plaza area from the front of the building to the side. Mr. Knox went on to comment on the recessed balconies and the exception language in the Code, and stated they believe they meet the intent of Sections 18.80 and 18.72. Regarding the walkway, Mr. Knox clarified this is enclosed in the proposed building and there is an alternate walkway open 24/7 through the open space area just 80 feet over. It was noted that the enclosed walkway is also an emergency access from the building, and residents will be able to exit at the night when the walkway is secured. Mr. Knox noted they more than meet the plaza requirements, and stated they are proving an affordable unit even though it is not required at this time. Mr. Jones clarified the residential units will be condos, not apartments; and Mr. White pointed out the locations of the Historic Commission’s recommendations on the site plan, and stated they support the changes. 
Questions of the Applicant
Mr. Knox clarified the first floor windows are larger and will be transparent so that people can see inside. Mr. White added they may install slightly tinted windows on the east side. Mr. Knox clarified this helps to reduce heat gain but you would still be able to see inside.
Comment was made questioning if this applicant intends to build out all the lots. Mr. Jones answered he can’t say whether they will build and own all five lots, however they certainly want to get this started. He added their intent, provided the level of success with this first building, is to continue onto the next building and then the next.
Comment was made questioning the affordable housing unit. Mr. Knox clarified the Code states when you build more than 10 units, an affordable unit has to be provided, and they are right at 10. Mr. Jones added they want to build the affordable units as they go and not delay it.
Public Testimony
Katherine Spierings/2240 Camp Baker Rd, Medford/Stated she is the owner of 164 B Street and commented on the problems associated with the interface between this commercial site and an older neighborhood. She stated the livability of the neighborhood is impacted by the Growers Market, the view of wheels entering and exiting the parking lot, and littering. She stated the deterioration of the wooden fence is an additional problem and requested the fence be turned into a block wall. She stated she is in favor of this project, but would like the Planning Commission to address the neighbors’ concerns for privacy.
Ms. Spierings was asked to clarify her request to the Commission. Ms Spierings answered she would like a continuation of the block wall that exists on First Street, or something similar to stop people from pushing garbage into their yard and provide better screening.
Stan Potocki/A letter submitted by Mr. Potocki was read aloud by Commissioner Dawkins. (See attached Exhibit #2012-01)
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mark Knox/Stated recessed balconies are permitted under the exception criteria and noted this only applies to the front of the building. He stated the residential housing will be a benefit to the area as the residents will provide extra eyes on the street. Mr. Knox noted they are not applying for a conditional use permit and everything they have proposed meets the standards. Regarding the concerns raised by the neighbors, Mr. Knox stated the City should work to create a transitional zone and perhaps allow for higher fence heights, but stated the applicant is not able to correct this issue.
Commissioner Mindlin closed the hearing and the record at 8:10 p.m.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Kaplan asked staff for clarification regarding Mr. Potacki’s letter, which states the City would not change his zoning, and asked how this relates to the approval criteria for this project. Staff clarified Mr. Potacki’s issues do not relate to the criteria.
Commissioner Marsh asked staff to comment on the fence on the northern part of the property. Staff indicated it is unclear whether the fence is on the subject property or the adjacent residential property, and depending where it sits there are different height allowances.
Commissioner Mindlin reopened the public hearing so the applicants could speak to the fence question.
Mr. Jones stated they are willing to maintain the fence if it is on their property and stated they want to be good neighbors and work with the property owners to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.  He called attention to the dense hedge that is listed on the plans that will get 30 feet deep and provide additional screening. Mr. Jones added the City currently leases this property and are suppose to police it, and once their project is built and they have residents and commercial tenants, their on- site management will be able to address these issues.
Commissioner Mindlin re-closed the hearing and the record.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioners Marsh / Kaplan m/s to approve Planning Action #2012-01122 with the affordable housing condition put forward by staff and to direct staff to wordsmith a condition regarding landscape maintenance and screening of the fence at the north property line. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Marsh stated they reviewed and approved this project once before and believes it has gotten better. She added she would like to put forward an amendment after the rest of the group shares their comments. Commissioner Kaplan voiced his support for the project and believes the issues regarding the site boundary and the homes will improve by having this complex built and properly managed. Commissioner Dawkins stated he will vote in favor of this motion but would have preferred smaller units for people to live and work downtown.
Commissioners Marsh / Dawkins Miller m/s to amend the motion to require the walkway to remain open at all hours. DISCUSSION: Staff clarified this walkway is inside the building. Commissioner Dawkins stated he did not know this and withdrew his second. Commissioner Miller agreed to second the motion. Commissioner Marsh stated the walkway is within the building, but not within the functional part of the building; and brought attention to the Masonic Walkway which remains open all the time. Planning Manager Maria Harris read aloud the pedestrian access and circulation standards that apply to this project. Commissioner Kaplan stated he does not support putting this requirement on the applicant. He stated security of the building is important, however encouraged the applicants to minimize the number of hours it is closed. Commissioner Dawkins agreed and stated it is within the owner’s rights to figure this out. Commissioner Marsh withdrew her motion.
Commissioner Marsh / Miller m/s to amend the original motion to include a condition that asks the owners to look at leaving the gateway open for the most possible number of hours. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Marsh, Miller, Mindlin, and Kaplan, YES. Commissioner Dawkins, NO. Motion passed 4-1.
Roll Call Vote on original motion as amended: Commissioners Miller, Dawkins, Marsh, Kaplan and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 5-0.
Meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

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