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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Mtg

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 2014
Chair Richard Kaplan 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
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Mike Morris, absent
Normal Neighborhood Plan Working Group: Commissioner Kaplan stated 15-20 members of the public attended the last meeting and the group shared their preferences on where the densities, roads, and open space should be located. He stated there were some areas of agreement, but also a lot of differences. The group discussed density, affordable housing requirements, and the NN-03-C commercial zone. Areas of consensus seemed to be moving the higher densities closer to Ashland Street and away from East Main, placing the NN-02 zone in the interior of the plan area, and making the streets more grid like. There was also a request to not use the NN zoning designations and use the City’s existing zones (R-1, R-2, R-3, etc.) instead. 
Commissioner Kaplan was asked if the plan put forward by the Commission has been rejected and if the Council was starting over. Kaplan replied that the plan will likely be amended before it is approved by the City Council. Comment was made expressing concern that the Council is just moving the discomfort around. Additional comment was made that no member of the public indicated to them that they wanted the density placed in the center of the plan area.
Downtown Beautification Committee:  Commissioner Dawkins stated this group’s work is coming to an end and provided a list of identified projects, including: the walkway by Earthly Goods (lighting/artwork), Lithia/Pioneer sidewalks, historical markers, OSF/Black Swan area, and bringing furnishings onto the Plaza. Dawkins added there is still funding available to complete some of these items.
Colin Swales/95 Coolidge/Commented on the ULUO process and remarked that the stated intent is to provide predictability to the planning process, but disagreed with this and stated the process is not suppose to be predictable, but fair. Mr. Swales voiced his disappointment with how the focus groups and open houses were done and stated the professionals who participated put forward a wish list of what they would like to see to maximize their investments. He stated he was also disappointed with the 2006 Siegel Report which took away citizen input and allowed more actions to be approved at the staff level. Mr. Swales asked the Commission to consider the Comprehensive Plan and goals for the City as they review the proposed changes to the land use code.
  1. PLANNING ACTION:  2014-00529                                       
DESCRIPTION: A request to modify Title 18 of the Ashland Municipal Code to combine the land use ordinance language and related development standards into one document with improved organization, wording, formatting, and graphics. Amendments are included to address outstanding items from the 2006 Land Use Ordinance Review by Siegel Planning Services LLC, recommendations from the planning application procedure and green development audits, inconsistencies, and ambiguous wording. The land use ordinance implement the community’s vision as expressed in the Ashland Comprehensive Plan and governs the development of property within the City limits.
Staff Report
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained this action replaces Title 18 of the Ashland Municipal Code in its entirety with a revised land use ordinance that includes the Site Design & Use Standards and the Street Standards and improves the organization, formatting and graphics. The proposed document also includes amendments addressed in the 2006 Siegel land use ordinance review,  recommendations from the application procedures and green development audits, and inconsistencies and ambiguous wording. Ms. Harris noted there have been approximately 30 meetings on this project over the last two years and clarified the Planning Commission is tasked with making a recommendation to the City Council, who will make the final decision.
Ms. Harris provided a presentation that covered the key proposed amendments:
  • Building Heights in Downtown Ashland. Currently the maximum height is 40 ft. with the potential to go up to 55 ft. with a conditional use permit. The proposal is to keep the 40 ft. maximum, but if the structure is more than 100 ft. from a residential zone they can go up to 55 ft. There is also an exemption from the plaza space requirement for the fourth floor (large scale developments only); an exemption of the C-1 zone from the solar setback standards (except for properties that are within 100 ft of a residential zone); and an exemption for parapets.
  • Building Street Frontage. For non-residential development there is currently a disconnect between the written standards and the concept plans. The proposed amendments require parking to be located either behind or on one side of the building, and for the building’s façade to occupy the majority of the street frontage. Ms. Harris added more building frontage on the street will improve the pedestrian environment and be more in line with current standards. Additional changes to the design standards that apply to non-residential zones include the vision clearance exemption, building separation requirements, and the hotel/motel definitions.
  • Cottage Housing. The proposed language makes it possible to do cottage housing in single family zones, and allows for two small cottages for every regular single family home.
  • Solar Orientation.  This amendment applies to land divisions in residential zones and requires the layout of new streets to be as close as possible to a north-south and east-west axis; to orient buildings so that the long sides face north and south; and to design habitable structures so the primary living space is located on the south side of the building.
  • Building Separation. The proposed language applies the building separation standard uniformly in residential zones and requires the minimum separation between buildings to equal half the height of the tallest building, where building height is measured at the two closest exterior walls. The maximum required separation is 12 ft.
  • Accessory Residential Units. The proposed change removes the conditional use requirement and makes accessory residential units a site design review application.
  • Other Changes to the Design Standards in Residential Zones include the porous pavement exemption, half story setback, side and rear yard exceptions, single-family parking, and solar setback exemption for architectural projections.
  • Procedural Amendments. In the Basic Site Review Zone, a public hearing would be required if the building is more than 15,000 sq.ft. (instead of current 10,000 sq.ft.) or if the proposed addition is more than 50% of the existing buildings square footage.
  • Other Changes to Procedures include planning approval expiration and extension, affordable housing density bonus, maximum density bonus, conditional use permit approval criteria, and variance approval criteria. 
Questions of Staff
Staff was asked if outdoor lighting is required. Ms. Harris clarified street lights are required along sidewalks and stated within the site light cannot spill over into residential zones. In order to meet the latter requirement, staff needs to know where the lights will be placed.
