Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Regular Meeting

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


September 20, 2016
Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street

Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Lemhouse, and Marsh were present. Councilor Rosenthal arrived at 7:25 p.m. Councilor Seffinger was absent.
The minutes of the Executive Session of August 15, 2016, Study Session of September 6, 2016, Executive Session of September 6, 2016 and Business Meeting of September 7, 2016 were approved as presented.
  1. Annual Presentation by the Airport Commission
Airport Commission vice Chair Alan DeBoer and Commissioner Bill Skillman provided the annual presentation for the Airport Commission.  Vice Chair DeBoer commented on the success of the 2016 Airport Day and the recent approval of the airport overlay.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required a new master plan this year.  The FAA would reimburse the City for the cost of the master plan after completion.  Hangars previously rented were reverting to the airport and increased airport revenue dramatically.  In 2019, it would increase another $28,000.  He noted a vacancy on the commission and encouraged citizens to apply.
Mr. Skillman explained the airport provided a base for wildfire fighting, search and rescue, and disaster relief distribution if needed.  The airport offered avionic radio repair and occasionally served as a weather relief airport for Medford.  On September 21, 2016, World War II PT17 warplanes would be available for public viewing and remembrance flights for veterans.  Inquiries regarding the airport went through Skinner Aviation at 541-482-7675.
  1. Presentation by ODOT Rail regarding the creation of quiet zones
City Administrator Dave Kanner introduced Rick Shankle, Oregon Department of Transportation Rail and Public Transit Division, and Bob Colvin, general manager for the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad (CORP) to speak on the formation of a “quiet zone” for train noise.
Mr. Shankle provided the following information:
  • Railroad companies are required to sound their horns at crossings
  • Quiet Zones (QZ) is a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) law that provides for an exemption that allows trains to not “routinely” sound their horn
  • QZ is at least one public crossing
  • QZ are 24 hours and provide an option for a limited quiet zone (which means only at night 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.)
  • Regardless of zones all safety requirements have to be in place
  • City would have to initiate the process and contact FRA and apply for the quiet zone which identified the crossings and determine any of these crossings had been involved in pre-quiet zones – can be complicated
  • Supplemental Safety Measure (SSM) would satisfy the requirement for a QZ
  • Is not aware of any grants available for QZ
  • Safety measure requirements vary depending on the crossing
  • Alternative Safety Measures (ASM) can be determined but have to be determined by FAA
  • QZ can be formed without approval by FAA
  • Wayside horns cannot be installed in lieu of crossing gates
  • At-grade crossings with crossing gates do not automatically qualify for a QZ
  • If the crossings meet or exceed FAA standards then a diagnostic study is not required but application process is still required
  • Provided some of the factors that are used by the FRA when determining the risk of vehicle/train collision risk
  • 11 QZ currently in place and several in the process for approval
  • Improvements are paid for by the community and provided examples from other communities
Mr. Colvin explained changing train schedules might not always hinge on fire risks.  CORP worked with the Federal Forest Lands who had asked them to move the schedule to night to reduce the risk of fire.  The Federal Forest Lands were suffering from limited resources due to fire-fighting efforts in other areas.
Mr. Shankle explained that creating a quiet zone might require closing a street. Mr. Kanner added the City currently had grant monies available to improve the crossing at Hersey Street and Laurel Street and noted that it might not be feasible to supplement safety measures due to encroachment on private property.  Mr. Colvin further explained there was no formal policy but they were willing to work with the City on a diagnostic study.  Mr. Shankle added ODOT could work with the City if the improvement required closing a street.
Mark Decker/998 Clear Creek/Thought Council needed to determine if this was a problem that needed solving and if the City could actually solve the issue.  He lived near the tracks and it was a problem for him. He submitted information into the record and noted that over 1,000 people were affected by train noise.
Chris Peterson/1056 East Main Street/Explained that although he did not live close to the railroad tracks, the noise affected him.  He shared his frustration that there was no set schedule and felt there was nothing he could do.  He requested Council consider a study on a quiet zone and at least determine the cost.
Council directed staff to conduct a diagnostic study.
1.   Minutes of boards, commissions, and committees
2.   Appointment of Michelle Linley to the Housing and Human Services Commission
3.   Sole source procurement – National Research Center for the Citizen Survey
4.   Confirmation of Mayoral appointment of Interim Finance Director
