Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Special Meeting

Thursday, May 29, 2014

                                             MINUTES FOR THE SPECIAL MEETING

May 29, 2014
Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street


Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:36 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Slattery, Lemhouse, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present.
Continuation of the Public Hearing and first reading of two separate ordinances amending the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan, Comprehensive Plan Maps, Transportation System Plan, and Street Standards to adopt the Normal Neighborhood Plan
Mayor Stromberg and Council clarified rules of procedure.
None reported.
Public Hearing-continued: 7:42 p.m.
Tom Winmill/200 Normal Avenue/Supported annexation but not the layout the Planning Commission proposed.  It was not fair to the area.  He urged Council to review the plan, make it fair and questioned the use of high density instead of medium density.
Nancy Boyer/425 Normal Avenue/Expressed concern regarding the size of the development, noted the drought and higher utility rates, and thought a plan for 500 homes needed consideration.  The infrastructure and improvements should happen first and questioned who would pay for them.  The area did not need added density.  She wanted to know how the plan changed to include three story buildings, why the plan was on a flood plain and thought the City should conduct their own studies instead of private studies funded by the developers.
Belmira Borg/2214 Abbott Avenue/Explained she was the secretary for the East Village Home Owners Association and spoke on their behalf.  They were concerned for infrastructure regarding any high-density construction on the Baptist Church property with a focus on traffic issues. The Home Owners Association was also concerned regarding the lack of notice provided for the Normal Plan. She encouraged Council not to approve a plan that would allow high density or commercial construction on the Baptist Church property.
Rod Petrone/2324 Abbott Avenue/Thought city and state government should control all aspects of the development of private land because individuals were incapable of  acting in the best interest of the new world order.  People needed to lower carbon dioxide (C02) emissions in order to address the planetary crisis.  The project would help by forcing all but those in control into tiny 600 square feet cubicle housing reducing energy and water usage.  Smaller homes would discourage population growth, reduce C02 emissions, and possibly lower sea levels.  Existing large homes could be modified into multifamily units.
Keith Boyd/724 S Central #106, Medford OR/Represented the owners of the Calvary Baptist Church at 22 East Main Street.  They were involved since the beginning, supported the plan, and saw it as a framework.  Council retained total discretion over any annexation of any property or project and for that reason it should be approved.  The Planning Department would not present something to Council that should not be approved.  Additionally feasibility studies done could require changes to the plan. 
Jackie Agee/168 Crocker Street/Represented the Chautauqua Trace Home Association and expressed concern regarding infrastructure issues due to the high-density project.  A medium density may or may not alleviate problems but a high-density residential and commercial project would increase problems.  There were also traffic concerns and the impact to East Main Street since there was no indication the City would improve that street.  The Home Owners Association was dismayed by the lack of concern from the planners and lack of notice from the City regarding the project.  They urged Council not to approve any high-density development on the Baptist Church property.
Betsy Strebe/342 Meadow Drive /Represented the Meadowbrook Park Estates Homeowners Association concerned with high-density development of the Baptist Church property, infrastructure, and lack of public transportation.  The Home Owners Association was also concerned with mixed residential and commercial space where the commercial sections were mostly vacant  They requested that Council send the plan back to the Planning Commission with recommendations to eliminate high density residential and commercial in the Baptist Church property or anywhere in the Normal Avenue area.
Richard Blazer/342 Meadow Drive/The plan did not serve the community.  Scientific studies and decisions should be made by scientists and elected officials and represent the will of the people.   Many aspects of the Normal Neighborhood Plan (NNP) were not in the best interest of present and future residents of the area.  He had traffic concerns and thought an advanced finance district should be created and funded before any development began.  The City should commit to a comprehensive detailed traffic plan.  He urged Council not to approve high density N-03 and N-03C zones or the height proposal.
John Bullock/777 Palmer Road/Wanted Council to refer the plan back to the Planning Commission with a recommendation to retain the NN-02 zone as the maximum density for the entire development.
Alma Rosa Alvarez/491 Normal Avenue/Read from the Oregon State Goal 14 Urbanization Guidelines Sections B2, B4, and B5 local land use control and questioned whether the City had evidenced intent to provide urban services for the land by adopting a capital improvement plan reasonably designed to provide the urban services according to ORS 197.754 Section 1.  She wanted to know where in the Cityís Capital Improvement Plan was the upgrading urbanization of East Main Street between Walker and Clay Streets and the private railroad crossing next to Hunter Park necessary for the urban expansion of the NNP.  Had the City followed ORS 197.794 Section 3 regarding the railroad crossing?  Where was the document from CORP Rail Road outlining the process and cost of upgrading the crossing from private to public use?
