Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

October 9, 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
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Linda Reid, Housing Program Specialist
Amy Gunter, Assistant Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery, absent
Commissioner Marsh announced the Transportation System Plan (TSP) public forum will take place on October 24, 2012 and asked for volunteers to assist with the stations that will be set up across the room. She asked that they reserve a few minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss this.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the City Council approved second reading of the Drive-Thru ordinance.  
A.   Approval of Minutes
       1.  August 28, 2012 Study Session
       2.  September 11, 2012 Regular Meeting
Commissioners Kaplan/Dawkins m/s to approve the August 28, 2012 Study Session minutes. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
Commissioners Kaplan/Miller m/s to approve the September 11, 2012 Regular Meeting minutes. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
Brent Thompson/582 Allison/Encouraged the City to consider backend diagonal parking on B Street near the Food Co-Op. He also spoke to unlicensed overnight travelers accommodations and recommended there be adequate on-site parking so that neighbors are not affected, there be no food service, limit it to one room, and require the property owner to have a business license and pay the City’s transient occupancy tax. Mr. Thompson also commented on affordable housing and recommended the City look into creative ways to reduce land costs. He also voiced support for the School District’s application up next on the agenda.
A.      Approval of Findings for PA-2012-01122, 175 Lithia Way.
A typographical error was noted on page 18 of the Findings, “Oregon Department of Engineering” should be changed to “Oregon Department of Transportation.”
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported.
Commissioners Dawkins/Brown m/s to approve the Findings with the noted correction. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Miller, Dawkins, Marsh, Kaplan, Brown, Heesacker and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 7-0.  
A.   PLANNING ACTION: #2012-00899
SUBJECT PROPERTIES: Ashland School District Properties
Ashland High School – 201 S. Mountain Ave; Ashland Middle School & John Muir School – 100 Walker Ave; Bellview Elementary – 1070 Tolman Creek Rd; Helman Elementary School – 705 Helman St; Walker Elementary School – 364 Walker Ave; Briscoe School – 265 N. Main St; Lincoln School; Ashland School Administrative Services – 885 Siskiyou Blvd.
APPLICANT: Ashland School District              
DESCRIPTION: A request for a Conditional Use Permit approval for the creation of a Master Sign Permit Program for the Ashland School District Properties. The program intends to set parameters for material, location, area and height for new school signs as they are needed. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Residential (Multi-Family and Single Family); ZONING: R-2 and R-1-5; ASSESSOR’S MAP & TAX LOT#: 391E09DA 100; 391E10 1200 & 3600; 391E14CA 4700; 391E04BD 2900; 391E05DD 2500; 391E09DD 1100 391E09DA 6500.   
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported. Commissioner Dawkins stated he is familiar with the school system but can be unbiased in these proceedings. Commissioner Mindlin stated she has a son in the school district and can also make a fair and unbiased decision.
Staff Report
Assistant Planner Amy Gunter explained the Ashland School District is requesting signage to meet the needs of the various functions that occur on the school properties and provided a short presentation on their application to create a master sign program. She cited the language in the Comprehensive Plan and the Ashland Land Use Ordinance in regards to governmental signs, and also provided the sign regulations for properties within residential zones. Ms. Gunter called attention to the matrix contained on page 7 of the staff report which outlines what staff feels is an appropriate baseline for signage on the various properties, and stated staff’s primary concerns are regarding the proposed theater building sign and the gymnasium wall sign for the high school. She elaborated that the theater sign appears commercial in nature, it is uncommon to have a sign installed on a relatively blank façade and visible only to the residential zone, and the changeable copy area is 4.5 times greater than the maximum allowed by ordinance. In regards to the gymnasium sign, Ms. Gunter stated staff was concerned with the size proposed. She provided examples of raised lettering and approved ground signs for the schools, and also provided samples of Southern Oregon University’s signage.
Ms. Gunter concluded her presentation and recommended the Commission consider two items:
1)       What is the minimum signage necessary in terms of number, area, and amount of changeable copy to further the public purpose of the school district?
2)       Could a ground sign similar to the one on the high school’s Siskiyou Blvd. frontage be utilized instead of the proposed theater sign? This could achieve two purposes: a) demonstrate to the public that Mountain Ave. is the primary high school entrance, and b) provide the ability for the theater to advertise upcoming events as well as provide display area for other campus information.