City Administrator Dave Kanner introduced Beverly Adams as the Interim Finance Director when Finance and Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg retired at the end of the month.
Councilor Voisin pulled Consent Agenda item #3 for discussion.  Mr. Kanner clarified the only item Council would discuss at the October 3, 2016 Study Session regarding the survey were the content of three additional custom questions the City was allowed to ask.  Management Analyst Ann Seltzer added the City needed the contract to initiate the work with the National Research Center to conduct the survey and described the timeline.
Councilor Rosenthal/Marsh m/s to approve Consent Agenda items. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion approved.
1.   Public hearing and first reading by title only of an ordinance titled, “An ordinance amending the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan and zoning map designations for 150 North Pioneer Street from low-density multi-family residential (R-2) to commercial (C-1)”
Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained in February Council directed staff to evaluate the zoning located adjacent and north of the City’s public parking lot north of Pioneer Street.  City Council in 1992 denied a similar request.  The property line between the parking lot and the parcel was also the boundary between two of the City’s four nationally recognized historic districts.
Staff reviewed the site and noted changes that had and would occur.  Traffic generation had increased 50% since 1992 on Pioneer Street.  The Planning Commission and Historic Commission conducted advisory hearings and both recommended by unanimous vote to deny the application to avoid gradual creep of commercial zoning into the historic residential railroad district.
Associate Planner Derek Severson provided a slide show depicting public parking lots in the downtown area, the subject property, and proximity to the parking.  The zoning was currently R-2 and the applicant was requesting a change to C-1 commercial.  The existing home was a primary contributing resource in the district.  Currently there was a five-foot landscape buffer between the fence and the parked cars.  People tended to congregate in the buffer with their dogs and guitars.  The other side of Pioneer Street had intensified with a future art gallery, Ruby’s Restaurant and Gils.  The Plaza West building was the first phase of development in the parking lot.  Eventually 89 more parking spaces would go in the area as well.   Staff suggested reviewing zoning for 162 Pioneer as well although the Planning Commission and Historic Commission recommended denying the application.
Mr. Molnar explained changing the zoning to C-1 would allow the property to create an eating and drinking establishment.  Retail in an R-2 zone was limited to 600 square feet through a conditional use permit.  In a commercial zone, the owner could request more than 600 square feet of retail.  If the property wanted to do overnight accommodations, they were not required to have an onsite manager in a C-1 zone.  He clarified staff was not in disagreement with the Commissions’ recommendation to deny the applicant.  Both Commissions thought many of the impacts the applicant raised would not be resolved through rezoning the property and the City could propose other mitigation actions.  Alternately, there were safeguards in the City process to retain the value of residential properties when adjacent to a rezone. 
Public Hearing Open: 8:20 p.m.
Stan Potocki/150 North Pioneer/Noted a letter he sent to the Mayor September 15, 2016 and stressed the daily impact incurred from being so close to barking dogs left in cars for hours, car alarms, and people jumping the fence into his property to do drugs.  When he purchased his home there was another house next door.   Had he known the outcome with the parking lot, he would have rethought the agreement.  There was nothing residential about his property at this time.  He had asked the City for help regarding vehicles blocking his driveway.  Diamond Parking and the Ashland Police Department did not have enough staff to deal with these issues.  A tall fence would make the property too enclosed.  Changing the zoning and converting the property to a traveler’s accommodation would lessen the impact of surrounding noise and other issues.
Marilyn Stewart/142 B Street/Did not think the commercial zoning line should change.  There was enough commercial property to meet the Comprehensive Plan.  Increasing parking lot surveillance, more patrols, cameras, repainting yellow curb borders, larger signs, more Diamond Parking patrol, could solve the applicant’s complaints.  She doubted people would want to stay in a traveler’s accommodation if the other issues were not resolved.  The zone change would also remove needed residential housing.
Joe Collonge/111 B Street/Could not understand what good would come from the proposed zone change.  He noted properties for Ruby’s and Gils had not been residential for many years.  The applicant’s house had historical value.  Although the issues were real, he questioned why Council was considering a zone change. 
Jerry Brooks/136 B Street/Noted everyone was interested in maintaining the integrity of the railroad district and avoiding commercial creep into the neighborhood.  It was good for the City, residents, and tourists.  The neighbors he spoke to were not in favor of changing the zoning.  The Planning Commission and the Historic Commission opposed the application.  There were others ways to deal with the issues.  He encouraged retaining the current zoning.
