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Agendas and Minutes

Tree Commission (View All)

Tree Commission Regular Meeting

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Minutes June 4, 2015
CALL TO ORDER Ė Chair Gregg Trunnell called the meeting of the Ashland Tree Commission to order at 6:00 p.m. on June 4, 2015 at Council Chambers located at 1175 East Main Street, Ashland Oregon.
Commissioners Council Liaison
Ken Schmidt Carol Voisin
Gregg Trunnell Staff
Russ Neff Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Casey Roland Carolyn Schwendener, Admin
Christopher John Pete Baughman, Parks Liaison
Maureen Battistella Zechariah Heck, Assistant Planner
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Neff/Roland m/s to approve the minutes of the May 7, 2015 Tree Commission meeting.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, minutes were approved as presented.
No one present spoke.
The Commissioners welcomed new member Maureen Battistella.  Ms. Battistella lives at 395 Hemlock in Ashland and moved to the Community in 2000.
Council Voisin reported that at Tuesdayís meeting the Council officially appointed Tighe OíMeara as the new Police Chief.  On June 24, 2015 there will be a Community Policing Forum.  This will be a good opportunity for the Community to meet Chief OíMeara and he will be explaining what Community Policing is.  Voisin said that Council received the drought report and things are not looking good.  The City is putting together a plan to determine what to do with the water that is available in the reservoir, TAP (Talent, Ashland & Phoenix) and TID (Talent Irrigation District).  There is now a Community Climate and Energy Action Plan Ad Hoc Committee.  This Committee will begin sometime in either September or October.
PLANNING ACTION:        PA-2015-00680                                  
SUBJECT PROPERTY:    237 N. First St.
OWNER:                               Ashland Food Cooperative
APPLICANT:                       KenCairn Landscape Architecture (agent for owner)
DESCRIPTION:                  A request for Site Review approval to reconfigure the landscape and patio areas along A Street to provide more water-efficient landscaping, improve the employee break area, and provide secure employee bicycle parking for the Ashland Community Food Store located at 237 N First Street.  The application includes requests for a Tree Removal Permit to remove two trees.   (The property is located within the Ashland Railroad Addition Historic District and the Detail Site Review Zone, and because of the building size is also subject to additional standards for large scale projects.)    COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSORíS MAP: 39 1E 09BA; TAX LOT: 13401
All Commissioners confirmed they did a site visit.
Associate City Planner Derek Severson gave a staff report.  Mr. Severson explained that the applicants are trying to improve the employee break area and offer secure employee bicycle parking as well as providing more water efficient landscaping.  The landscaping plan does include the request for the removal of two trees located at the rear of the property.
Applicant Kerry KenCairn, 545 A Street, Suite 3 gave an overview of the application. Ms KenCairn explained that the two Raywood Ash trees being removed were planted back in the mid 1980ís when the Co-Op acquired the property.  The applicant is suggesting replacing them with one large shade tree and one ornamental tree.  The project in general is a complete remade of the ornamental landscaping in the back of the Co-Op. 
After a brief discussion which included the use of bubblers for irrigation, the Commissioners made the following motion.
Roland/Neff m/s to approve the plan.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, motion passed.
PLANNING ACTION:        PA-2015-00794                                  
SUBJECT PROPERTY:    199 East Hersey Street
OWNER/APPLICANT:      Vision Homes Inc.
DESCRIPTION:                  A request for a minor Land Partition to create three tax lots for the property located at 199 Hersey Street. The application includes a request to remove six trees on the property that range in size from ten inches to thirty inches in diameter at breast height. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Single Family Residential; ZONING: R-1-5; ASSESSORíS MAP: 39 1E 04CD TAX LOT: 306;
All Commissioners confirmed they did a site visit.
Severson explained this application is for a land partition to create three lots.  One house is being demolished and then the lots will be developed.  At this time there is not a mitigation plan provided but it would be appropriate to mitigate one for one as recommended by code.  The plan does state they intend to plant new tree on the property with irrigation following the completion of construction.
The Commissioners expressed concern over the Incense Cedar (tree number 5) It appears the tree is being removed due to the proposed utility lines going through the root zone.  The Commissioners would like to see the tree preserved, and a protection zone created around the tree as it appears the applicants have begun site work.  They felt the tree definitely is an asset to the property and worth saving and suggested that the applicants consider directional boring for the utility installation.
Trunnell/Neff m/s to allow the removal of five of the six trees with the preservation and protection of the 30 inch DBH Cedar Tree (Tree #5).  In addition, the Commission asked that a mitigation plan for the approved removals be provided prior to the signature of the final survey plat.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, motion passed.
