Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Meeting

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

July 9, 2013

Vice Chair Michael Dawkins 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.
Carol Davis
Michael Dawkins
Richard Kaplan
Debbie Miller
Tracy Peddicord
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Melanie Mindlin   Mike Morris, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced several upcoming City Council agenda items, including: Short Term Vacation Rentals, the Housing Needs Analysis, and an ordinance creating a combined Housing and Human Services Commission.
A.   Approval of Minutes.
       1.  June 11 2013 Regular Meeting.
       2.  June 25, 2013 Study Session
Commissioners Brown/Peddicord m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
No one came forward to speak.

PLANNING ACTION:  #PA-2013-00806
SUBJECT PROPERTY:Vacant Parcels at North Mountain & Fair Oaks Avenues
DESCRIPTION: A request for Site Review approval to construct a three-story mixed use building consisting of four commercial spaces and eight parking spaces on the ground floor and 12 residential units on the second and third floors on the vacant parcel at the corner of North Mountain and Fair Oaks Avenues.Also included is a request for a Modification of the Outline/Final Plan approval for the Meadowbrook Park II Subdivision (PA#2003-00158) in order to adjust the number of residential units allocated to the subject properties based on the permitted densities within the NM-C district.As originally approved in 2003, the four subject properties were proposed to have ten residential units; the applicant here proposes to modify that approval to allow a total of 40 dwelling units between the four subject properties. The applicants also propose to remove seven (7) Siberian Elm trees within the adjacent alley through a Street Tree Removal Permit in order to open the alley to use for vehicular circulation. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION:North Mountain, Neighborhood Central Overlay; ZONING:NM-C; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 04AD TAX LOTS: 700, 800, 1400, 1500 and 5900.
Commissioner Dawkins read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Davis, Kaplan, Brown, Peddicord, Dawkins and Miller declared site visits; No ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson reviewed the current proposal before the Commission and provided background information on the previous approval as well as the Central Overlay of the North Mountain Zone (NM-C). Mr. Severson explained the NM-C zone has a density of 20-units per acre and is intended to be the “downtown plaza” of this area. He added when the original Meadowbrook Park plan was approved, the NM-C portion of the development had a potential allowable density of 46.2 units, with 13 proposed and 24 possible. Mr. Severson explained the current application involves a request for site review approval to construct a three-story mixed building; approval to remove seven Elm trees so that the alley can be used for vehicular circulation; and a modification of the 2003 approval to allow a total of 40 dwelling units between the four subject properties. He added the commercial spaces will be located on the ground floor of the mixed use building and parking will be provided on the ground level (within the building footprint) and accessed from the alley, and also pointed out the applicants request to use the ground floor commercial spaces as residential units until the area builds out sufficiently to support commercial use. Lastly, Mr. Severson noted the Tree Commission’s approval to remove the seven Elm trees as requested by the applicant.  
Mr. Severson explained one of the key issues raised in the staff report is the issue of parking as it relates to the number of residential units. He explained within this district there is no requirement to provide off-street parking for commercial spaces, and there is a one-space per unit requirement for each residential unit. He noted this is significantly reduced from what you would see in other residential areas in town and clarified the intent is to have this area develop out similar to the downtown, with a continuous storefront character and parking available either on-street or in public lots. Mr. Severson clarified the applicant has proposed 12 residential units in the mixed use building and has identified 8 parking spaces on the ground floor and will utilize 4 of the 23 available parking spaces on Plum Ridge Court.
Mr. Severson read aloud language regarding parking availability from the approval findings for Planning Action #2002-00151 and stated staff has re-evaluated the possible on-street parking availability for the area. He explained there are 78 spaces (including the spaces on the private street) and an additional 29-31 private underground spaces in Julian Square. He clarified while the private spaces are not counted, they do reduce the parking demand created by tenants and visitors of Julian Square. Mr. Severson informed the commission that staff believes there is adequate on-street parking to accommodate the commercial demand of the proposed mixed-use building, and the commission could determine that Plum Ridge Court, as a private street, could be used to accommodate the residential demand. He noted the applicant’s have submitted a revised site plan this evening and asked the applicant to address this when they come forward.