Eve Smyth/459 Normal Avenue /Spoke on water demand and supply issues and questioned how a high-density development zoned in the NNP did not exceed the care and capacity of the Cityís water resources.  The design of such density for the NNP contradicted Ashland Municipal Code 18.106.030.  How could there be adequate capacity for such an increase in population.  The NNP had the largest water resource identified in the Ashland Water Resources map.  ORS 197.283 assured protection of groundwater resources consistent with state goals in ORS 468B.025.  She urged Council to reconsider the plan.
Kathleen Livni/240 Normal Avenue/Supported a medium density plan.  The process used to determine the wetlands in the area originally was loose. There were many inconsistencies in the map and provided examples.  The NNP was based on this map and never delineated.  A wetland expert from Eugene OR performed testing and inspections on her land and concluded only 650 square feet as wetland. The area in question was now considered conservation land.  This eminent domain on her land came without compensations or legal merit.      
Carol Block/355 Normal Avenue/Represented twelve parcels in the Plan area and did not think the development would enrich or improve the community.  It would become a mish mash of high-density housing of various types with no open spaces except around wetlands and riparian areas.  Developers did not want to designate parkland and balked during meetings about complying with open space.  Of the 94 acres, over 25 acres belonged to neighbors that would not annex into the city so the development was actually in 69 acres instead of 94.  No one had yet to prove high-density inventory was needed over the next 20 years.  She questioned the rush and suggested rezoning smaller acreages in the city with apartments closer to services and public transportation.  Multifamily housing was typically the slower to sell and the least desirable.  She asked Council to listen to the opinion and rights of the present homeowners instead of outside speculators.  The project would have a devastating effect to the wetlands and open spaces.  She questioned who would pay for the improvements, whether the capital improvement plan addressed the East Main Street improvements and the railroad crossing, and if the City had communicated with Jackson County Transportation Department to bring East Main Street up to code.  Other issues included water and the actual need and placement of that many homes.
Paula Fox/367 Normal Avenue/Wanted the Planning Commission to review and revise the high-density allotments in the plan.  She addressed the livability issue and read from Oregon State Goal 14 Urbanization Guidelines Section A4.  She thought high-density in the area would gravely affect traffic and water resources.
Jonathan Seidler/367 Meadow Drive/Opposed the three-story development and supported medium or low density instead.   Everyone could agree the impact of developing 94 acres was a little frightening and thought the developers or Councilors would feel the same way if they lived in the area.   He thought the annexation was too large.
Planning Commissioners Chair Rich Kaplan and Melanie Mindlin presented the report. Ms. Mindlin explained it was a unanimous decision by the Planning Commission to approve the plan.  She noted there were many property owners that did not want the area developed and several that wanted to maximize development potential.
There was underlining zoning in that area for decades with more housing than stated in the plan.  The density designation for most of the area was similar to the kind of development seen from Siskiyou Boulevard to Ashland Street.  Homeowners could annex into the City without the plan and there was nothing in the plan to promote or inhibit development.  The plan attempted to keep ahead of applications with a coherent guide for streets, paths, open space, environmental protections, and transportation needs. 
The Normal Neighborhood Plan was the largest piece of land in the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).  She agreed it was questionable whether the area was the ideal location for high-density housing. The Cityís commitment to non-expansion and regional problem solving process, growing inward instead of outward locked the City into using the land in this way.  The number of units the Planning commission was working with was a basic parameter of the whole project.  Consultants were brought in with this level of density as a goal.  The Planning Commission listened carefully to concerns expressed and along with Planning Department staff worked with them and examined lots to ensure they were not lowering density on any parcel except homes in the green development.  The Planning Commission felt strongly they had not decreased density even though some owners were not getting what they desired. 
Specific issues in the Planning Commissionís recommendation were transportation.  The Normal Neighborhood was not well connected and transportation was challenging.  There were limited ways to get in and out of the neighborhood, East Main Street was not up to City standards in its current condition, and it was one mile from high-density housing to public transit and commercial stores.  It was unlikely the area would have transit service in the near future although experts assured public transit would support the density by total build out.