Joseph Lusa/135 B Street/Agreed with stopping commercial creep into the area.  He had witnessed the impacts of the commercial operations occurring at Ruby’s and Gils.  Rezoning to commercial might exasperate it further for local residents.  Events at the Ashland Armory added to parking problems and public carrying on in the early hours of the night.  Although residents were able to live with that as well as the walking tours in the neighborhood, he did not support rezoning the property.
Dorothy Brooks/136 B Street/Explained the neighborhood had noticed an increase in noise and activity since Ruby’s and Gils started serving liquor and food with outdoor seating.  Both businesses effected parking.  She could not imagine what changing the zone to commercial would do to solve the problems the applicant was experiencing.  She did not think the City patrolled the parking lot as well as it could.  She did not support the zone change.  
Jeffery Jones/79 Pine Street/Represented his 100-year-old mother-in-law who resided at 162 Pioneer Street.  She wanted the property kept in the family and never sold.  There was also a short-term vacation rental.  The only benefit the zone change would have on the property was removing the requirement that someone live onsite.  He thought Pioneer Street was already commercial and supported rezoning the property. 
Larry Cooper/259 B Street/Did not support the zone change.  He shared what he experienced and lived with in the neighborhood that included people entering his property or people parking recreational vehicles in front of his house and living there for extended periods.  However, positives outweighed the negatives of living in the area.  He supported residential zoning.  People needed to realize the neighborhood was noisy, had train noise, horrible traffic, and that people did odd things.  It was just what it was and neighbors accepted that. 
Mayor Stromberg provided the history on the applicant’s request for a zone change.
Public Hearing Closed: 8:50 p.m.
Councilor Marsh/Voisin m/s to deny first reading by title only of the ordinance titled, “An Ordinance Amending the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map Designations for 150 North Pioneer Street from Low-Density Multi-Family Residential (R-2) to Commercial (C-1).”  DISCUSSION:  Councilor Marsh apologized that Mr. Potocki had experienced a promise in 1992 that was later revoked.  It was important to retain neighborhoods bordering the downtown area.  There was enough variety in an R-2 zone to make a good transition from a more commercial area to residential.  Changing the zoning would not alleviate any of the problems Mr. Potocki was experiencing.  Ashland had a housing crisis and removing even one residential unit was unsupportable.  The City needed to take care of what was happening in the parking lot.  Councilor Voisin added that in 1992 the City Council and the Planning Commission denied a request for rezoning based on a need for a buffer between the downtown and Railroad district, to avoid commercial creep and preserve the character of the neighborhood.  She did not think much had changed since then.  Both the Historic Commission and Planning Commission unanimously denied the request.  Changing the zone would affect the neighborhood.  She would support the motion to deny the request.  Councilor Lemhouse agreed with Councilor Marsh.  He would support the motion but noted it was more than just a zoning issue for that property.  He agreed with the Planning Commission and the Historic Commission and appreciated the Mayor bringing the issue forward.
Councilor Morris would not support the motion.  A buffer was needed and presently it was this residential property.  It would make a better buffer as a commercial property.  He shared his own experience of walking through the parking lot in the evening, no one wanted to live next to that kind of activity in a residential area.  The Railroad district was not a uniform district.  What saved the area were the commercial Bed and Breakfasts.  Making the property commercial would not change the character. 
Councilor Rosenthal had empathy for what the owner had experienced and appreciated the Mayor’s responsiveness.  He agreed with Councilor Marsh and wanted the City to mitigate the issues and concerns plaguing the property.  Roll Call Vote: Councilor Rosenthal, Marsh, Voisin, and Lemhouse, YES; Councilor Morris, NO. Motion passed 4-1.
Councilor Lemhouse announced the Ashland High School Volley Ball Dig Pink Breast Cancer Awareness night as a fundraiser for a local schoolteacher battling breast cancer.  The event would take place Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. 
Councilor Rosenthal noted the second of three public open houses for the Climate and Energy Action Plan was Sunday, September 25, 2016 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Southern Oregon University (SOU) Stevenson Union.
City Recorder Barbara Christensen announced the Oregon Association of Municipal Recorders (OAMR) conference was occurring September 21 through the 22 with 100 Recorders attending.  OAMR would host a Breast Cancer Awareness walk through Lithia Park on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 5:30 p.m.
Meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m.


Barbara Christensen, City Recorder                          John Stromberg, Mayor

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