PLANNING ACTION:        PA-2015-00878                                  
SUBJECT PROPERTY:    35 S. Pioneer St.
OWNER:                               City of Ashland
APPLICANT:                       Oregon Shakespeare Festival
DESCRIPTION:                  A request for Site Review approval to allow exterior modifications to the Oregon Shakespeare Festivalís Bowmer Theater for the property located at 35 S. Pioneer St.  These modifications are associated with adding an elevator to the Bowmer Theater building as part of broader accessibility improvements and will involve an approximately 202 square foot addition to the theater building.  The application also includes a request for a Tree Removal Permit to remove a 16-inch diameter maple tree.  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Commercial Downtown; ZONING: C-1-D; ASSESSORíS MAP: 39 1E 09; TAX LOT: 100
All Commissioners confirmed they did a site visit.
Severson pointed out that over the past few months the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has been going through a process to redesign the bricks in order to deal with accessibility issues.  At the same time OSF recognized that the Bowmer Theater also has some accessibility challenges.  The plans will involve some minor changes to the building and one tree will need to be removed in order to do the remodel.
Alan Harper, 130 A Street represented the applicants.  Mr. Harper explained if you are a patron and have accessibility issues in order to get from the lobby to the second story bathrooms you have to go outside of the building and down a slope.  The impact area where they are installing the elevator will be directly through the existing Maple Tree.  The applicant will bring another tree plan before the Commission once the brick projects gets further along. Mr. Harper said the applicants would like to mitigate somewhere else on the tax lot which does include all of Lithia Park. 
John/Schmidt m/s to approve the plan as submitted.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, motion passed.
PLANNING ACTION:        2015-00928         
SUBJECT PROPERTY:    438 N. Main        
OWNER/APPLICANT:       Francesca Amery
DESCRIPTION:                   A request for a Hazard Tree Removal Permit to remove one approximately 15-inch diameter at breast height Spruce tree for the property located at 438 North Main Street. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSORíS MAP #: 39 1E 05DA; TAX LOT: 2800. 
Trunnell did not do a site visit but all the other Commissioners did.
The Commissioners expressed their concern that the tree is in a strange condition and is leaning quite a bit with the possibility of falling onto the commercial property next door (Big Alís restaurant).
Trunnell/Sneff m/s to approve the removal of the tree.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, motion passed.
PLANNING ACTION:        2015-00418                                                                         
SUBJECT PROPERTY:    390 Stadium Street & 351 Walker Avenue
(On the Southern Oregon University campus)
APPLICANT:                       Southern Oregon University 
AGENTS:                             CSA Planning, Ltd.             
DESCRIPTION:                   A request for Site Design Review for the renovation of McNeal Pavilion on the Southern Oregon University Campus at 390 Stadium Street and 351 Walker Avenue.  The application also includes requests for Conditional Use Permit approval to allow the construction of a new Student Recreation Center which was not identified in the 2010 SOU Campus Master Plan and which will exceed the 40-foot height allowed in the SO zoning district, and for Tree Removal Permits to remove nine (9) trees that are 18-inches in diameter-at-breast-height (d.b.h.) or greater.  (106,722 square feet of the existing 113,000 square foot building area will be demolished.  With the proposed renovation and new construction the combined building area will consist of 104,891 gross square feet on three levels, a 7.17 percent reduction in the total building square footage.)  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Southern Oregon University; ZONING: SO; ASSESSORíS MAP: 39 1E 10 CD; TAX LOT: 100.
Severson summarized this project. The University is taking the existing 113,000 square foot McNeal Hall and demolishing it with the exception of the racquetball building.  The rebuilding of McNeal Hall and the Student Recreation Center will be somewhere between ten and fifteen percent smaller.  The creation of a new enhanced plaza area is proposed in front of McNeal and the new Student Recreation Center.  Because of the utility installation and construction associated with the project the applicants are requesting to remove the bulk of the trees around the perimeter of the site.  Severson acknowledged that while doing a site visit he noticed the trees werenít tagged making it difficult to determine which trees were being removed.  The applicants presented Severson with photos of the trees numbering them individually.  Severson distributed those pictures to the Commissioners to help with their review. 
Jay Harland, CSA Planning 4497 Brownridge, Medford and Alan Pardee from Covey Pardee Landscape architects were present to answer questions regarding this project. 
