Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14, 2015
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
Melanie Mindlin
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Debbie Miller
Tracy Peddicord
  Greg Lemhouse, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar stated the City Council passed second reading of the accessory travelers accommodation ordinance and reminded the group that the Annual Retreat is Saturday, May 9. He also introduced the city’s new assistant planner Zechariah Heck.
Commissioner Kaplan announced the Normal working group meets tomorrow and the next meeting of the Downtown Parking and Circulation group is Wednesday, June 3.
  1. Approval of Minutes
1.     February 24, 2015 Study Session.
2.     March 10, 2015 Regular Meeting.
3.     March 31, 2015 Study Session.
Commissioners Thompson/Dawkins m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: All AYES. Motion passed unanimously.
No one came forward to speak.
  1. PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2014-02106  
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  2352 Morada Ln.
APPLICANT/OWNER:  Ron & Lisa Albano
DESCRIPTION: The Planning Commission will review staff’s approval of a request for Site Review and Conditional Use Permit approvals to construct a new approximately 1,000 square foot accessory residential unit behind the existing home at 2352 Morada Lane. The item is being considered by the Planning Commission to correct an error in the mailing of the notice of decision. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Single Family Residential; ZONING: R-1-7.5; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 14CD; TAX LOT: 4700.
Commissioner Kaplan read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Brown, Kaplan and Dawkins declared site visits, and Commissioner Dawkins stated he attended the Tree Commission meeting where this application was discussed. No ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Associate Planner Derek Severson explained the application is a request for a conditional use permit to construct an accessory residential unit (ARU) at 2352 Morada. He stated the accessory unit would be located in the backyard behind the main residence and the footprint of the structure is 1,000 sq.ft. with a loft space approximately 250 sq.ft. in size. Mr. Severson noted the proposed footprint size is the maximum gross habitable floor area for an ARU allowed by ordinance. He reviewed the proposed design, floor plan, and elevations and clarified the Tree Commission has reviewed this application and their recommendations have been incorporated into the conditions.
Mr. Severson stated this application is before the commission due to a noticing error that occurred during staff’s review and approval. He explained the neighboring property owner’s address of record was in Chicago, IL at the time this action was originally noticed and they missed the deadline for the initial comment period and asked that the notice of decision be mailed to their address on Morada St. instead. This was noted in the file but was missed during the preparation of the mailing list for the notice of decision and subsequently the neighbors missed the appeal deadline as well. He stated the code provides a remedy for this and the Planning Commission will now hear the request and their decision will supersede the planning staff’s approval. He added the neighbors concerns are primarily focused on the height and placement of the ARU at the rear corner of the property.
Mr. Severson explained the height of the proposed structure is 12.5 ft. at the west elevation and slopes up to 19 ft. at the south elevation. In further review of the application, staff believes the loft area was not adequately addressed in the original review and Mr. Severson listed the following potential issues for the commission to discuss: 1) the headroom of the loft area is unclear; if it is built with more than 7 ft. of headroom it would constitute habitable floor area and would push the proposed structure beyond the maximum allowed 1,000 sq.ft., and 2) lofts are not explicitly addressed in the code and would be need to be considered in light of the definition of a story.
Commission Questions
Commissioner Dawkins expressed concern with the loft area and questioned why this would not count towards the usable area. Mr. Severson stated the code indicates that an ARU can be up to 1,000 sq.ft. in size and that anything less than 7 ft. in headroom is not considered habitable floor area. He added the commission does have some discretion because the code is not clear on how to treat loft spaces, however they will need to be clear on their decision so that a finding can be made.
Applicant’s Presentation
Matthew Clason/220 Dead Indian Memorial Rd/Displayed several photos of the proposed structure and its placement on the lot. Mr. Clason stated the highest point of the roof is 18.4 ft. and the low point is 11.4 ft., with 10 ft. and 7 ft. setbacks to the rear and side property lines. He explained they have lowered the overall height of the structure by burying the slab to minimize the impact on the neighbor’s views and noted they have also removed the windows on the south facing wall to increase privacy. Mr. Clason stressed that at no time during the pre-application meeting or subsequent conservations with staff were they informed of the story definition and stated this proposal exhibits careful site planning and supports the City’s infill policy. He displayed a drawing of the ceiling heights of the loft area, which slopes from 3 ft. to 7 ft., and explained the structure has been placed in order to maintain the existing lawn, deck and established trees. He added if they were to rotate the structure or use a different roof shape, it would greatly impact the neighbor’s view compared to the current design.
