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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Mtg

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27, 2014
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
Richard Kaplan
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Tracy Peddicord
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Amy Gunter, Assistant Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Lynn Thompson   Mike Morris, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced a Special Meeting of the City Council on Thursday, May 29, 2014. The Council will be taking public input and discussing the Normal Neighborhood Plan.
Commissioner Kaplan stated the Downtown Parking Management and Circulation Committee will meet next on Wednesday, June 4.
No one came forward to speak.

PLANNING ACTION:  2014-00307                                       
OWNERS:  Martha Howard-Bullen       
DESCRIPTION: A request for a Physical and Environmental Constraints Review and Water Resource Protection Zone Reduction Permit approval to construct a new 3,414 square foot, single-story single family residence. The application also requests a Conditional Use Permit approval for a 615 square foot Accessory Residential Unit for the property located at 777 Oak Street. The property is subject to the Physical Constraints and Water Resource permits due to the location of the proposed development within the adopted floodplain for Ashland Creek. The existing approximately 720 square foot residence on the site is proposed to be retained and added onto with the new construction. The application includes a request to remove 13 trees on site. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Single Family Residential; ZONING: R-1-5; ASSESSOR’S MAP/TAX LOTS: 39 1E 04CA 2707.
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Dawkins, Brown and Peddicord declared site visits. No ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Assistant Planner Amy Gunter explained this application was continued from the May 13, 2014 in order for the Commission and staff to have sufficient time to review the applicant’s revised site plan. Ms. Gunter stated the new proposal shifts the residence to the east by 15 ft. and removes it from the Water Resource Protection Zone (WRPZ); however, the home remains within the Ashland Floodplain Corridor and the proposed patio is still located in the WRPZ. Ms. Gunter explained the primary issue remains the placement of the structure, and cited the two approval criteria which are:
  1. 18.62.070.E – To the maximum extend feasible, structures shall be placed on other than Floodplain Corridor Lands. In the case where development is permitted in the Floodplain Corridor Area, then development shall be limited to that area which would have the shallowest flooding.
  2. 18.62.070.F -  Existing lots with buildable land outside the Floodplain Corridor shall locate all residential structures outside the corridor land, unless 50% or more of the lot is within the Floodplain Corridor. For residential uses proposed for existing lots that have more than 50% of the lot in corridor land, structures may be located on that portion of the Floodplain Corridor that is two feet or less below the flood elevations on the official maps, but in no case closer than 20 feet to the channel of a Riparian Preservation Creek identified on the official maps adopted pursuant to section 18.62.060. Construction shall be subject to the requirements in paragraph D above.
Commissioner Brown noted the map that was provided does not show the 2 ft. flood elevation line or the 20 ft. channel marker. Mr. Molnar clarified the application complies with both these criteria.
Mr. Molnar commented briefly on the history of the Ashland Floodplain Corridor, which was adopted in 1989, and explained the objective is to keep structures out of this area to the greatest extent feasible due to the pattern of deviating creeks during flooding events. He added the burden is placed on the applicants to show why their proposed location is better than another. Staff also commented on the building requirements for substantial improvements to structures within in the floodplain corridor and explained any new construction would have to be built to current standards, but the applicants must also address the land use criteria which regulates the placement of structures. Mr. Molnar clarified the applicants have asserted that by removing the older home and outbuildings, placing the new home further away from the creek, and building it to current standards, this is a better situation than what currently exists.
Applicant’s Presentation
Laurie Sager/Stated this is a unique site and there were many elements they considered in determining the placement of the house, including: 1) the 64” Black Poplar tree located in the southeast corner of the lot, which has an 80 ft. tree protection radius, 2) the 15 ft. setback required by code, 3) the Water Resource Protection Zone (WRPZ) to the east, and 4) the required fire truck turnaround and residence parking in the northeast portion of the lot. Additionally, there were site design considerations to allow views of the creek, take advantage of the western shading, privacy for the applicant and her neighbors, have collective open spaces, and utilize the existing infrastructure and footprint of the three buildings that were there. Ms. Sager stated they have done a great job of evaluating the site. She noted the property is very level and noted their willingness to compromise by moving the home an additional 15 ft. back to take it out of the WRPZ. She stated when looking at the current proposal and taking into account the entire site, they have done a good job at siting the structure and believe this project should be approved.
Carlos Delgado/Stated he understands that there is no guarantee for the placement they are proposing, but the code does allow the Planning Commission to be reasonable in interpreting the language and they believe this proposal is better than what exists now. He stated they have taken the advice of staff and moved the home further east, and stated the intent of the ordinance is to increase the level of safety and this proposal does that.
Steve Asher/Also commented on the placement of the home and noted their desire for floodwater to flow around the structure should a flood occur. He stated moving the home further back could create a dam effect and does not believe this would make for a safer proposal. He stated they believe they meet the intent of the ordinance and have moved the structure as far away as they can while still preserving the natural features.
Questions of the Applicant