During the Tree Commission hearing, the applicants asked that Tree #15, a Raywood Ash, identified for preservation and an additional tree, a Deodar Cedar, not shown on the plan but located near the northeast corner retention swale, also be removed. 
Public Comments:
Helene DeMartinez, 321 Clay St., Space 6A encouraged the Commissioners to go to the Medford City Park located on East Main Street to look at a group of Linden trees in full bloom.  The trees are gorgeous and sturdy.  (Linden trees were suggested during the discussion as a choice for mitigation).
Rick Vezie who lives in the neighborhood at 446 Walker Avenue spoke.  Mr. Vezie walks by these trees regularly and does not want to see them removed.  He proposed a question to the Commissioners.  ďItís your job to be an advisory Commission to the Planning Commission.  What is it that you will advise that Commission to do?Ē
Cynthia Moscaritolo, 175 Wightman St. explained that she too lives by this site and is disappointed that the pool is not being replaced.  She acknowledged that the Sycamore Trees on the site are gorgeous and help shade the parking lot area.  She is concerned there has not been enough study done to see if the utilities can be moved allowing the trees to remain.
During discussion, the Commission made the following recommendations:
1)    Consult an arborist on-site to determine whether trees can be retained with alternative measures such as directional boring for utility installation and provide a revised plan.  The Tree Commission recommends that the applicants at least temporarily retain trees #4-#7 and #19 so that the established tree canopy can provide shade to allow proposed new trees to establish themselves, and that those trees not shaded by existing canopy have their trunks protected with sun guards or other measures to protect them while they establish themselves.  
2)    That at least 50 percent of the mitigation trees proposed shall be of three-inch caliper or greater and planted near the south/west edge of the project site, as proposed by the applicants. 
3)    That the applicants consider incorporating additional locally-appropriate species in their planting plan including California Black Oak, Swamp White Oak and Green Mountain Linden.
        Trunnell/Neff m/s to approve the project with the recommendations above, including that the University team walk the project area of the campus and review the trees under discussion with an arborist (Roland volunteered to do this for free) to discuss each particular tree and the options that may available to preserve  that tree.  In any event any trees that are planted were recommended to have shielding or protection  of some nature to prevent sunburn, and half of the proposed mitigation trees are to be at least three-inch caliper as proposed by the applicants and placed on the south and west side.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, motion passed. 
PLANNING ACTION:        PA-2015-00934                                  
SUBJECT PROPERTY:    380 Clay Street
OWNER/APPLICANT:      City of Ashland                                    
DESCRIPTION:                  A request for a Tree Removal Permit to remove a 72-inch diameter at breast height (d.b.h.) Fremont Cottonwood tree from the property located at 380 Clay Street.   (This tree was previously identified to be preserved and protected as part of Planning Action #2009-00043.) 
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Low Density Multi-Family Residential; ZONING: R-2; ASSESSORíS MAP: 39 1E 11C; TAX LOT: 2500
All Commissioners confirmed they did a site visit.  Trunnell  recused himself as a neighbor of 380 Clay Street and has a vested personal interest in the removal of this tree.  Vice Chair Schmidt chaired the remainder of the meeting.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar took a minute to explain procedural issues surrounding this Planning Action.  Mr. Molnar recognized that this planning action has had quite a bit of publicity including newspaper articles.  Todayís focus is to keep a fair and objective process.  Mr. Molnar stressed that unless a Commissioner has a financial interest like Trunnell declared, they are not required to step down but must state any bias and any statements made in the past regarding the tree.  Molnar encouraged the Commissioners to weigh the criteria and look at this Planning Action objectively in order to provide advice to the Planning Commission. 
The Commissioners acknowledged any exparte contact and or bias.  Schmidt  noted that he had not spoken regarding this tree outside of our Commission meetings.  Neff noted that this was the first day he had seen the tree and he had only spoke of it at Tree Commission meetings.  Roland explained that he had climbed the tree approximately eight or nine years ago and put supports under it last year.  He acknowledged that he goes out of his way in order to drive by the tree because of his passion for it but said he would put his professional Tree Commission hat on.  He would fight to try and save this tree.  Roland asked Mr. Molnar if he should recuse himself.  Mr. Molnar stated because he did not have a financial interest though he may have a bias if he felt he could formulate advice to the Commission as a whole based on the criteria, it would not be necessary to recuse himself. Roland asked if anybody felt he shouldnít be sitting there let him know now. No one responded.  John noted that he had provided minor assistance in assessing the tree a couple of years ago and does have a passion for large trees but confirmed he had the ability to view this action based on the ordinances.   Battistella noted that she had no bias or financial interest.