Staff was asked whether the performance standards option (PSO) would be applied throughout town. Ms. Harris clarified this was originally recommended, but it was determined that this was a bigger issue that would require more discussion. She added this could be controversial, especially as it applies to flag lots. Comment was made that this was good idea and recommending it not be abandoned. Mr. Molnar commented that the performance standards option already applies to a number of areas in town, and noted there is existing criteria that allows staff to approve a performance standards development even if it is not within a PSO overlay.
Public Testimony
Colin Swales/95 Coolidge/Recommended the code allow for variability to the solar access requirement and the manner in which subdivisions are oriented in order to deal with topography. Mr. Swales expressed concern with the vision clearance amendment for commercial zones in the downtown and stated the current requirement makes for safer and more attractive buildings. He shared his concern with the increased building height allowance and the parapet exemption. Mr. Swales stated his objection to the fourth floor plaza space exemption and the change in the hotel/motel definition. He also recommended the variance language be changed to specify that the circumstances have not been self imposed by the property owner OR the previous owner.
Discussions and Deliberations
Commissioner Thompson questioned the proposed wording regarding residential uses in commercial and employment zones in developments with more than one building on the same site. Ms. Harris clarified the language was meant to clarify what you count as residential and non residential. Mr. Molnar added this applies to developments that have multiple buildings with a standalone residence building. Thompson recommended staff make this clearer in the way it is written and received unanimous support from the Commission. 
Commissioner Thompson asked about the building separation requirements and whether this is consistent with the character of the historic districts. Ms. Harris clarified that the proposed standard has been used in performance standards options subdivisions throughout Ashland, including in the historic districts, for more than 20 years.
Commissioner Thompson questioned the solar orientation standards and expressed concern with the rigidity of this standard. Mr. Molnar commented that the City adopted the solar access ordinance in the early 1980s and stated if you don’t consider solar orientation in the beginning stages of a development you may lose this option entirely. Several commissions voiced support retaining the solar standards. Comment was made that this is a simple way to take advantage of the environment and retain all options for the future.
Commissioner Dawkins questioned the proposed change to the vision clearance standard. Ms. Harris clarified the vision clearance standard currently applies to the C-1-D zone (not C-1 or E-1), and the proposed change would make C-1-D exempt like the other two commercial zones. Dawkins voiced his concern and stated that extra space provides the driver of a vehicle a little more room to see, rather than pulling into the sidewalk. Commissioner Peddicord commented that this may need to be a case-by-case evaluation, rather than a flat exemption. Commissioner Brown noted that large vehicles parked on the street can also impact the driver’s vision clearance, and this is not something the business owner has control over. Commissioner Miller questioned if they should be evaluating this standard for other areas of town as well. Due to the various concerns expressed by the Commission, general consensus was reached to pull the vision clearance amendment in order to study the larger issue.
Commissioner Mindlin questioned the reasoning for changing the corner lot size requirements. Mr. Molnar clarified the current lot size requirements for corner lots in the R-1-5 zone is 1,000 sq.ft. larger than interior lots and the proposed amendment would keep all lots the same with a 5,000 sq.ft. minimum. He added this was one of the Siegel Report recommendations. Mindlin stated the Commission has had applications come before them where because of a smaller lot size, applicants felt entitled to a variance approval to build the large house they want. She stated she would rather stick with the 6,000 sq.ft. minimum for corner lots and added the reasoning behind the original requirement is still sound. The Commission voiced their support with Mindlin and consensus was reached to keep corner lots in the R-1-5 zone at a 6,000 sq.ft. minimum and to not put forward this amendment.
Commissioner Mindlin voiced her concern with changing the setbacks in commercial and employment zones from abutting residential zones. She commented that the separation between commercial and residential should be at least the same as they get from residence to residence and stated she is not in favor of reducing this to five feet per story. She added she is in favor of growing up and not out, but does not support a five foot per story setback for side and rear yards. The Commission voiced their support with Mindlin and consensus was reached for the required setbacks in the C-1, C-1-D and E-1 zones from residential zones to be 10 ft. per story for rear yards, and 10 ft. for side yards.
Commissioner Mindlin questioned why the flag lot interpretation is not included in this project. Ms. Harris clarified that staff did introduce potential language earlier on in the process, but the Commission tabled it in order have further community discussion. Staff indicated that this could be brought back for discussion at a later date. Recommendation was made for staff to add this as a discussion item at the Commission’s next goal setting session.
Commissioners Miller/Kaplan m/s to extend the meeting to 10 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES.
Deliberations and Decision
Planning Secretary April Lucas read aloud the agreed upon modifications to the proposed code:
  1. Clarify the language regarding residential uses in commercial and employment zones in developments with more than one building on the same site (Amendment Matrix, pg. 1)
  2. Remove the proposed vision clearance standard exemption for the C-1-D zone and study the larger issue (Amendment Matrix, pg. 10)
  3. Retain the current 6,000 sq.ft. minimum lot size for corner lots in the R-1-5 zone (Amendment Matrix, pg. 2)
  4. Require 10 ft. per story rear yard setbacks and 10 ft. side yard setbacks from residential zones in the C-1, C-1-D, and E-1 zones (Amendment Matrix, pg. 3)
Commissioners Mindlin/Dawkins m/s to recommend approval of the unified land use code with the modification just read. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Brown, Miller, Dawkins, Mindlin, Thompson, Peddicord, and Kaplan, YES. Motion passed unanimously.
Meeting adjourned at 9:40 p.m.
Submitted by, April Lucas
Administrative Supervisor


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