Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

NOVEMBER 22, 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
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.   Greg Lemhouse, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar provided an overview of the upcoming meeting schedule. He stated the commission’s annual council update is scheduled for December 6; their regular meeting December 13 will include a Type II public hearing; Fregonese and Associates will be presenting before the city council on December 19 for the Transit Triangle Infill Project; and the commission’s December study session has been cancelled.
Commissioner Pearce stated he and Commissioner Miller met with staff and members of the Housing and Human Services Commission to discuss the public outreach process for the Housing Element Update. He noted they are working on an online questionnaire and also plan to set up tables and distribute information where people gather.
Louise Shawkat/870 Cambridge/Commented on the city’s work to develop a climate energy action plan and recommended all city commissions work together to achieve these goals. Ms. Shawkat stated new structures should be environmentally stable and the Planning Commission should push for bike racks and access to public transportation on all new proposals.
  1. Ashland Transit Triangle – Infill Strategies Project.
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained this is a continuation of the discussion from October 11 and tonight’s meeting will focus on different approaches that could be used in the Transit Triangle area.
John and Scott Fregonese provided a recap of the information presented at the October 11 meeting, including: tasks completed to date, Ashland’s population breakdown by age, affordable rent figures, rental housing affordability, and average number of persons per household. J. Fregonese explained 4-5 story buildings were discussed at the last meeting but those heights seemed to be a bit jarring to some, so they took a step back and evaluated a few sample sites to see what kind of density they could achieve at different heights. He stated the lot at the corner of Ashland and Park Streets was looked at with a parking requirement of one space per unit and a 15% landscaping requirement. Mr. Fregonese presented the achievable density with a 3, 4, and 5 story building and listed the effect of stories on rent. (See Attachment 1)
Mr. Fregonese provided samples of a stepback design which makes taller buildings appear less high from a pedestrian point of view. He also suggested the city consider removing the density cap and allowing some non-residential uses that fit in well with the residential setting on the ground floor. Mr. Fregonese explained the land available has the potential to create 876 new units, however he does not expect a 100% buildout and anticipates a total figure of 400-500 units in the future. He explained the next steps in this project are to gather input from the commission and make necessary revisions, hold a developer roundtable discussion, confirm costs and rents, and present this information to the city council who will determine whether to proceed with this project.
Commissioner Comments and Questions
  • J. Fregonese clarified the average unit size in the model is 650-700 sq.ft.
  • J. Fregonese was asked why he did not include a prototype of a 4 story building with the top two floors stepped back. He responded that the intent was to present something that would be widely accepted to the community, but they can certainly provide this. Opinion was given that a four story building with the stepback is more appealing than a standard 3 story building and that taller buildings should be considered in the Pedestrian Place Overlay.
  • J. Fregonese was asked to clarify the rent rates. He explained the prototype had all the units at the same size, but what would likely occur is a mixture of smaller and larger rentals. The smaller ones would rent for $950 per month or less, and the larger units would rent at roughly $1.75 per sq.ft.
  • J. Fregonese commented that tuck under parking on the ground floor with some smaller retail space is a good option. He added underground parking would not be cost effective but tuck under parking could be achieved, even on smaller sites.
  • Comment was made that the city needs take into account the surroundings and four story buildings may not be appropriate throughout the entire transit triangle. Mr. Fregonese agreed and stated the Pedestrian Places overlay could benefit from more flexibility.
  • J. Fregonese remarked on adopting a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) instead of a unit per acre standard. He stated this is one of the biggest flaws in the land use ordinance and encourages larger, much less affordable units.
  • Comment was made that if the city implemented a 50% non-commercial frontage, they could take advantage of the vertical housing program. Mr. Fregonese agreed and noted a number of cities have done this. It was added they can add this element to the model and see how it works.
  • Comment was made that there are a number of places where a 3-4 story building would work well, but they need to keep in mind Ashland’s palate. The city should identify the view corridors and take those into consideration when determining allowable building height.
  • Mr. Molnar clarified staff and Mr. Fregonese have tried to keep the heights within what is already allowed but removed the density limits and reduced the parking requirement to one space per unit.
Public Testimony
Mark Knox/485 W Nevada/Voiced his support for urban infill and clarified he has no personal or financial interest in the area being discussed. Mr. Knox noted they are working on a three story building with tuck under parking off of N. Mountain Ave and the units will be more affordable than the typical market rate. He commented that one space per unit will work well and voiced support for four story buildings with and without stepbacks. Mr. Knox commented that Ashland needs to address how it will solve the issue of the population doubling and if they do it right they can create different housing options and the ability for residents to shop and work in a close distance to where they live. He stated everyone cherishes downtown Ashland and with thought and proper planning they can create the same environment on Ashland Street.
Mark DeRienzo/700 Mistletoe/Voiced his support for the study and looking at how to create something that has a high probability of actually happening. Mr. DeRienzo noted the transit triangle area has a leg on Tolman Creek Rd, but does not include the Croman area. He commented that the primary transit corridor runs through Croman and there is a lot of undeveloped land and recommended the city consider expanding the study area to include this area as well.
Meeting adjourned at 8:10 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor


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