The transportation challenges were significant.  Community Development Director Bill Molnar clarified the traffic study conducted on East Main Street primarily noted that multi modal facilities for cyclists and pedestrians ranked poor because it was a county road.  In order for the Normal Neighborhood project to develop it required improvements.  Ms. Mindlin added the Planning Commission recommended improvements to East Main Street be done before development began and there should be a very coherent plan for the railroad crossing.  The Transportation Commission wanted fewer access points onto East Main Street because of safety concerns that contradicted the recommendation by Public Works Director Mike Faught.  She clarified the transportation network within the Normal neighborhood was good but beyond the neighborhood there were issues. 
Mr. Kaplan explained the Planning Commission added strong statements to their recommendation that the south side of East Main to Walker and Clay streets should be fully improved to City standards prior to or coinciding with any future annexation within the plan area.  The Planning Commission could not go further on the improvements since they were not in control of who would fund them.
Ms. Mindlin explained that the Planning Commission added important elements regarding conservation and open space to the plan, which received push back from owners looking to maximize development.  By creating conservation areas, the recommendation gave them the right to transfer density to other parts of their property.  Designating the size of these conservation areas protected the character of the neighborhood.  The Planning Commission wanted to ensure there was no value in altering the hydrologic characteristics of individual properties. Various participants may try to challenge or alter the designation but the Planning Commissionís unanimous support depended on maintaining those specified lands for open space regardless of the hydrologic analogies that may occur.  The open spaces were only minimally enlarged on city maps.
Ms. Mindlin concluded with the three-story density zones.  The consultants originally specified three story buildings and the Planning Commission removed it due to public comment.  There were no requests from the developers to reinstate the height requirement.  The Planning Commission added it back because they believed with the required density of 15 units per acre in the NN-03 zone they needed to provide the flexibility of building to three stories.  Moving from 2.5 stories to three was not drastic.  To keep impact down they went from 35-feet to 40-feet.  It was a small part of the plan and the Planning Commission would not be greatly concerned if Council did not support the height recommendation.  Mr. Kaplan added if the added height did not come with a conditional use permit process, the Planning Commission would not have approved the change.  The Commission would look at each design and determine impact to the neighbors. The Planning Commission was not aware of the Fire Chiefís objections to 3-story buildings.
Mr. Molnar explained wetlands were established through a local wetland inventory prescribed through the State.  In 2007, the City hired Fishmen Environmental Services in compliance with Statewide Planning Goal #5.  Part of the process was noticing property owners with a wetland or potential wetland requesting permission to access their property.  The consultants had to rely on soil data, aerial photography, and width assumptions to determine wetland information on several properties where the owner denied access.
The City added the protective 50-foot buffer to wetland areas.  Streets on the maps parallel to a wetland were likely in the buffer.  This was still a concept plan so when property came up for annexation the developer or owner had to identify the actual wetland location and buffer and keep the improvements outside of those areas.  It was subject to City and state regulations. Studies had to be submitted to the Oregon Department of State Lands to confirm the methodology was correct. 
The bigger issue was the Planning Commissionís recommendation in the plan. The planís conservation areas incorporated the Cityís local wetland inventory and buffer requirement but also made a finding that 25% of the Normal Neighborhood area or 20 acres of Normal area should be kept in a conservation area regardless of final delineation to respect the character of the neighborhood and make the transition to higher density smoother.  He confirmed that Council had the ability to change zoning but staff would need to review long-term implications.
The developer was responsible for all costs associated with any streets, pathways, curbs, sidewalk, and utilities built in the project when annexing to the City.  The Planning Commission recommendation that provided clarity on times and responsibility of East Main and the railroad crossing that was currently in the Cityís Comprehensive Plan.  The Planning Commission recommendation was prior to any development occurring, the south side of East Main Street, sidewalk, bike lane, storm drain systems had to be installed from Walker Street eastward, that the railroad crossing was public, and a finance plan addressed.  If Council incorporated the Planning Commissionís conditions those improvements would be a requirement.  The extent of the improvements for East Main and the railroad crossing was not known until studies were conducted.