Lastly, Ms. Gunter brought attention to the letter submitted to the Commission from a concerned citizen regarding business signage on the Lincoln and Briscoe Elementary school signs.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Dawkins voiced concern with the high school ground sign that faces Siskiyou Blvd. and stated the sign is unsafe and a distraction to drivers. Ms. Gunter responded that staff had recommended the sign be perpendicular to Siskiyou and stated the applicants could speak to the sign’s proposed orientation when they come forward.
Ms. Gunter briefly described the sign issue at Lincoln Elementary. She stated there are businesses occupying the space and while the applicants do not intend on placing a sign right now, they have proposed a place and size for a sign. She added the application does not indicate what the sign would say.
Mr. Molnar explained this conditional use permit is only available to government agencies who demonstrate it is needed to further the agency’s purpose. He added the side code is very stringent and other businesses or private property owners are not allowed to apply for this and variances to the sign code are not allowed. He asked the Commission to consider whether the school district’s proposal is necessary to further its public purpose and whether the signs fit in with the residential neighborhoods.
Applicant’s Presentation
Mark Knox, Applicant’s Representative/Mr. Knox stated this has been a very complex project, it has taken a long time to get to this point, and they do not agree with some of the staff recommendations. He stated they have already compromised significantly and they do not believe a matrix or standard measurement works in their situation. Mr. Knox commented on the gymnasium sign proposed for the high school and stated the sign is a reasonable scale and works well with the architecture of the building. Regarding the theater sign, he pointed out that they had originally proposed a 120 sq.ft. sign and have cut that in half in order to compromise. He added the reader board area was left large so that the letters could be seen and stressed that the theater is not a commercial enterprise and the intent was to have a sign that would convey show times and performance dates. Mr. Knox spoke to the Helman Elementary school sign and stated they have issues with the standardized size recommended by staff. He clarified staff has proposed 30 sq.ft. and they would like a 35 sq.ft. sign so that the changeable copy area can be readable. Mr. Knox commented on the issue raised regarding the high school’s reader board sign on Siskiyou Blvd. and clarified the sign will be relocated and have a perpendicular orientation so that it is visible from both directions. In terms of the Lincoln business sign, he stated they felt it was important to have a small sign that would identify what businesses are located in the building and stressed the sign is not for commercial advertizing. Mr. Knox concluded his testimony and summarized their major disagreements with staff are regarding the theater sign for the high school and the size of the Helman Elementary school sign.
Julie DiChiro, Ashland School District Superintendent/Ms. DiChiro stated as a public agency they are allowed signage that will further their public purpose and commented on the school district’s obligation and responsibility to communicate with the public about what is going on that schools, particularly when there are events that they might want to attend. She stated their intent is to do this in a way that is safe and attractive. Ms. DiChiro explained that theatre is a very important event in this community and they feel it is important for the high school theater to have a way to announce what is going on there. She stated this is a public school and it is not appropriate for the City to apply residential or commercial standards to them.
Questions of the Applicant
Ms. DiChiro commented on the elementary school signs and explained when something is visible from the street they want the sign to be safe and do not want people to have to slow down and squint in order to read it.
Ms. DiChiro was asked to comment on whether they considered a sign on Siskiyou Blvd. that would display information about the theater productions, rather than placing it on North Mountain Ave. where there tends to be more congestion. Ms. DiChiro responded that many parents spend a lot of time waiting to get through the stop sign at Iowa and North Mountain and would have plenty of time to observe the sign and find out what is going on, whereas the general public may prefer to see this information displayed along Siskiyou Blvd. For these reasons they feel it is appropriate to have both signs. Ms. DiChiro was asked to comment on whether a ground sign was considered for North Mountain Ave. She responded that they considered all of their options, but because the area where a ground sign would be located is also the bus drop off, there was concern that a ground sign would obscure the bus drivers’ view and make it difficult to see students.
Public Testimony
Blaine Pickett/327 Morton/Noted his involvement with the Helman PTA and voiced his support for the school district’s proposal. Mr. Pickett stated a reader board at Helman Elementary would make their job of communicating with parents much more efficient and would allow them to post activities and informational items that often get missed by the parents.  
Michelle Zundel/201 South Mountain/Stated she is the principal at Ashland High School and has witnessed parents getting lost and witnesses the same thing when community members and parents from other schools come to their facilities. Ms. Zundel noted their various efforts to communicate with parents and explained there are still things that get missed by families.  She stated the signage would help them communicate with families and the public, and would also celebrate the excellence and extraordinary performances of the students. 
Dominique Sukles/694 Chestnut/Voiced support for the school district’s proposal and stated the signage would give them access to parents who don’t read the emails or the papers that are sent home. Ms. Sukles stated it is important to provide this information to parents and the community and the proposed signage could result in less paper being wasted. She stated people do get lost at the schools facilities and appreciates the simple and clean design of the signs being proposed.
