Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Mtg

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

FEBRUARY 28, 2017
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:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Roger Pearce   Greg Lemhouse, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the Planning Commission’s decision on the Rogue Credit Union application has been appealed to the City Council. He also provided a brief update on the Housing Element update and stated staff was in need of volunteers to host tables at the March 8, 2017 forum.
Commissioner Mindlin announced the wildfire working group is continuing to meet and they are working with consultants who are providing technical assistance.
Huelz Gutcheon/2253 Highway 99/Commented on new technology available in heat pumps that allow them to run on solar power.
  1. PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2016-02103  
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  133 Alida Street
OWNER/APPLICANT:  Mike and Karen Mallory, trustees for the Mallory Revocable Trust
DESCRIPTION: The Planning Commission will consider an appeal of the Staff Advisor’s approval of a Site Design Review permit to construct a 417 square foot Accessory Residential Unit for the property located at 133 Alida Street. The application includes requests for Exception to the Site Development and Design Standards for the placement and screening of parking relative to the Accessory Residential Unit. (The appeal request focuses on the determination of Alida Street as the front lot line, the effect this determination had upon required setbacks, and the resultant impact to the neighboring property at 145 Alida Street.) COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Low Density Multi-Family Residential; ZONING: R-2; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 09DA; TAX LOT #: 3300.
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported. Commissioner Miller noted she was not present at the last meeting but has reviewed the record, watched the video, and is able to participate.