Public Testimony
Charles & Ruth Terbush/1332 Apple/Stated they do not object to the accessory residential unit but are concerned with the height. Ms. Terbush stated the 250 sq.ft. loft seems to be a way to get around the size limitation and forces the added height to the structure. She added the flat roof line will loom over her backyard and impact their ability to enjoy their yard space, and questioned whether the structure is out of character for the neighborhood. Ms. Terbush added this application sets a concerning precedence for the neighborhood and clarified their concerns for this proposal occurred once they found out it was not going to be a single story as they were originally told.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Matthew Clason/Clarified there is no attic or crawl space in the proposed structure and it was designed to be thermal efficient with all spaces being insulated and conditioned. He noted attics are highly inefficient and this upper floor is intended to be used as storage space in the lower 3 ft. height area.
Questions of the Applicant
Commissioner Brown questioned how the structure fits with the character of the neighborhood with the amount of blank wall and roof. Mr. Clason stated the windows that were originally proposed have been removed to address the neighbors concerns with privacy. Commissioner Thompson asked if the application is in compliance with the setback requirements of 1.5 stories. Mr. Clason stated because of the 3 ft. wall height it is not considered an additional story and there is no additional setback. Commissioner Mindlin asked if the structure could be moved farther from the property line and Mr. Clason responded that increasing the rear setback would infringe on the garden space and noted the space between the two structures is only 13 ft.
Commissioner Kaplan closed the record and the public hearing at 8:00 p.m.
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioner Dawkins expressed concern with the additional loft space and feels that it goes against the 1.000 sq.ft. limitation. He also suggested a condition to require vegetation on the blank south facing wall to lessen the impact. Commissioner Kaplan commented on the character of the neighborhood and stated there are varying sizes and design styles and it is an extremely varied neighborhood.
Staff was asked to comment on the revised drawing presented by the applicant during their presentation. Mr. Severson stated it appears the loft area meets the definition for a half-story; however under the code that was in place at the time of the application there is ambiguity in how half-stories are treated. He added the newly adopted code removed this ambiguity and clearly states that half-stories must be setback back an additional 5 ft.
The commission questioned how to apply the definition of story, which reads “If the wall face of the upper most floor at the rear or side yard setback line is more than three feet from the floor level below, the upper floor shall be considered a story for the purposes of setbacks.” Comment was made that one side of the upper floor is 3 ft., but the rear is 7 ft. and questioned if both walls have to be over 3 ft. to constitute a story, or if just one wall over 3 ft. constitutes a story. Mr. Severson remarked that the commission will need to make a decision in how the upper floor is treated and whether they recommend a 10 ft., 15 ft., or 20 ft. setback. Comment was made that applying a 20 ft. setback would likely prohibit the ARU from being built.
Commissioners Mindlin/Thompson m/s to approve Planning Action #2014-02106 with a condition that the building be considered a story and a half and be moved 15 ft. from the rear property line. DISCUSSION: Mindlin commented that it is clearly a story and a half and because the whole project pushes the maximum on the size of the ARU the applicant can either restrict its size or increase the setback. Regarding mass and scale, she stated this is a contemporary neighborhood and does not think the architecture is out of place and stated she is willing to accept that the blank wall was done to benefit the neighbors. Brown stated the law is clear that if the upper floor is more than 3 ft. at either the side yard or rear yard than it is considered a story and a half. He asked staff how they would have applied the old code if someone came into their office with an upper floor greater than 3 ft. in height. Mr. Severson and Mr. Molnar stated staff would have said it constitutes a story but appears to meet the definition of a half story and would have applied a 15 ft. setback to the portion that is a half story. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Brown, Dawkins, Mindlin, Thompson, and Kaplan, YES. Motion passed unanimously.   
Commissioner Dawkins recommended the definition of livable space be reevaluated and stated the 7 ft. rule may be excessive.
Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor


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