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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

JULY 25, 2017
Chair Roger Pearce called the meeting to order at 7:04 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Linda Reid, Housing Program Specialist
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery, absent
Commission Chair Roger Pearce noted public hearings would occur at the regular Planning Commission meeting in August.
  1. Draft Housing Element Policy Review and Discussion
Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained the Comprehensive Plan set the general vision for land use in the community and development.  The Housing Element set the vision for the community regarding housing issues.  Often the element in the policies was aspirational, motivational, and did not need to be evaluated ahead of time.  It was important that the goals and policies were broad because it set the foundation for the work.  Currently, housing development has three themes: 
  • That it expressed the need for a variety of housing types
  • Housing met the needs of the total cross section of Ashland
  • That it focused on Ashland’s character
Chapters were often augmented with different studies.  To meet housing demands in the 1990s, the City created the Housing Program Specialist position, the Housing Commission, and adopted the Affordable Housing Plan.  During the recent budget process, Council adopted a permanent funding source for the Housing Trust Fund using 3% of the City’s portion of the recreational marijuana tax.
The Comprehensive Plan and the Housing Element was not an independent approval criterion for quasi-judicial land use actions.  In Oregon, the Comprehensive Plan set the foundation with municipalities adopting legislation to meet those goals and policies.  These were the latest goals and policies.  Changes since the last element update included the relationship between housing and transportation and the Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP).  
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman explained they were presenting the draft to the Planning Commission tonight and would meet with the Housing and Human Services Commission (HHSC) later.  Once the narrative was complete, they would bring the draft back to the Planning Commission and the HHSC in September.  Staff held an open house, a public forum, and conducted an online survey that concluded the draft language was difficult to interpret.  They made the document easier to read, expanded the goals from one to five, and increased policies from five to twenty-one.  The Commission would review the changes and make suggestions as needed.
Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid explained the completed draft would go before Council at a Study Session in January 2018.  Staff has a target date of February 20, 2018 for final approval.  Mr. Goldman added Council would review the draft at a November 2017 Study Session as well.
Mr. Goldman clarified Goal 2:  Support the creation and preservation of housing that is affordable to low and moderate income households, Policy #13:  Give priority in land use and permitting processes for affordable housing developments, multifamily rental housing, and other needed housing types, would accelerate projects involving affordable housing by modifying the 120-day rule to 100 days in accordance with Senate House Bill 1051.  Some commissioners questioned if it was necessary in order to accomplish the goal or expressed concern it might diminish quality.
Mr. Goldman responded to a comment regarding incomplete applications coming before the Commission.  An applicant could deem an incomplete application worthy of going before the Planning Commission at their risk.
Goal 1:  Ensure a range of different housing types that provide housing opportunities for the total cross section of Ashland’s Population.  Policies 1-7.
Policy 7:  Maintain and enhance the character of Ashland’s historic neighborhoods through programs and efforts that promote preservation, rehabilitation, and the use of limited design review to protect the integrity of historic resources.
Commissioner Mindlin thought this policy did not address Goal 1 and should go under Goal 5.  Mr. Goldman explained it was an effort to retain character but only in historic districts and was in the older language.  At the least, it should reference design standards for character.  Mr. Molnar would look into the matter further if the Commission was in agreement.  Design Standards played an important role and character needed to be an overriding consideration.  Commissioner Miller suggested Policy 7 include the old Policy 2(B).  Commissioner Brown thought removing the word “historic” would resolve the concern.   Alternately, Policy 7 should be Goal #1 because it increased readability.  Chair Pearce agreed Policy 7 should be broader.  If it was broadened, the Commission thought it should be a separate goal with the old Policy 2(B) as a current policy.
Goal 2:  Support the creation and preservation of housing that is affordable to low and moderate income households.  Policies 8-14.
Policy 10:  Encourage the preservation of affordable housing, including non-subsidized affordable units, to ensure that demolitions and conversions do not result in the net loss of the City’s stock of decent, safe, healthy or affordable housing.
Commissioner Brown thought this policy should be Policy 8 instead.  The sentences needed to support the stated goal.  Mr. Goldman agreed and would reorganize the policies to increase readability.  Commissioner Mindlin also agreed but thought Policy 10 was specific to ensuring demolitions and conversions that did not result in a net loss of City stock.  Mr. Molnar clarified it pertained to not losing rental stock to short term home rentals.  Commissioner Thompson thought the word “ensure” was strong language.  Commissioner Dawkins provided further background.  Chair Pearce thought demolition and conversion should be removed. It limited the focus to two issues.  Commissioner Thompson suggested adding “to avoid the net loss.”
Commissioner Mindlin wanted to remove the following:
Policy 13:  Give priority in land use and permitting processes for affordable housing developments, multifamily rental housing, and other needed housing types.
Policy 21:  Strive to minimize the time taken to process land use and building permits so that the intent of state and local laws is fulfilled with the greatest possible thoroughness and efficiency.
Both spoke to how the department worked.  Commissioners Thompson and Miller agreed. Mr. Molnar will review both policies but noted they pertained to Council Goals that were this specific.  Commissioner Brown thought it could be a goal and should remain. It sent a message on how the process should and could work.  Chair Pearce agreed with Commissioner Brown.