Questions of Staff
Staff was asked to comment on the appellant’s claim that there was a procedural error made by staff and a variance was needed to change the setbacks. Mr. Molnar noted this was addressed in the staff report. He explained staff made a determination about the front yard based on the definition listed in the code, which states it shall be the narrower frontage unless there are topographical or access issues. He stated this is a discretionary decision and this provision has been in the code for a very long time. Mr. Molnar explained access does not always apply to vehicular and topographical but also applies to the arrangement of natural and man-made structures. He added that staff disagrees with the claim that this determination required a variance.
Staff was asked how common it is to accept these legal, nonconforming features (such as the front lot line) when construction predates the regulations. Mr. Molnar stated it is very common in a town of this age to have nonconformities. He added a determination on corner lots does not come up very often and there is no established precedent.
Staff was asked if the front lot line determination defaults to the address. Mr. Molnar stated the determination is based on the definition which states the narrower of the two frontages unless there are access or topographical issues.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioner Thompson stated she reviewed the code carefully and believes the appellant’s made some good arguments, however the lot is nonconforming in several ways. She stated if Blaine Street is the front than the whole property is oriented wrong, but if Alida is the front than the lot is not deep enough under the existing rules. For purposes of defining the setbacks she recommended they determine the frame of reference. Thompson remarked that it does not make sense for a house that is clearly oriented to the long frontage to all of a sudden apply rules as if it were oriented another way than it is. She gave her opinion that it makes the most sense to state this is historical nonconformity where the front lot line is the longer frontage (that is how the access and topography are structured) and to deal with this as the status quo.
Commission Brown commented that the property next door is also nonconforming and was built too close to the property line. He stated these were built at a different time with a different set of rules, but had the neighboring property met the setbacks this application would not be in question.
Commissioner Norton commented on how rear and side yards are used and stated this application works best as it is proposed. He stated this functions better as a sideyard which will not have as much active use that would impact the adjacent lot.
Commissioners Thompson/Dawkins m/s to approve PA-2016-02103 and deny the appeal. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Dawkins stated he sympathizes with the appellant but stated there are a lot of nonconforming buildings around town and those were built under different regulations than what the code says now. Commissioner Miller voiced her concern over these types of neighborhood disputes. Commission Mindlin commented that she does not believe staff made any errors, that side yard to side yard makes more sense, and making it a backyard could make it even more impactful to the neighbor. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Brown, Dawkins, Miller, Norton, Thompson, and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 6-0.
  1. Cottage Housing Standards
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman stated a number of the changes have been made to the draft ordinance since it was last reviewed by the commission. He explained a draft was presented to the Housing & Human Services Commission and they had the following issues, some of which have already been remedied: 1) they were concerned about a mechanism to ensure affordability, 2) they were concerned over design restrictions, building setbacks, and the difficultly in locating buildings, parking, and landscaping which could impede development, and 3) they were concerned about the recommendation to reduce the maximum number of units of a cottage development from 16 to 12.
Mr. Goldman presented an overview of the changes to the draft ordinance, which include:
  • A minimum of 3 cottage housing units and a maximum of 12.
  • A floor area ratio of .35 with exemptions for common buildings.
  • The height has been amended to set a maximum of 18’ with a ridgeline no greater than 25’, and the 1 ˝ story limitation has been removed.
  • Lot coverage remains consistent with the underlying zone; 50% for R-1-5 zone and 45% for R-1-7.5. However the draft includes a greater allowance for lot coverage of pervious materials.
  • Setbacks have been reduced to 6 ft. between buildings, with the exception that setbacks along the perimeter of the development will meet the requirements of the zone.
  • Cottage developments would be exempt from the solar ordinance in cases where the shadows cast from buildings within the development are entirely within the parent parcel.
  • The 20% open space requirement is retained but allows for the open space to be divided into multiple common open spaces provided they are interconnected and accessible to all residents of the development.
  • Cottage design considerations have been stricken from the draft ordinance with exception to the street orientation and pedestrian connections to the neighborhood.
  • The parking requirements have been modified to use the existing multi-family parking standards.
  • The draft now clearly states that porches, patios, gardens, and private yards all count as private outdoor space.
Public Input
Mark Knox/Stated staff has done a really good job with the ordinance and it is exciting to see this. Mr. Knox voiced his appreciation for the commission recognizing issues in the community regarding affordable housing, but also being respectful of single family neighborhoods, market issues, developer concerns, and the livability for the end user. He recommended language for an exception process be added and to not make it a variance. He stated garage space is a livability issue for many people and they should allow single car garages. He added the houses would need to stay small and the garage should count towards their overall floor area ratio. Regarding solar, Mr. Knox recommended the ordinance require developers to identify solar reserve areas. He commented on open space and suggested wetland could towards this requirement. He added developments should embrace the wetland feature and make it part of the project instead of turning their backs to the wetland space.
Carlos Delgado/Voiced his appreciation for the level of work going into this ordinance. Mr. Delgado stated there is not a lot of vacant lot inventory in Ashland and supports incorporating these developments on lots with existing structures. He agreed with the change to remove the 1 ˝ story height limitation and agreed with Mr. Knox about wetlands and open space. He voiced support for a minimum of 3 units but voiced caution about allowing large garages. He stated these would likely be used as storage and could create a policing issue for the City, and suggested carports be used instead.  
Commission Discussion
The commission held discussion on the individual components of the draft ordinance, shared their opinions, and received clarification on their questions from staff. In summary:
  1. The commission agreed the size of cottage developments should be 3-12 units.
  2. The commission agreed with removing the 1 ˝ story language and setting a maximum height of 18 ft. with a 25 ft. ridgeline.
  3. Support was voiced for a 6 ft. minimum setback between cottages instead of 10 ft.
  4. Support was voiced for retaining the 20% requirement for open space and keeping the minimum dimension at 20 ft., but allowing for multiple spaces if there is good justification. 
  5. The commission agreed with using the multi-family parking standards for cottage housing developments.
  6. No concerns were raised regarding the language proposed for private outdoor areas.
  7. Consensus was reached to have an 8 ft. dimensional requirement for private outdoor areas.
  8. Consensus was reached to allow carports and one car garages, but garages would count towards the FAR.
Mr. Goldman noted the next step in this process will be contracting with a professional to create sample site plans and show how developments could be arranged to meet the requirements. Recommendation was made that the contractor use real properties in Ashland, but to not identify the location. 
Meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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