Mr. Severson concluded his presentation and noted the proposed revision to Condition #7 which clarifies the parking spaces on Plum Ridge Court can be used to address the residential parking demand to accommodate the NM-C density envisioned in the North Mountain Neighborhood Plan, but cannot be individual parking spaces assigned or otherwise treated as private parking.
Questions of Staff
Staff was asked whether converting the commercial space to residential required a conditional use permit. Mr. Severson responded that both uses are allowed and the applicants need only obtain an occupancy permit. He added the applicants have stated a deed restriction will be placed on these units to make it clear the intent is for them to become commercial spaces. Staff added the residential units in the area will likely need to be fully developed before a commercial use could be viable.
Staff was asked to clarify where the proposed alleyway would connect. Mr. Severson stated the alleyway as proposed would enter the existing parking lot and connect to the roadway from there.
Applicant’s Presentation
Laz Ayala/Applicant, Ayala Properties LLC/Stated he lives in the neighborhood where this project is proposed and is very mindful of the City’s policies to create neighborhoods like the one proposed. He stated this project is still fluid and offers many opportunities for livability, affordability, and density, all of which align with the City’s stated goals. Mr. Ayala stated he has met with neighborhood residents and done his best to address their concerns, and stated he is available for any questions the commission may have.
Mark Knox/Land Use Planner, Urban Development Services LLC/Stated he has been involved with this project for the last 18 years since its conception. He stated this proposal addresses livability and sustainability without sprawl, and displayed several photos of the subject property and proposed building. Mr. Knox stated he has reviewed the parking calculations and explained they came up with a total of 127 spaces by counting parking spaces both on- and off-street likely available at build-out of the neighborhood center. He also clarified the revised site plan distributed tonight includes two additional spaces that were created by reducing the storage area for a total of 10 spaces on the site. He added this is exactly what the previous application was approved for. Mr. Knox outlined two potential scenarios for the commission and explained how the parking demand would be met. Scenario #1 was a mixture of office and retail with one restaurant (coffee shop), and Scenario #2 was two restaurants with one of them located in the octagon building. In both instances, he stated there is sufficient parking to meet the demand.
Questions of the Applicant
The applicant was asked to comment on the development as a whole, since their presentation focused on parking. Mr. Knox explained the vision is for a main street format with gaps in between the buildings to allow light and air in. He stated the construction of the second and third buildings will be market driven, however they would like to move forward with building two right away. Mr. Knox stated the proposed building will have a total of 12 residential units on the second and third floors and they have provided a mixture of sizes as recommended in the Comprehensive Plan and Housing Needs Analysis. He clarified there will be 10 parking spaces on site for the residential units, and the remaining two spaces will be located on Plum Ridge Court.  Mr. Knox added the ground floor commercial units will be used as residential, but built with certain commercial elements so that when the market is ready there will not be a significant amount of effort needed to change them into the intended commercial uses.
The applicant was asked to clarify where the new trees will be planted. Mr. Knox answered the trees will be planted along the public parking lot, and noted the existing Elms were damaged during previous construction activity. Suggestion was made for the applicant to consider placing trees along the back of the building by the alleyway.
When asked about the proposed residential use on the first floor, Mr. Knox stated the corner unit will be commercial right away and the adjoining space will be turned into 2-4 residential units. He added there is more than a sufficient amount of on-street parking to accommodate these uses. Mr. Ayala commented that this has been a moving target but feels strongly that there will be a commercial demand for this building right away and they will have two commercial businesses located on the first floor.
Public Testimony
Ted Mularz/859 Mountain Avenue/Stated he is a retired architect and has been a resident of Ashland for 23 years. Mr. Mularz explained he lives across the street from the subject property and expressed concern with the plan as submitted. He stated he is joined by several of his neighbors and the following three speakers will address their concerns on parking congestion, commercial units, traffic congestion, transportation, and building configuration.
Gideon Wizansky/829 Pavilion Place/Commented on parking and stated the applicant’s proposal does not meet the City’s requirement for every residence to have a dedicated off-street parking space. Mr. Wizansky added if the commercial spaces are turned into residential units, even if temporary, those units should be required to have dedicated off-street parking.