Policy 12:  Provide for minimal off-street parking requirements in locations where car ownership rates are low for resident populations to help reduce housing costs and increase affordability.
Commissioner Thompson questioned the language.  Minimizing the off street parking requirement shifted cars onto the street where there might not be sufficient parking.  Chair Pearce thought it could minimize the parking requirement to be consistent with controlling neighborhood impacts.  Mr. Goldman explained the parking requirement was pervasive in other jurisdiction’s comprehensive plans in the state.  In 2010, Southern Oregon University’s Planning Issues class inventoried the occupancy rates of parking at affordable housing developments and found the larger ones had a surplus of parking spaces.  This resulted in identifying the cost of providing additional parking as an undue burden on an affordable housing development.  The Commission discussed a language change that would reduce the parking requirement where the parking demand was low.  Staff would review and possibly broaden Policy 13. 
Goal 3:  Encourage the development of housing in ways that protect the natural environment and encourage development patterns that reduce the effects of climate change.  Policies 15-17. 
Commissioner Brown suggested moving Policy 17: Development standards shall be used to fit development to topography, generally following the concept that density should decrease with an increase in slope to avoid excessive erosion and hillside cuts, to Policy 15.  It made it more readable and flowed into Goal 4. 
Goal 4:  Support housing efficiency policies and initiatives identified within the Ashland Climate & Energy Action Plan.
Commissioner Mindlin thought Goal 4 was actually a policy of Goal 3.  Staff would change Goal 4 to policy 18.
Goal 5:  Forecast and plan for changing housing needs over time in relation to land supply and housing production.  Policies 18-21.
Policy 20:  Encourage development of vacant land within the urban area, while providing sufficient new land to avoid an undue increase in land prices.  This shall be accomplished with specific annexation policies.
Potential language revisions included changing, “This shall be accomplished with specific annexation policies,” to, “use   specific annexation policies to help accomplish these...,” revising the policy to incorporate, “In order to provide for future housing needs…,” and wording on the possible need to increase land within the city limits with the understanding it could expand into the urban growth boundary.  
Staff would meet with the HHSC next and bring an update to the Planning Commission at a future meeting.
  1. Cottage Housing Ordinance
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman explained they added portions of the cottage housing ordinance to varying sections of the existing code.  There were two alternatives the Planning Commission would discuss on how to incorporate it into the parking chapter.  Exhibits A-1 and B-1 depicted ways to develop cottage housing using a 30,000 square foot (sq. ft.) lot size for 9 and 12 units including open space and parking.  Size could vary from 300 sq. ft. units with 200 sq. ft. lofts up to 1,000 sq. ft. cottages.  Exhibit B-3 provided a shadow cast for solar impacts to a 12-unit lot.  Due to small side yards, solar was not feasible with that density of development.  
The other issue was parking requirements.  The main constraint in providing more units was parking spaces.  An alternative would limit units 800 sq. ft. or less to one parking space.  Units 800 to 1,000 sq. ft. would have 1.5 parking spaces and two spaces for cottages over 1,000 sq. ft.  It differed from multifamily parking standards because it used square footage instead of the number of bedrooms.  For a preexisting single family home on property that was 2,000 sq. ft. with two additional units, the parking standard would require two parking spaces for the primary home and one space each for the other two units.
Decks and entry ways were included in the open space calculation for each unit.  Common open space was 20% of the lot area with a minimum dimension of 20 x 20 under the cottage housing ordinance.  The idea of allowing more than one central common space came up at an earlier meeting for areas that may have natural constraints.
Mr. Goldman confirmed variance requirements and exceptions in the parking code would apply to cottage housing most likely through a Transportation Demand Management study.  The intention of single family dwellings not having on street parking credits was in subdivisions with single family homes, each house had two on street parking spaces and additional parking for guests.  Accessory residential units in single family neighborhoods often received an on street parking credit.  For a primary home on a lot being redeveloped into cottage housing, that single family dwelling would need two on street parking spaces.  The cottages could be eligible for on street parking credit.  The Exceptions chapter stated on street parking credits may be granted.  As part of a site design and performance standard subdivision for cottage housing, an applicant would have to demonstrate having an on street parking credit would not create an adverse impact on the neighborhood and that there was available parking on their frontage alone. 
Chair Pearce thought the .35 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) was penalizing.  Mr. Goldman explained staff compared the floor area averages of cottages to averages of single family homes in subdivisions built out to meet the lot coverage requirements with a 400 square foot garage.  Using .35 FAR was consistent with the scale that was less than a larger single family home built on an individual lot.  There were no FAR requirements for R-1 zones.  Garage space for cottage housing counted against the FAR.  Mr. Molnar added this was a tradeoff for a single family neighborhood.  It did not seem appropriate to double the density and retain the same FAR.  Most of these standards were subject to the exception process and not the variance.  Mr. Goldman further explained this was another change incorporated into the ordinance.  In lieu of creating a new exceptions standard, the draft ordinance has the exception of approval criteria under the existing site design and development standards.  The section stated the Commission may grant an exception if it furthered the intent and purpose of this chapter.  Staff drafted a purpose and intent of the cottage housing chapter as a new provision. Common recreational buildings were not subject to FAR and contributed to the open space requirements.
Meeting adjourned at 8:59  p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

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