Glenna Stihls/725B Street/Stated she is the principal at Helman Elementary, is a parent, and is also on the PTA. Ms. Stihls stated the signs would be a wonderful communication tool and would allow them to present themselves and activities in a professional manner. She thanked the Commission for their serious consideration on this item so that they can communicate what is needed to the parents and public.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mr. Knox noted the amount of effort that has been put into this process. Ms. DiChiro agreed and stated they are very anxious to finalize this project.
Mr. Knox was asked to clarify their request for the size of the Helman Elementary school sign. Mr. Knox answered they are proposing a 35 sq.ft. sign with 16 sq.ft. of changeable copy area.
Commissioner Mindlin closed the record and the public hearing at 8:30 p.m.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Dawkins questioned if they should adopt a uniform sized sign for all of the elementary schools. Mr. Molnar stated this is up to the Commission and noted staff’s proposed size and the applicant’s proposed size are very close. He added staff does not have any concerns with approving a 35 sq.ft. sign for all of the elementary school locations.
Mr. Molnar remarked that the remaining issue is now the marquee sign for the theater and clarified staff’s primary concern was not regarding size, but rather the character of the sign, and whether it would be more appropriate to install a ground sign.
Deliberations and Decision
The commissioners shared their general comments on the application before them. Commissioner Dawkins suggested they allow a slightly larger sign for the elementary schools (35 sq.ft). He stated he still has concerns regarding the reader board sign facing Siskiyou Blvd. and also recommended a ground sign for the theater on North Mountain Ave. Commissioner Marsh voiced her support for the school district’s request and stated informational signs are extremely useful. In terms of the theater, she stated the sign needs to be large enough to be seen from the street and the North Mountain frontage is too crowded with obstacles for a ground sign to be seen. Commissioner Heesacker voiced concern with the businesses located in the schools being included on the school’s sign and stated those businesses should have to follow the City’s sign ordinance. Heesacker voiced his support for the other elements in the application and stated people need to know where to go and what is happening at the school. He commented that the school district serves the whole community and recommended the Commission approve their request. Commissioner Brown agreed that businesses should not be included in this application and stated they do not promote the schools purpose. He stated he is comfortable with the theater sign and does not have a problem with the size due to the frontage they are putting it on, and added it would not make sense to put it on the ground. Commissioner Kaplan voiced concern with the design of the theater sign and stated it does not seem consistent with the other signage that is proposed. In terms of the businesses located in the elementary schools, he stated it is important for the community to know which organizations are using those buildings. Commissioner Dawkins clarified his concern with the theater sign is more of an aesthetic issue, however he is supportive of the application and would not deny the proposal because of that sign.
Commissioners Marsh/Kaplan m/s to approve the conditional use permit with the following modifications to the staff recommendations: 1) increase the size of the elementary school signs to 35 sq.ft with 18 sq.ft of changeable copy space and 2) approve the sign proposed for the Mountain Avenue Theater. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Marsh stated the conditional use criteria looks at the location and size of the signs and does not believe they should be passing judgment on the style of the signs. Ms. Gunter clarified an additional condition will be added that states “All signs shall be located outside of the vision clearance triangle for driveway intersections with streets” and no objections were voiced to this. Commissioner Miller stated she will support the motion but would have preferred a classier sign for the theater. Commissioner Mindlin recommended it be made clear that Condition #11 is not referencing the school district’s sign catalogue, but rather is referencing our standards. Roll Call Vote: Commissioner Marsh, Kaplan, Brown, Dawkins, Heesacker, Miller and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 7-0.
A.   Planning Commission Recommendation on Unified Policies and Procedures for City Commissions and Committees.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar noted the request for feedback from the City Attorney and City Recorder in regards to the definition of a quorum, how to define an excused absence, and whether commissioners should be allowed to participate via telephone. Mr. Molnar noted the Commission had previously recommended an 80% annual attendance rate and asked if this was still their preference. He added the Commission had also previously commented that only regular and study session meetings should be counted for the attendance record.
The Commission held general conversation on the three items. There was general consensus for a flat percentage to be set for the annual attendance rate. In terms of participation by phone, there was not much support expressed for this at the Planning Commission level, however it was indicated that it may be appropriate for the Council to entertain this idea. Lastly, there were conflicting opinions on the quorum question, however the general consensus was that the current definition has worked well for the Planning Commission as long as reappointments are made in a timely manner.
