Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

APRIL 25, 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
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Derek Severson, Senior Planner
Linda Reid, Housing Program Specialist
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:    
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the continuation of the 165 Water Street hearing is scheduled for the commission’s May 9 meeting; the conceptual Cottage Housing site plans and ordinance will be presented at the May 23 study session; and the commission’s annual retreat is scheduled for Saturday, June 10.
No one came forward to speak.
  1. Housing Element Public Involvement Update.
Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid provided an update on the public outreach and community feedback on the Housing Element policies. She stated as part of the participation plan a subgroup was created to work on community outreach, staff published an article in the City Source newsletter, announcements were posted both on the city’s website and in the Daily Tidings, a dedicated webpage was created to keep citizens updated, an open house and community forum were held, and an online questionnaire was added to the city’s website.
Ms. Reid explained a few themes emerged from the community feedback, including:
  • Citizens felt the wording in the existing policies was unclear. The majority of survey and forum participants commented that the city should use plan language that provides more clarity of purpose to laypeople.
  • Another theme was an aversion to certain words in the current policies, including “appearance and character” and “incompatible and destructive”, which were cited as being limiting to future development.
  • Diversity was a word that came up over and over again, both in context of demographic character of the city’s population as well as with regard to the types of housing developed.
  • The topic of affordable housing dominated the responses in both the housing forum and online questionnaire. The reoccurring nature of issue reinforced the continued need for a broad policy that maintains affordable housing as a priority for future policy development.
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman noted the full summary report and all of the online responses are available for review on the city’s website. He explained the next step in the process is to draft revisions to the existing policies based on the feedback received and to bring those back to the Housing & Human Services Commission and Planning Commission for review before a final draft is formed. He added staff is still in the drafting stage and stated any comments the commission has would be helpful as they move forward and coalesce the comments into policy changes.
Staff clarified the Ashland Comprehensive Plan is set up with goals and policies, and the policies are the springboard for the City Council and Planning Commission that support code writing, code standards, and program development. In addition, the policies influence the funding priorities for the city.
Commissioner Comments & Questions:
  • Is staff examining the current goals and policies? Mr. Goldman clarified staff is reviewing the Housing Element in total and noted the goals and policies have not been revisited since the 1980s.
  • Suggestion was made to have more than four goals, and within those goals refine the strategies.
  • Concern was expressed regarding the limitations imposed by state regulations.
  • Comment was made questioning how the city could encourage developers to build housing that is more affordable.
  • Suggestion was made for the revised policies to address a range of housing for all the different income sectors instead of just one segment.
  • Concern was expressed regarding the steady removal of starter homes from the city’s inventory. Suggestion was made to consider a limitation where if the original house is removed, the new home cannot be more than 10% of its size.
  • Opinion was given that no matter what you are building, those houses will increase in cost over time; even if they were built for low income families, they will likely not stay affordable for very long. 
  • Comment was made that the survey responses showed that people seem a lot more open to diversity imbedded into the neighborhoods.
  • It was noted that a number of comments talked about green space, wildlife, and protecting character, and the commission should remain mindful of this too.
  • Comment was made that they will likely receive push back if they make too many changes to the single family neighborhoods.
  • Comment was made that people want to know what their neighborhood will be like in the future, and predictability is important to residents.
Ms. Reid thanked the commission for their input and stated this topic will come back again at a future meeting.
  1. Missing Middle Housing.
Staff presented a short video on the “Missing Middle Housing”. Several commissioners questioned if there are current obstacles to this and if so they should identify those regulations and see if they can be modified or removed. Additionally, there was strong interest expressed in the idea of dividing larger houses into apartment units. Other comments made by the commissioners included keeping the limitation on the size of a structure, but not the density within; and looking into the possibility of allowing live/work units as a commercial use. 
Meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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