Mr. Delgado commented on the flood protection measures that would be included in the build and stated there would be flow-through vents on the foundation and they would minimize the number of post coming up.
Questions of Staff
Staff was asked whether the information presented by the applicant tonight accurately represents the circumstances on the property in terms of required parking, fire truck turnaround, and tree protection. Ms. Gunter stated this is the first staff has seen this material; she stated the tree protection zone is similar to what she has seen for other Poplar trees, however she cannot speak to the other two items.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Steve Asher/Stated they have demonstrated that the replacement residence will be placed as far away from the creek and Ashland Floodplain Corridor as possible and requested the Commission take into account the overall safety of the building site, the legal allowances for building within this zone, the fact that this is not an empty lot with no structural history, their willingness to remove all hazardous previous structures, and their commitment to state of the art flood protection construction. He added this is the most appropriate placement of the home given the physical and environmental constraints of the site.
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioner Mindlin recommended the Commission address the decision points outlined in the staff report.
Placement of Structure
Commissioner Kaplan stated the new site plan and overview presented by the applicants has made a difference in how he sees the site and does not believe they could have located the home outside the Ashland Floodplain Corridor. Commissioner Brown commented that a two-story home could have been placed further outside the floodplain, but in its current figuration he agrees with Commissioner Kaplan. Commissioner Mindlin expressed her discomfort in not seeing this material until tonight and asked staff to comment on its legitimacy. Mr. Molnar stated the applicant’s design team is very reputable and staff has no reason to doubt that this is not an accurate measurement. He stated public safety should trump all other issues and noted the applicants took an overall approach and took into account many factors. Commissioner Dawkins agreed that they made a legitimate point about avoiding the creation of a choke point. Commissioner Peddicord stated at the last hearing she was looking for a more substantial reason for the house placement and feels the applicants have provided this. She added it is a large house, but they do not have the ability to dictate the size or whether it is single-story or two-story. 
Placement of Patio
Ms. Gunter clarified the code language states “Outdoor patio areas consisting of porous sold surfaces up to 150 sq.ft. … may be constructed in the upland half of the riparian buffer and furthest away from the stream” and stated this will be included in the conditions of approval.
The Commission discussed whether approving this proposal would set precedence. Commissioner Mindlin noted the applicants do not have the ability to move the house to a higher elevation, and so have located the house so that water can go around it. Mr. Molnar stated if this proposal is approved staff will create findings that explain what is unique about this site and why the Commission approved the placement so that others can’t point to this in the future as a justification for their placement. He added the findings will include the specific considerations addressed by the applicant and the Commission.
Ms. Gunter read aloud the proposed modifications to the conditions of approval: 1) Condition 2a will be eliminated, 2) Condition 2e will be modified to include a requirement for the patio to comply with 18.63.060.B.4 and be constructed of porous surface, 3) Condition 2f will clarify that the accessory residential unit will be slab on grade construction to minimize disturbance to the Poplar tree, and 4) Condition 3a will be modified to include the 80 ft. tree protection zone for the Poplar tree.
Commissioners Brown/Dawkins m/s to approve Planning Action 2014-00307 with the modified conditions  proposed by staff. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Dawkins stated because the site is so flat, moving the structure  would not make it any safer; however he struggled with allowing construction in the floodplain. He stated for him, the applicant’s presentation sufficiently addressed the placement issue and feels they answered staffs concerns well enough to approve. Commissioner Miller voiced her concern with setting precedence and stated the desire for a large single story home is a self imposed problem, and questioned whether the applicant could have placed a two-story home further out of the floodplain. Commissioner Kaplan stated this is a unique set of circumstances and does not believe it will set precedence. Commissioner Brown stated the site constraints does limit where the home can be placed, and noted it is not within their purview to set a limit on the home’s square footage. Commissioner Miller stated it is an interesting idea to place a limit on the size of a home located in the floodplain and stated this may be a future change they will want to consider. She requested the findings for this action include the testimony about the passage of water, that the applicant could not locate on a higher elevation, and their desire to not trap debris against the bank. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Miller, Kaplan, Brown, Dawkins, Peddicord and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 6-0.

Election of Officers.
Commissioner Dawkins suggested they set a policy that commissioners cannot ask questions of persons providing testimony. He stated this allows certain people to get more time to express their personal views and does not think it is fair. Commissioner Miller stated it is important to be able to request clarification and does not want this ability taken away. Commissioner Mindlin stated it is not appropriate to say they will not ask questions under any circumstances but stated the commissioners should use good judgment in the types of questions they pose.
Commissioners Brown/Peddicord nominated Richard Kaplan to serve as chair of the Planning Commission. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
Commissioners Peddicord/Brown nominated Melanie Mindlin to serve as vice chair of the Planning Commission. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
Commissioners Kaplan/Peddicord nominated Michael Dawkins to serve as second vice chair of the Planning Commission. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.
Meeting adjourned at 8:55 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor


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