MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
March 3, 2015
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Seffinger, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present. Councilor Lemhouse was absent.
Mayor Stromberg announced the annual appointment process for the various Commissions and Committees and the March 20, 2015 deadline to submit applications.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the Business Meeting of February 17, 2015 were approved as presented.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS
Transportation Commissioner Joe Graf provided the annual presentation from the Transportation Commission. He noted projects in progress, ongoing review of traffic transportation related issues and upcoming projects that included additional crosswalks on North Main between Maple Street and Laurel Street.
The Mayor’s proclamation of March 8, 2015 as International Women’s Day was read aloud.
Huelz Gutcheon/2253 Hwy 99/Explained over several Public Forums he had introduced the Ashland Renewable Energy Acquisition Department and it’s three de-carbonizing divisions that included a home energy upgrade program, a structural wattage learning center and the city policy procured server generators. Server generators were roof mounted solar panels or freestanding panel arrays ground mounted in yards or unused fields. The panels produced clean energy for up to 30 years with the buyer prepaying for the thirty years at the time of purchase. He shared several financing options designed to enable solar for every income bracket that he shared. The best City policy would be hiring an expert experienced in solar financing to determine the best methods. The City could also award the residential roof with the largest array a cash grant of 30% of the total installation costs and receive a prize for environmental leadership.
Joseph Kauth/1 Corral Lane/Commented on the invasion of poison hemlock in the region. He had issues with the Road Diet and the speed bumps near the university had damaged his car. He expressed concern regarding the air quality of the area and opposed the Ashland Forest Resiliency project of slashing trees and covering them with plastic. It leeched into the soil and created lightning rods that attributed to the sharp increase of lightning strikes.
Scott Green/no address available/Expressed his feelings regarding police conduct in the community.
Kristina Lefever/2359 Blue Sky Lane/Spoke regarding hanging baskets in the downtown area and encouraged Council to consider using more pollinator friendly plants for the baskets instead of petunias.
1. Endorsement of the AAUW Annual Spring Garden Tour for the purpose of hanging a banner
2. Approval of a resolution titled, “A resolution of the City Council of the City of Ashland allocating anticipated revenues from the Transient Occupancy Tax for the biennium 2015-2017 budget and repealing Resolution 2013-05”
3. Walker Safe Routes to School Sidewalk Project Update
Councilor Voisin pulled Consent Agenda item #2 for discussion. Administrative Services and Finance Director Lee Tuneberg explained how the biennium total for small grants was determined. Language added under the “Non Tourism Portion” on the proposed Resolution was a direction from Council to staff. The budget would go through the normal budget process. Staff would present the proposed budget and identify allocations that included small grants and other areas as Council directed. Mr. Tuneberg clarified that there was no longer a percentage requirement and confirmed the total allocation was approximately $224,000. City Administrator Dave Kanner added Council could change that allocation amount. Mayor Stromberg and Councilor Marsh further clarified that small grant awards were now the same process used for Human Service grants. The City Administrator would propose an amount similar to the prior year instead of a percentage.
Councilor Rosenthal/Morris m/s to approve Consent Agenda items. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (None)
UNFINISHED BUSINESS (None)
NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS
1. Planning Commission report on master planning process
Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained the Master Plan served as a guide and created certainty and predictability for future planning initiatives. The Planning Commission and staff focused on master plans for the North Mountain Neighborhood, the Croman Mill District, and the Normal Neighborhood Plan.
Planning Commission Chair Richard Kaplan further explained how neighborhood master planning efforts resulted in the adoption of new comprehensive plan designations, zoning districts, and development standards for specific plan areas. The plan areas initially stood out because they were large tracks with limited development, lacking infrastructure with an interest from some property owners to develop. The Planning Commission thought a master plan had significant benefits because the plan took into consideration detail about environmental characteristics, neighborhood land use, and transportation patterns, more than the Comprehensive Plan. The Commission also saw gains in using special districts with tailored zones and design standards.