Severson gave a brief staff report.  The request is to remove a 72-inch Freemont Cottonwood from the City owned property located at 380 Clay Street.  This property came into the City a few years ago through a partnership between the Housing Authority and the City of Ashland.  Sixty affordable units were developed on a portion of the property.  The remaining portion of the property was retained with the intent to develop more affordable housing.  In order for the development to move forward the removal of the tree has been proposed. The applicants are requesting removal of the tree under the non hazard provisions of the ordinance because the tree wonít allow development of the property to its full density.
Dave Kanner, City Administrator for the City of Ashland and Kerry KenCairn Landscape Architect gave a brief overview of the history of the property.  This property was acquired in 2008 as a joint venture between the City of Ashland, the Housing Authority and the City Parks and Recreation Commission.  It was always acquired for the purpose of an affordable housing development.  It was understood with the Housing Authority that at the time of purchase of this portion of the land they would do so at the Cityís cost which was $325,000.  Recognizing the controversy that was brewing over this tree the Housing Authority insisted on the contingency in the sale agreement that they would not close the sale until such time as the City had received a tree removal permit.
Mr. Kanner called attention to the fact he had received emails inquiring why the City couldnít hang on to the property and turn it into a park.  Mr. Kanner explained the Parks Commission has examined this property and is not interested in it.  If paid they have agreed to maintain the tree but will restrict access underneath it.  Mr. Kanner submitted an email from Parks Director Michael Black stating it is not suitable for a park and that the Parks Department is not interested in the property.  The City Council has made affordable housing one of its strategic goals because Ashland suffers from a shortage of affordable housing.  The need for affordable housing has been well documented.
KenCairn acknowledged this is a beautiful, statuesque, gorgeous tree.  The nature of poplar trees is that they donít normally live past around 140 years at their very longest.  Freemontís are not native to Oregon but California and the Southwest.  In general poplars are not unique trees; they need lots of room around them where they arenít interacting with people or developments.  This tree was likely planted when the homestead was developed.  Poplars are often planted as wind breaks, future fuels, fence posts etc.  They werenít planted to be specimen trees as they donít co-exist well with human activity.  She concluded that the question is ďDo we want affordable housing or do we want to save the tree?Ē 
Public Testimony
Helene DeMartinez, 321 Clay St., Space 6A.  This tree is across the street from her back yard  and is one of the reasons she moved here from Washington state and chose that particular spot.  DeMartinez is the Homeowner Association President of the Wingspread Trailer Park and is speaking for a lot of the home owners who could not be here tonight.  Ms. DeMartinez said the neighborhood has already lost two trees and they are trying to save this last one.  This tree is not a hazard and itís important to have a section of community that is beautiful, a spot kids can look at and see something unique and beautiful.  Ms. DeMartinez does not want to see more homes in that area but suggested utilizing other vacant areas in the community for affordable housing maybe even downtown.  Letís keep the beautiful pasture and tree and preserve it. The area is already impacted by traffic from existing developments.
Christine Meneffee, 321 Clay St, Space #8 -  Ms.  Meneffee stated this is a valuable tree, itís beautiful, itís part of the history of the neighborhood, its part of the local ecosystem and its drought tolerant.  This controversy is not about affordable housing. She suggested that her instincts tell her itís a political problem with Parks and the Housing Commission.  Low income people live in that neighborhood now and they value the tree.  Why would they want to take it down? Ms Meneffee said Ashland is a special city and we need to find a solution to this where we can keep the tree and have affordable housing. 
Ron Roth, 6950 Old Hwy 99 South Ė Mr. Roth said that based on zoning and density there is already more than three times the affordable housing that needs to be there as far as the housing program outlines.  We can save that tree and have affordable housing, stated Mr. Roth.  Removing the tree would have a significant impact in a lot of areas.  One reasonable alternative that is being discussed would be a simple property swap between the Parks Department and the City.  Are there other people who might want the property?  Roth urged the Tree Commission to protect the tree and maybe the City and Parks Dept can go back and work together to have more housing and save the tree.
Cynthia Moscaritolo, 175 Wightman stated hat some citizens have put a great deal of work looking into options of where the housing units could be placed on the property.  It is Ms. Moscaritoloís understanding that the applicant can easily meet the required density for housing on that lot. She would like to see some kind of swap with the Parks Department so the tree can be preserved. The tree provides shade and wildlife habitat.   She suggested that over 1,000 citizens have petitioned to keep the tree.  Ms. Moscaritolo said there is a shallow well on the property which is part of the wetlands.  If the tree is removed and units built there itís going to be a wet area, and it would be smarter to build in another area on the parcel.  Ms. Moscaritolo recommended to deny the tree removal and listen to alternatives over the next few months.