Terry Bateman/829 Pavilion Place/Commented on traffic congestion and transportation and recommended the construction of the planned bridge to connect Nevada Street over Bear Creek be pursued as quickly as possible. Mr. Bateman recommended public transportation be provided and stated the Nevada Street bridge would facilitate such transportation by providing a loop from North Mountain Avenue to Oak Street and downtown. Lastly, he cited the dangerous pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection of North Mountain and Fair Oaks and stated because of its location at the top of the hill, the visibility of this crosswalk is severely limited. Mr. Bateman recommended a stop sign be placed at this location to remedy the safety issue.
Donna Swanson/863 Plum Ridge Drive/Recommended the architecture be more contemporary in design to better fit in with the existing neighborhood buildings. Ms. Swanson stated the proposed design is an unsuccessful attempt to replicate the downtown Plaza and very much resembles Main Street Disneyland in character. She stated to maintain the neighborhood context as originally intended any proposed buildings should be complimentary to the already established neighborhood design.
William Machado/985 Camelot Drive/Strongly recommended the commission look at the parking figures carefully. He questioned what would happen if the tenants of the 40 units each had two vehicles, and also questioned where the temporary residential unit tenants will park.
Rick Harris/190 Oak Street/Stated he is a real estate broker and spoke in favor of the proposal. Mr. Harris agreed with using the commercial spaces for residential use until the area has built out sufficiently and stated the existing vacant commercial spaces verify that commercial spaces that can only be used as commercial will remain empty. He also stated the proposed mixed-use will diversify the area and create a broader range of community.
Teresa McCants/150 East Main Street/Stated she is happy to see the plan for mixed use is being followed and voiced support for utilizing the ground floor commercial space as single level residential units. She noted the commercial market is taking longer to come back and it would be sad to see a requirement that the commercial spaces only be used as commercial and not allow for the need that is wanted right now.
Fred Cox/213 Eastbrook Way/Noted he is a builder and has nine lots in this area. He stated he would like to see a success for this neighborhood and voiced support for mixed use developments. Mr. Cox commented on the lack of wheelchair accessible/single level homes in Ashland. He stated they need to support the commercial buildings that are there now and they can do this by having more residential. Mr. Cox commented on traffic and stated parking could be less with these types of units. He added the commission has the opportunity to provide what was, and is, the intent of the vision for this neighborhood.
Paul Siegel/610 Fair Oaks Court/Stated he lives in Julian Square and feels this project is too confusing. He stated there are too many different options and believes a project of this scale and scope should be reviewed much more carefully. Mr. Siegel stated parking is already difficult around Julian Square and does not believe the applicant has met the ordinance requirement of one parking space per unit. He commented there is no guarantee that the first floor units will turn into commercial and the applicant could keep these as residential for as long as they want. He added he would feel more comfortable if parking was provided for these units.
Brian Rexon/904 Kestrel Parkway/Stated this whole community is developing very nicely as the result of the applicant, and stated through Mr. Ayala’s leadership this area has turned into a thriving community. Mr. Rexon stated he also has concerns about traffic flow and parking, but believes this development is going to be in the neighborhoods best interest. He noted they have been waiting for many years for this development to occur and heartily endorsed the applicant.
Rick Lindemann/550 West Nevada Street/Stated he is considering purchasing property in Meadowbrook and voiced support for the proposed plaza space and coffee shop, and also noted the importance of walkability. Mr. Lindemann stated he is not concerned about parking and believes the applicant has met all of the requirements.
Roger Mueller/903 Plum Ridge Drive/Expressed confusion with the applicant’s parking figures and urged the commission to look at these carefully to ensure they are accurate. Mr. Mueller recommended the application undergo further study and noted his concerns regarding the proposed pedestrian crossing and the parking situation.
Bob DiChiro/920 North Mountain/Stated the proposed development will take away his view, change the light that hits his property, and will place a parking lot across the street. Mr. DiChiro asked several questions, including: what is the building setback; when will they break ground; and how long will it take to build? He stated the commercial uses should cater to the people who live in the area and expressed concern with cars drifting over from the parking lot and parking in front of his property.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mark Knox/Clarified they are not proposing any exceptions or variances, but are requesting a modification to the previous developer’s proposal which was inadequate in terms of the intended density for this area. Mr. Knox agreed that the numbers can be confusing and commented that they truly believe there will be 30 residential units, plus an additional six units if you count the ground floor units in the commercial space. He stated they have 24 spaces and propose to get the remaining 12 spaces from the private Plum Ridge Court. He stressed they are not asking for a parking variance and stated there is plenty of parking. Mr. Knox emphasized they meet all the criteria for this proposal. He clarified the City is already working on grants to have the bridge connection made, and stressed that all of the traffic requirements have been met. In terms of the comment made that this proposal will create a dangerous pedestrian crossing, Mr. Knox stated there is 150-200 ft. of vision clearance and the posted speed would have to be 50 mph before this would warrant a stop sign.