The Planning Commission recommended examining the circumstances, benefits, and costs of doing the plan, and ensuring people understood the rationale of using unique zoning nomenclature before undertaking future master planning efforts. Additionally, it was important to involve neighborhood and community representatives, schools and other pertinent groups when identifying boundaries of the area. Initial agreement on plan goals and periodic review by the Council was also important since Council made the final decision of whether to adopt a master plan.
Mr. Molnar addressed some of the process used regarding the North Mountain Neighborhood plan and turn around issues on Kestrel Parkway. System Development Charges (SDC) occurred at the end of the process and involved working with the Public Works Department and Capital Improvement Projects (CIP). Infrastructure went in first and it would not matter if a developer went bankrupt because SDCs were collected lot by lot as homes were built and did not create a burden on a future property owner. Plans were developer driven and development could occur in phases. The City was not responsible in any way. The master plan provided a big picture of how everything came together. If there was not a master plan, developers could proceed with a degree of development depending on site size. Developers were still responsible to install infrastructure regardless of the master plan. Planning Manager Maria Harris added it depended on what the market was doing. The start of a project may not be economically feasible but would be at a certain point.
Staff addressed boundaries, and property owners not participating in a development. Reponses to each situation varied. Mr. Molnar confirmed a semi master plan was possible, each plan had varying levels of detail and provided examples. The master plans were transportation based and amendable.
2. Approval of a purchase and sale agreement with the Housing Authority of Jackson County for city-owned property at 380 Clay Street
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained the City purchased the property in 2008 with the intention it would someday develop into affordable housing. The remaining issue was the Eastern Cottonwood tree on the property and the neighbors desire to preserve the tree. The sale agreement with the Housing Authority of Jackson County (HAJC) had a condition of the City obtaining a tree removal permit transferable with the property. The tree was considered a safety hazard resulting in the City erecting a fence around the tree’s perimeter. Three arborists provided reports. Two stated the tree would live longer but drop limbs and branches while the third report said it would not drop limbs and branches.
Councilor Voisin requested information that the sales and transfers of the property were supposed to generate $500,000 for the downtown parking and transportation fund. Staff would research the request and bring information back to Council.
Albert Pepe/321 Clay Street/Explained there were over 300 homes off and on lower Clay Street. He provided background on three cottonwood trees originally on the property at 380 Clay Street. Damage caused the removal of one tree and another was removed to install a road for the Snowberry affordable housing units. An arborist had pruned and supported the remaining tree. To his knowledge, it was never a hazard to anyone and suddenly the City said it was a hazard. The neighborhood community thought the area was already crowded with homes. He supported what HAJC had done with Snowberry but thought it was in the best interest of the City and community to turn the property over to the Parks and Recreation Department. He thought the land could be a community garden or park.
Ron Roth/6950 Old Hwy 99 South/Supported the work of Housing Authority as well as selling the property. He was not supportive of removing the tree. The cottonwood was a former Tree of the Year, and the largest cottonwood he had ever seen. Jason Elzy of HAJC explained they made two offers to the City. One contingent on the tree removal permit and the other was not. It was still possible to build 12-15 units on the property and retain the tree. He urged Council to search for a creative solution that could provide affordable housing and keep the tree alive. Removing the tree would create issues in the community.
David Winn/2233 Villard/Shared his experience watching the tree during the past two windstorms and noted it handled the storms well. He was present when the core sample was taken and talked to the two people who conducted the core sample and both thought it was an extremely healthy three that could live another 200 years. He wanted Council to postpone any action that would remove the tree.
Delores Nims/321 Clay Street/Supported low income housing. The cottonwood tree was 250 years old and was at odds with the Housing Authority. She requested the Council and HAJC explore alternatives to 380 Clay Street. She understood the City could sell two other parcels that might preserve the tree. The neighborhood wanted to preserve their beloved cottonwood. She did not understand the need for the fence and noted it was offensive and ugly. She referenced a petition that 65 neighbors signed to retain the tree.
Mr. Kanner was unaware of any other properties for sale or discussions with HAJC on alternate locations.
Councilor Voisin thought the Parks and Recreation Department owned the property mentioned during Public Testimony. There was also three acres on the other side of Snowberry for sale. Council should look at alternatives.