Gregg Trunnell, 400 Clay Street was speaking as a public citizen and petitioner to save the tree.  Trunnell acknowledged that affordable housing is a very strong need in our Community.  He made known that the Housing Authority does not currently have designs or plans for this area.  He remarked that the Housing Authority has made it clear to him that this area does not make sense to them because they need fifty units in order to make anything economically viable.    Mr. Trunnell read and presented to the Commissioners a written document included as Exhibit A at the end of the minutes.
Michael McGlone, 2025 Tolman Creek Rd Ė Mr. McGlone shared he was in agreement with prior speakers that went before him. He works at 631 Clay Street and like Commissioner Roland, goes out of his way to go by this tree.  This tree is a source of inspiration to him; there is nothing as majestic as the Oak. Mr. McGlone stated that the discussion of low income housing verses a tree is not a fair conversation.  What better than to have that tree as a center piece for low income housing. 
Dominiquire Shelton, 55 Brooks Lane expressed her gratitude to the Commissioners for spending time and energy caring about the trees and heritage in the Community.  This tree is emotional for me itís been a beautiful inspiration and gift in my life, stated Ms. Shelton.  Itís part of the heritage in this Community.  She walks down Clay Street regularly and it still pains her to see the carcass of the sibling trees to that tree lying in the meadow.  Ms. Shelton hopes the Commission will support tree protection and take the necessary action to preserve it.
Tom Myers 2040 Ashland Mine Ė Mr. Myers served on the Tree Commission until he got discouraged because he could not save all the trees he wanted to save.  This tree is at the top of list of those trees I want to save, remarked Mr. Myers.  He first climbed the tree about twenty years ago and when doing so he realized he was in the midst of a being that had every bit of consciousness that he had.  Affordable housing is important and itís disingenuous to put this as a fight between affordable housing and tree preservation. 
Tree Commissioners discussed this action.  Commissioner Roland expressed his frustration with Kanner and the City with the desire to remove this tree.  During the course of that meeting, members of the public provided testimony and an immediate neighbor provided a conceptual drawing that he suggested could accommodate the development of the property with 15 units similar to those in place at Snowberry Brook, constructed at or near the drip line of the tree, and 22 off-street parking spaces.  One of the Commissioners also noted that there is a well on site and that the subsurface water level appeared to be well below the ground; he believes that the treeís roots may have gone deep toward this water rather than spreading as broadly as they otherwise might, which would result in a smaller than normal tree protection zone.  He suggested that this was supported by the treeís having done well in tolerating the construction of Villard Street within the applicantís identified protection zone. 
John made a motion that alternatives be explored and recommends that the tree removal permit not go through at this time. 
Roland seconded Johns motion and Roland made an amendment;  do not issue a permit for a tree removal until a formal plan is in place and all measures have been exhausted to preserve the tree.  During discussion, Tree Commissioners recommended denial of the request, noting that they did not believe the applicant had adequately demonstrated either that the tree posed a hazard or that the lot could not be developed to its permitted densities with retention of the tree.  Commissioners suggested that to make a finding that the lot could not be developed with the tree, they would need to see a specific development proposal (rather than a number of conceptual options) and that the application would need to be developed through consultation with a licensed arborist.  Commissioners also indicated that they did not believe the request had adequately addressed the issue of impacts to species diversity of the removal given the fact that this species is unusual for the area and this is such a magnificent example of the species.
Vote on Amendment; all ayes motion passed. 
Vote on the first motion All Ayes, motion passed. 
Margaret Young, 345 Hemlock Lane introduced herself.  Ms. Young was present at the meeting to discuss the list of recommended trees in the Street Tree Guide.  Ms. Young is recommending that the Commission review that list and make appropriate changes.  In front of Ms. Youngís house is a four-foot planting area and she questioned whether this is enough space to grow healthy trees.  She is recommending that a six- to eight-foot space would be better.  An entire block of trees have died in her neighborhood.  She encouraged the Commissioners to make the list trustworthy and appropriate.
The Commissioners acknowledged the problem with the Street Tree Guide and indicated that this was a project they will be working on.  
Meeting adjourned at 9:40 p.m.
Next meeting:  July 9, 2015
Respectively submitted by Carolyn Schwendener


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