The Water Master Plan addressed water needs though the year 2060.  It was based on population projections of the Comprehensive Plan, conservation, system improvements for redundancy and emergency water supplies, and periods of severe drought.  The Water Master Plan did not specifically include the Normal Neighborhood Plan but did include water for an additional 550 housing units.  The Comprehensive Plan was consistent with the state goals and that included Goal 14 Urbanization.
Mr. Molnar noted over the past 25 years only 350 homes were built.  Property owners could group together to deal with development costs.  Reimbursement districts allowed 10-20 year payback schedules and had conditions. 
If Council did not adopt the plan, the current zoning would remain Jackson County zoning and limited regarding use.  Property owners could go through the permit process with Jackson County.  Developers would go through annexation with the City to develop 5-9 units per acre.  The property needed to be contiguous with the city limit boundary and would require a Public Hearing through the Planning Commission then go before Council.  City requirements were 6-9 units per acre, the developer would install public facilities and infrastructure for the property as well as affordability.
The Cityís contribution to Normal Neighborhood Plan would be through other developers who by System Development Charges increased the entire capacity of the system.  If Council did not adopt the plan, the wetland designation could change and developers would still be subject to normal City requirements.
Ms. Mindlin clarified the Transportation Commission wanted one access on East Main Street.  However, Public Works Director Mike Faught concurred with the consultants on their initial recommendation of three access points because it allowed better traffic distribution.  The Oregon Department of Transportation Rail recognized the private railroad crossing and would allow it to upgrade to public without moving it to another location.  The concern was timing of the development.  ODOT would not confirm in writing until an application for development was submitted. The Normal Neighborhood Plan was not a development plan but a plan to guide development.
Mr. Kaplan added the plan contained an amendment process depending on how the area developed.  It was a living document and guide.  Eliminating the NN-03 and NN-03C could limit the City significantly and there might be ways to redistribute the higher density instead.   Housing density consisted of 93% NN-01 and NN-02, NN-03 made up 7% and NN-03C with 28% open space. 
Staff addressed routes to schools and with the exception of one multiuse path, noted street extensions that enabled more routes would not occur unless specific properties annexed and developed, or were surrounded by other properties annexing.
Councilor Marsh acknowledged the hard work and effort from staff, commissions, and the consultants, but did not think the plan was compatible.  She thought the density was misplaced, wanted to ensure the wetlands were delineated, and well protected, and did not like the street pattern.  She suggested establishing a work group comprised of three Councilors, two Planning Commissioners, and staff to make changes to the plan or look at citywide density and infill and how the Normal Neighborhood Plan fit in with that.
Councilor Lemhouse would support the suggestion as long as there was structure and clarity for the group to ensure it moved forward.  Councilor Slattery wanted a mechanism to identify and address issues the public brought forward.  Councilor Marsh clarified the work group would make recommendations and not necessarily decisions.  Councilor Voisin thought the Transportation Commission should participate in the process. 
Ms. Mindlin clarified the Planning Commission never debated whether they should reduce density.  Transportation issues were a concern but not under the purview of the Planning Commission.
Council generally supported a work group and discussed the need for clear direction on what the group would focus on.  Councilor Marsh clarified the work group would report to Council with a plan to move forward.
Councilor Marsh/Slattery m/s to refer Normal Neighborhood project and all elements to the establishment of a working group comprised of three Councilors, two Planning Commissioners, and staff who will make a recommendation for moving forward.
DISCUSSION: Councilor Lemhouse supported the idea of remanding it a working group and thought Council should provide the issues they wanted the group to address.  His biggest concern was the high density in the NN-03.  Councilor Voisin supported the concept but thought Council needed to give specific direction to the group.  Roll Call Vote: Councilor Voisin, Rosenthal, Slattery, Marsh, Morris and Lemhouse, YES. Motion approved.
Council wanted the group to review and address the following:

  • East-west transportation issues
  • Transportation to the schools with an in depth review of traffic to the schools and impact to the surrounding neighborhoods
  • General transportation and connectivity issues
  • How to eliminate some of the traffic
  • The need for NN zoning,
  • Density
  • Infrastructure
  • Public transportation
  • Improving both south and north East Main
  • The Railroad Crossing
  • Challenge the RPS assumptions on density
  • Protect the wetlands, retain state established wetlands, and protect the 25% open space
  • Ensure developers pay for water, sewer, and electric
  • Incorporate public input and respond accordingly
  • Building height requirements 

Mayor Stromberg would bring names of potential work group members to Council for approval.
Meeting adjourned at 10:03 p.m.
_________________________________                  ________________________________
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder                             John Stromberg, Mayor

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