A.   PLANNING ACTION: 2012-01266
APPLICANT: City of Ashland
DESCRIPTION: Amending the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan to adopt the Housing Needs Analysis.
Staff Report
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman provided an abbreviated presentation and explained this item was presented at the Commission’s August 28, 2012 study session. Mr. Goldman stated for the record the Commission is reviewing an ordinance that will adopt the Housing Needs Analysis as a technical and supporting document to the Comprehensive Plan, but the Housing Needs Analysis does not set forth policy and rather provides a factual basis by which the City can consider future policy changes. Mr. Goldman described the Housing Needs Model that was used to project the City’s housing needs and stated it was through the model’s review of population projections, the growth patterns we have experienced and anticipate to experience into the future, past housing trends, household make-up, incomes, and available land that the projected future housing needs was established. He clarified the Housing Needs Analysis addresses both City and statewide housing goals to address the housing opportunities and needs for the total cross section of our population, and noted any future updates can be done through resolution.
Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid outlined the major findings contained within the Housing Needs Analysis as follows:
1)       Growth has not occurred evenly in all age groups.
2)       The population growth rate of individuals 65 years old and older grew at a faster rate in Ashland than in the rest of the state, while the population of individuals between the ages of 35 and 44 declined.
3)       Household size has been decreasing slowly over the past two decades in Ashland.
4)       The largest dwelling unit gap exists for households earning less than $10,000 annually.
5)       The development of multifamily units is not keeping pace with the need in Ashland.
6)       The development of single family units is the predominate housing type that is being built even though demand for this is less.
7)       Ashland has a relatively small inventory of land zoned for multifamily housing.
Staff clarified the heading on page 6 of the Needs Analysis would be changed from “Recommendations” to “Potential Strategies” and reviewed the strategy suggestions that were added since the Commission last reviewed this document, including: 1) Examine opportunities for reductions in parking requirements for the provision of apartments meeting certain conditions, 2) Evaluate land use incentives to provide for small lots intended for small unit development, 3) Consider restricting uses in certain zones to apartments, and 4) Consider allowing accessory residential units as a permitted use in single family zones.
Mr. Goldman stated staff is available for any questions they may have and are recommending the Commission forward a recommendation for approval to the City Council. He noted the Housing Commission reviewed this document on August 22 and September 26 and recommended the Planning Commission and City Council adopt it as presented. 
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Dawkins suggested that in addition to reducing parking requirements as mentioned, the City should hold a dialogue about creating a city parking area so that people have an inexpensive way to store their vehicles. He also commented on the accessory residential unit recommendation and stated while he is supportive of these types of units he is not sure these are appropriate in every neighborhood and is unsure about abandoning the conditional use discussion that would normally occur at the public hearing.
Public Testimony
No one came forward to speak.
Commissioner Dawkins motioned to extend the meeting to 10:00 pm. Voice Vote: all AYES.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioner Marsh/Heesacker m/s to recommend Council’s approval of the Housing Needs Analysis as presented. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Miller commented that duplexes should play a larger role in meeting the City’s housing needs. Commissioner Mindlin commented that the housing problem may have been overstated and the rental costs in Ashland aren’t that different than the rest of Jackson County. She also questioned whether the comparison on pages 25-26 regarding the cost burden of rental vs. owned households is legitimate. Regarding the recommendations on page 6, Mindlin stated increasing the land supply for high and medium density zones is a much bigger problem than stated because most of the land can only accommodate two units. She also recommended greater incentives be offered to encourage developers to build affordable housing and for the City’s 60-year affordability policy to be reflected in the document. Recommendation was made for the student population figures to be better clarified in the document, and Mr. Goldman stated this could be added to the section on changing demographics.  Commissioner Miller voiced her opinion that accessory residential units should not be an outright permitted use and neighbors should be allowed to provide input. Staff clarified accessory residential units would still require site review and surrounding property owners would be notified of submitted applications and given opportunity to comment.
Commissioner Mindlin recommended the Housing Needs Analysis be amended to include information about the student population and information on the 60-year annexation and zone change program. Commissioner Marsh accepted the friendly amendment.  DISCUSSION: Mr. Goldman clarified staff could include narrative that defines the number of students that have zip codes within the City of Ashland, those who are living in group housing, and clearly indicate that students are considered a population that have housing needs within the City of Ashland.
Roll Call Vote on motion as amended: Commissioners Brown, Dawkins, Heesacker, Kaplan, Marsh, Miller and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 7-0.
Commissioner Marsh asked for those willing to serve as volunteers at the TSP public forum to see her after the meeting and sign up for specific stations.
Meeting adjourned at 10:05 p.m.

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