Parks Director Michael Black clarified staff did have a conversation with property owners regarding the tree. They asked if the Parks Commission was willing to trade parks land scheduled for a dog park and other improvements adjacent to the YMCA Park for the property with the tree. The Parks Commission said no. The tree remaining there did not have the same value for parks land that the other property did. The tree did have issues regardless of its beauty, and age. He referred to earlier comment that the Parks and Recreation Department had a desire to maintain the property. If Council wanted to preserve the tree, the Parks and Recreation Department was willing to maintain the property. If they did maintain the tree they suggested having a barrier or signage to limit access under the tree due to the age of the tree, not the potential for falling limbs.
Councilor Seffinger noted cottonwood trees could create allergic reactions in children. Councilor Voisin clarified the neighbors intended the full .97 acre for parks land, not just the area around the tree itself.
Councilor Voisin motion to postpone the item until Council had the opportunity to look at alternatives that can be explored. Motion denied due to lack of second.
Councilor Marsh/Morris m/s to approve a purchasing sale agreement with the Housing Authority of Jackson County for City owned property at 380 Clay Street. DISCUSSION: Councilor Marsh explained the tree would not fare well under public ownership. Arborists indicated the tree dropped branches. The tree needed private ownership to flourish. It was time to move forward. That did not mean anything would happen immediately. The City had to obtain a tree removal permit that required going through the Tree Commission, the Planning Commission and most likely the City Council. There was time for the community to come up with an alternative or land swap if they were interested. Councilor Morris questioned how private ownership would affect accessibility and liability.
Mr. Kanner clarified the City would apply for the tree removal permit, not HAJC. Councilor Voisin questioned if Council needed a second motion to address the tree removal. City Attorney Dave Lohman did not think it was necessary to have two motions. City Recorder Barbara Christensen asked Councilor Marsh to clarify the motion because it did not include the tree removal process.
Councilor Marsh withdrew the motion.
Councilor Marsh/Morris m/s to approval of a sale agreement with the Housing Authority of Jackson County for property at 380 Clay Street and direct staff to initiate and submit a tree removal permit application. DISCUSSION: Councilor Rosenthal explained Council was in the unfortunate position of having to choose between an old tree and an increase in affordable housing. He personally did not want to see the tree removed but understood the need to do what was best for the community. Affordable housing was a Council goal and a long-term community goal. He would support the motion. Councilor Seffinger knew that some cottonwood trees were removed in neighborhoods because of children’s allergies and asthma. Affordable housing was an important goal for the community and the area was appropriate for children because of the location.
Councilor Voisin explained calling the tree old and dangerous was a stereotype. There were City trees in the community with the same issues. This cottonwood was Tree of the Year 2014. Ashland was a Tree City USA and protected trees. She observed over the past year the City was not holding to the promise of protecting the trees and cut some down they should not have. She strongly supported affordable housing and expressed concern the City had not looked at alternatives. Affordable housing was important and so was this tree. She would not support the motion and urged Council to vote against it as well and work to find a solution with the community.
Mayor Stromberg noted there were instances where a tree needed to be removed to achieve a public purpose. There was a need to resolve the issues of trees on public property where there is a reason to remove them. Acquiring the tree permit would entail a long process with hearings, discussions, public input, and recommendations to the Council. There was time for the people who supported retaining the tree to find solutions. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Rosenthal, Morris, Marsh, and Seffinger, YES; Councilor Voisin, NO. Motion approved 4-1.
3. Allocation of anticipated TOT revenue for city capital projects to provide for permanent welcome signs
Councilor Rosenthal/Seffinger m/s to approve of allocating $24,000 in anticipated 2016-17 TOT revenue for city capital projects for permanent welcome signs. DISCUSSION: Councilor Rosenthal explained the Welcome to Ashland signs were not permanent and needed replacing. He looked forward to seeing what the Public Arts Commission would produce. Councilor Seffinger added she participated on the Downtown Beautification Improvement ad hoc Committee, the welcome signs were an important goal for the Committee and would enhance the city. Councilor Marsh noted some of the items on the list could fold into plans coming from the Downtown Transportation Committee to redo sidewalks. Council would need to determine the allocation process for reviewing recommendations and spending the balance of the money. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Seffinger, Morris, Voisin, Marsh, and Rosenthal, YES. Motion passed.
ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS AND CONTRACTS
1. Second reading by title only of an ordinance titled, “An ordinance establishing guidelines for film and media productions and repealing AMC 6.36”
Councilor Rosenthal/Morris m/s to approve Ordinance #3106. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Marsh, Rosenthal, Voisin, Seffinger, and Morris, YES. Motion approved.
2. Approval of a resolution titled, “A resolution adopting fees for film and media production and repealing resolution 1984-45”
Councilor Morris/Marsh m/s to approve Resolution #2015-05. DISCUSSION: Councilor Marsh thought the fees were fair and sent a positive message to filmmakers. The City was not making money from the process. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Rosenthal, Marsh, Seffinger, Morris and Voisin, YES. Motion approved.
3. Second reading by title only of an ordinance titled, “An ordinance amending Ashland Municipal Code Chapter 2.04.030(B)(1), Agendas”
Councilor Voisin/Rosenthal m/s to approve Ordinance #3107. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Morris, Seffinger, Rosenthal, Marsh, and Voisin, YES. Motion passed.
OTHER BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS/REPORTS FROM COUNCIL LIAISONS
1. Discussion of City funding for SOU aquatics facility
Councilor Rosenthal explained Representative Peter Buckley acquired funds to help replace the aquatics facility at Southern Oregon University (SOU). The funds covered approximately $3,000,000 with $2,200,000 currently unfunded. SOU needed a response on whether the community and City would collaborate on the remaining funding by mid March.
The Mayor, City Administrator, Parks Commission Chair, and the Parks Director had several discussions with the Executive Director of the YMCA in lieu of a subcommittee the Parks Commission authorized.
Parks Director Michael Black explained the YMCA expressed interest in discussing options but were not in the position to make commitments at this time. Mr. Black and City Administrator Dave Kanner met with the superintendent of the Ashland School District and two members of the Board of Education regarding interest in participating in a feasibility study or master plan. It was a three to five year process if they had the funds. They discussed adding a bubble over Daniel Meyer Pool. Although the Daniel Meyer Pool could be not be used for competitive needs, teams could use it for practice. The cost to install a bubble over the pool was approximately $90,000. The Daniel Meyer Pool house would require improvements to add air and heat to the building for a total cost estimate of $120,000 including the bubble for the pool. This would not include maintenance. The Ashland School District thought it was feasible for up to five years. Mr. Black was waiting to hear from the swim teams. It would not solve the problem but provide time to research options and funding.
Council majority did not think there was enough time to process the information and make a decision involving $2,200,000. There were operating costs to consider as well. Alternately, there was not resounding support from the Parks Commission nor was there much enthusiasm from the users. Other Council comment wanted to determine regional interest in the pool, and have staff identify revenue streams to generate the $2,200,000. Another comment wanted information regarding private funding throughout the region.
Mayor Stromberg supported a competitive cool water pool. He thought the Parks Director, City Administrator, Parks Commission Chair, and himself should meet with YMCA board members and gauge their interest in taking this on.
Councilor Voisin/Marsh m/s to ask the City Administrator to write a letter of thanks to Representative Buckley for his efforts. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion approved.
Councilor Marsh added an item to the next Study Session to discuss a potential watershed utility fee to fund the Ashland Fire Resiliency (AFR) expenses. The fee would replace the .09 cents on property tax.
Councilor Rosenthal wished the Southern Oregon University wrestling, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball teams the best of luck at their respective national tournaments.
Councilor Voisin noted April 15, 2015 was Pay Equity Day for Women and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) would have several events. She went on to note the duties and efforts of the Assistant to the City Recorder Dana Smith.
City Administrator Dave Kanner announced Steve Mason from the Wise Project would attend the Study Session on March 16, 2015.
ADJOURNMENT OF BUSINESS MEETING
Meeting adjourned at 9:50 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John Stromberg, Mayor