Mr. Knox clarified for the commission that they are requesting approval of the revised site plan that was submitted this evening.
Questions of Staff
Comment was made suggesting the pedestrian crossing concern be forwarded to the Transportation Commission for review.
Commissioner Dawkins asked staff to elaborate on the parking requirements. Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained the North Mountain plan is unique in that in order to provide a particular form at the front of the property and around the common area, the majority of the parking demand needs to be met by on-street parking spaces. He commented on the parking spaces along Plum Ridge Court and emphasized that staff has no reservations about using these spaces as described. He stated it is clear from the 2002 findings document that the intention was for this parking to be flexible in order to address the variety and concentration of uses in this neighborhood. He added this is not a private parking lot and the proposed revision to Condition #7 makes this clear. Mr. Molnar clarified parking spaces located within a building’s footprint is their dedicated (private) parking, but everything else is shared parking. Staff added even with the commercial spaces being used as residential, the proposal meets the requirement for one parking space per unit because they can utilize the spaces on Plum Ridge Court.
Commissioner Dawkins closed the record and the public hearing at 9:10 pm.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioners Miller/Brown m/s to send this application to the Transportation Commission for their suggestion on the Fair Oaks/North Mountain intersection. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Miller commented that she visits this area frequently and stated it is hard to see traffic coming from any direction. She noted the vehicle trips per day will increase by 300-400 and stated many residents in this area are over 55. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
Commissioners Kaplan/Peddicord m/s to approve Planning Action #2013-00806, with the revision to Condition #7 as proposed by staff. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Kaplan stated it is hard to know if the residential will convert to commercial. He stated it is important to treat it as residential for now and recommended the proposed temporary residential units be included in the one-for-one parking requirement. Kaplan added he has no concerns with the proposed tree removals. Commissioner Peddicord stated as a former Tree Commissioner she always wants to advocate for tree preservation, but in this case it is not feasible to attempt to save these trees. Commissioner Brown agreed with Kaplan and stated the temporary residential units need to meet the one-for-one parking requirement. He stated removing the trees is the right thing to do, but suggested the replacement trees be placed along the alleyway. Commissioner Miller recommended the alleyway be retained for bicycle and pedestrian use only (no vehicles). Regarding parking, she commented that allocating parking and dedicated parking are different and would like to see dedicated parking spaces for each of the residential units. Commissioner Brown commented on the alleyway and suggested different treatments to keep this from turning into a thoroughfare, including only paving it up to where you enter the building’s parking, and a left-turn only exit. Commissioner Davis expressed her support for using the ground floor as residential until a commercial use is viable. Commissioner Dawkins asked if there were additional comments regarding the alleyway. Commissioner Kaplan agreed that the alley should include trees or some other treatment to provide a barrier to the existing house. Suggestion was made for the Transportation Commission look at whether the alleyway should be brought all the way through and where the safest place is to exit onto the through road.
Commissioners Kaplan/Davis m/s to extend the meeting to 10:00 pm. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
DISCUSSION (Continued): Mr. Molnar clarified the Transportation Commission is not obligated to the quasi-judicial timeframe, however the Public Works Department could likely provide input in a suitable timeframe. Mr. Molnar stated the commission could make a motion that expresses their desire to close the alleyway, and ask that this be evaluated by the Public Works Department.
Commissioners Brown/Kaplan m/s to amend the motion to recommend the alleyway not go completely through and instead stop at entrance/exit to the assigned parking spaces, and for this to be evaluated by the appropriate City staff. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
DISCUSSION (Continued): Staff clarified the commission’s desire for the temporary residential units to meet the one-for-one parking requirement will be included in the findings. Roll Call Vote on motion as amended: Commissioners Brown, Davis, Miller, Kaplan, Peddicord and Dawkins, YES. Motion passed 6-0.
Meeting adjourned at 9:40 p.m.


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