Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

OCTOBER 11, 2016
Chair Melanie Mindlin called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Michael Dawkins
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Lynn Thompson
  Greg Lemhouse
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the upcoming meetings: 1) a presentation on the business retention and expansion survey will be Thursday, October 13 at 12:30 p.m. 2) a discussion on options for city hall will be held at the October 17 City Council Study Session, and 3) the Planning Commission’s October 25 meeting will be a joint study session with the Housing & Human Services Commission.
Commissioner Dawkins announced that he and Commissioner Norton attended the Oregon Planning Network meetings. He stated he found it very informative and was pleased to learn that Ashland is already doing a lot of the things being discussed and is ahead of the curve. Commissioner Mindlin announced she attended an event at the OSU Extension on the future of agriculture in the Rogue Valley.
  1. Approval of Minutes.
  1. September 13, 2016 Regular Meeting.
Commissioners Dawkins/Pearce m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0. Commissioner Mindlin abstained.
Huelz Gutcheon/2253 Highway 99/Commented on the city’s Conservation Division and the10x20 ordinance, and voiced concern with fossil fuels and adding more houses/buildings to Ashland.
  1. Ashland Transit Triangle – Infill Strategies Project.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar provided background information on the Transit Triangle target area. He explained Ashland Street was constructed as a state highway in the 1970s and inherited a certain type of character. Over the last 30+ years the city has taken a number of actions to improve the appearance, including: adopting new design standards, revising the site design and use standards which focused on widening sidewalks, street tree installations, and pedestrian friendly lighting, and the city received a significant grant to install medians and bike lanes. Mr. Molnar noted the more recent pedestrian places overlay and commented on the city’s desire to increase the walkability of the area and encourage higher residential densities and a mix of land uses.
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained there has been very limited development and redevelopment in this area and it has primarily attracted single story, single use, low intensity uses, many of which are national chains. She stated there are a lot of opportunities in this area which has 32 acres of vacant and redevelopable land, much of which is already zoned for mixed use. Additionally, the area is served by a bus line and it is close to services. Ms. Harris stated the City Council has identified infill strategies as a high priority project and stated the purpose of this project is to evaluate and explore new policies, programs, and actions that create an incentive for business and housing development to accommodate projected growth while supporting transit service and establishing a vibrant and walkable area.
John Fregonese and Scott Fregonese of Fregonese Assoc. addressed the commission. J. Fregonese explained this project focuses on the corridor and noted the city already has a number of tools in place, including detail site review and pedestrian places. He stated during phase one of this project they looked at the market and what you could build under the zoning, evaluated commonly built buildings over the last 20 years, talked with developers, reviewed the demographics, and tested some buildings to see how they would work. They have come to some conclusions and are now before the Planning Commission to hone in on a solution that fits well for Ashland.
J. Fregonese provided a presentation that covered: city demographics, income levels, housing availability, housing demand, details on what impacts development performance, the development feasibility analysis, and how the Envision Tomorrow software operates. He provided several examples of develop types and reviewed possible changes to the city’s current zoning to enable mixed use apartment/retail buildings, mid-rise apartments, garden apartments, and townhomes to be market feasible while keeping rental costs in line with Ashland’s income levels. (See Attachment 1, Ashland Transit Triangle presentation)
J. Fregonese commented if the city pursues this project he would like to know any concerns or comments the commission has so they can to ensure this is compatible with the surrounding area. He added this phase of the project will include study sessions with the Planning Commission and City Council, additional interviews with local developers, a buildable land analysis, model refinements, return on investment refinements, prototype development, comprehensive estimate of infill success, strategies, and visualizations. J. Fregonese listed the council goals that apply to this project and stated the next
commission work session has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 22 and a work session with the City Council will be held on December 19.
Commissioner Comments and Questions
  • Commissioner Norton questioned whether increasing the density would impact the city’s infrastructure and stated citizens need to be informed what the implications will be. J. Fregonese commented that the study will look at what the additional load to the city’s sewer and water systems would be and ensure it is within the parameters. He added if this is successful they are expecting a couple hundred units, not thousands.
  • Commissioner Mindlin asked for clarification regarding the city’s affordable housing requirements. Mr. Molnar stated this applies for developments of 10 units or more. Mindlin commented that this will increase the price of a project and needs to be considered. She also stated she has questions about affordability and who this project is targeting. J. Fregonese commented that the target residential rent price range has been identified as $1.75-$190 per square foot, and a sale price range of $250,000-$300,000. He added they could not find a way to get new units lower than this without a subsidy.
  • Commissioner Miller commented that the concepts shown tonight fit better in an urban setting or large city. She questioned what happens if present demographics don’t continue and stated they need to plan for the future. She voiced concern with less landscaping and more density and stated children need space to run and play. J. Fregonese commented that the current trend will last for a long time and he does not see this changing. He stated there is a broad group of people in Ashland and not everyone wants the same thing. He stated some people prefer smaller units and the city could provide an option for those residents who don’t have kids or need/want a lawn.
  • Commissioner Pearce voiced support for talking with the development community and looking at what types of buildings might actually get built. He noted they are discussing a half a block on each side of a busy street and stated a reduced landscaping requirement makes sense. Pearce suggested instead of a fixed square footage for landscaping to have a “green factor” that provides more credit for trees than shrubs and lawn. He stated this winds up looking nicer and provides more shade and habitats for birds. Pearce also recommended they consider a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) instead of a unit count.
  • Commissioner Dawkins stated he has been interested in this topic for a long time and believes there are a lot of opportunities here. He commented that Ashland Street screams for redevelopment and stated the current height limitations are unreasonable for an area like this. He stated the lot across from Wendy’s was perfect for a development like this and he was disappointed to learn a bank will be going there. He stated they need to have the zoning and other tools in place so something like that doesn’t happen again.
  • Commissioner Mindlin stated affordability is a major issue for her and they need to make sure they are doing something valuable in this regard. She added impact on adjoining neighborhoods and green outdoor use are other issues she is concerned with. Mindlin stated it is a basic human right to have outdoor personal space in their home, and balconies or internal off-street shared green spaces are ways to accomplish this.
  • Council Liaison Greg Lemhouse stated affordable housing is a hot topic throughout the community and they need to find creative ways to address this problem. He stated he is looking forward to seeing the results on this project and stated this triangle has a lot of potential but has been ignored.
John Fields/Stated that projects are expensive and there is nothing you can build in Ashland without asking for exceptions to the land use ordinance. Mr. Fields stated developers take a risk when pursuing a project that could get stopped at any point and takes many months to get through the approval process. He stated the city has developed complex ordinance requirements and it takes time to work through them, and stated the Croman Mill and Normal Neighborhood plans are so complicated that the plans pushed development further away from happening instead of encouraging it.  Mr. Fields stated this area in particular has opportunities but added he would be taking a risk by building something like this and is not sure how many people desire these types of units.
J. Fregonese thanked the commission and audience member for their input and stated they will be taking all their comments into consideration. He added this topic will come back again for commission discussion on Tuesday, November 22.
Meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor


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