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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


August 22, 2017
Chair Roger Pearce called the meeting to order at 7:02 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
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Haywood Norton   Dennis Slattery, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced a study session with the City Council September 18, 2017, to discuss cottage housing code changes.  There is a tentative date in October for a study session with Fregonese & Associates to discuss draft suggestions for the Transit Triangle.  The Planning Commission would present the annual commission update during the December 5, 2017, City Council meeting.
Commissioner Dawkins noted Councilor Morrisí concerns that Planning Action 2017-01059 for 1068 East Main Street was promoted as workforce housing in the newspaper.  The Planning Commission had no control of how an applicant presented a project in the newspaper.  However, Commissioner Dawkins thought the Commission might consider defining workforce housing and discuss parameters in a public forum. 
Councilor Morris had also been concerned how the applicant could do ownership housing at the location.  Mr. Molnar explained multifamily zones R-2 and R-3 have always allowed apartments and ownership.  Staff looked through the past twenty years of data on R-2 and R-3.  The district was originally created as part of the comprehensive plan with the idea of having a certain percentage of apartments built.  The market changed so much since the 1990s that it is more profitable and efficient to do ownership housing.  The Croman project had a standard in the multifamily area that limited how much ownership housing could occur and required a certain percentage of rental.  The Planning Commission could consider that as a policy if they were interested.  Requiring a percentage of rental was currently not in the Ashland Municipal Code. 
  1. Accessory residential units within existing homes
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained adding flexibility for Accessory Residential Units (ARUs) within existing homes came from the Planning Commissionís retreat.  She provided an example of a three story house with a daylight basement converted into an ARU.  Each floor was approximately 800 square feet.  In this case, the square footage was over 500 feet and the owner used on street credits to satisfy parking requirements.
Another example was a two story house on a hill.  The main house was 2000 square feet with 1400 square feet in the basement.  The applicants put the ARU in the top part of the house at 768 square feet.  Size limitations and configuration prevented having an ARU on the bottom floor.  The owner also used on street credits for two parking spaces.  Questions for the Commission to consider were allowing more flexibility in size, possible parking requirements, and making a recommendation to the Council regarding System Development Charges.  Other questions were impacts to the neighborhood and allowing two small ARUís instead of one.
ARUs had a kitchen, a separate electric meter and were subject to multifamily residential design.  If it was within an existing house and there were no exterior changes it did not really apply in terms of building design.  Site planning was parking, having an open space area for the second unit, and landscaping standards.
Some City Council members were interested in creating incentives for homeowners wanting to have an ARU within an existing home.  One suggestion was waiving SDCs since it would not have the same impact as building a separate ARU on a lot.
Commissioner Thompson supported making it more flexible but was concerned about changing parking requirements.  On street credits would allow the Community Development Department and the Planning Commission to evaluate the impact.  Chair Pearce thought parking and the size limit of half the square footage of the primary residence were the most critical restrictions the Commission needed to review.  Commissioner Mindlin added SDCs were another barrier.
Chair Pearce recently attended the Real Estate Land Use Mid-Year Conference that included a discussion on Senate Bill (SB) 1051.  One statute that applied to all housing stated housing could only be permitted if there were clear and objective standards, not discretionary standards.  He thought the Cityís code was clear and objective.  There were two tracks, clear and objective or site review. 
SB 1051 would require cities the size of Ashland to allow areas zoned for detached single family dwellings to have the ability to develop at least one accessory dwelling unit for each detached single family dwelling.  This would be subject to reasonable local regulations relating to siting and design.  It defined an accessory dwelling unit as an interior, attached or detached residential structure used in connection with or as an accessory to a single family dwelling. 
Commissioner Miller was in favor of increasing the square footage of an ARU to 70%-75%.  It would provide a reasonable living space and storage.  Commissioner Mindlin supported loosening the regulations on accessory residential units within existing homes.  Commissioner Brown agreed and thought parking could present an issue.  He did not think a set number was needed.  Parking and the number of bedrooms would constrain the number of units in an existing home.  Commissioner Dawkins added having different addresses would also regulate the number of units. 
Staff would bring back options to make units within an existing home more flexible and possibly change the name of accessory residential units. 
  1. Continuation of open space discussion
Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained an issue with the definition of open space was that it referred to land that was in joint ownership.  There were inconsistencies within the Ashland Municipal Code that needed to be fixed at some point.  Another issue was the 8% requirement for a recreation area when it was referred to as an open space.  For the past fifteen years, designers of private developments thought the 8% could either be commonly owned areas, privately and commonly owned, or privately owned.  City Council needed to interpret the code.  The discussion tonight sought direction from the Commission.
A project had to have a certain percent of the lot landscaped and 8% of the lot area needed to be recreation space.  Commissioner Dawkins wanted a better definition of recreation space.  Historically, recreation space would have meant lawns and that presently went against water wise landscaping.
Mr. Molnar explained 20 years ago during a site design standards review, the City created the standard requiring a percentage of area in a commercial development for public space.  While the standard for residential required 35% landscaping, it could all be ornamental.  It raised the question if the City should require a minimum amount that was surfaced usable.  Recreation was not the best term either.  The intent was having a certain percentage that was usable.  That was why patios and porches were added.  It leveled out a small area with possible semi private landscaping and discouraged lawns.
The Commission discussed recreational space.  Comments equated it to a potential gathering space or community gardens.  Other comments questioned the need to have a gathering space.  One suggestion would let the developer decide as long as there was 8% open space.  The developer could also decide whether the recreational space was privately or commonly owned.  Another comment supported having some lawn area for common space.  Mr. Molnar thought commonly owned made sense when there were significant natural features like a creek corridor or wetland.  Those areas were maintained and protected better over time and recommended retaining that language.  He clarified if the 8% had to be in a common area it could not be utilized for private patios.  It would reduce the number of patios and porches proposed in order to meet the 8% resulting in more stoops.
Commissioner Mindlin suggested not including door access, walkways or door swings and making the space private but more usable.  Mr. Molnar thought the Commission could require a base on minimal use of space using a dimension of not less than 6 feet.  Commissioner Mindlin added they needed to define the exclusions for paths to the doors with a minimum area to one side or the other.  Usable was defined as a minimum of 6x8 feet.  Chair Pearce thought if the Commission wanted to preserve common open space they could address the design issue by giving people a credit of 50% or 60% for private open spaces.
Commissioner Mindlin noted a possible equality of access issue in multiple story complexes.  If all common space was private, the upstairs residents might not have any.  Mr. Molnar responded if it was private there could be a distribution standard where each unit had to have some.  It could be a porch or a deck.
Commissioner Brown cautioned aggregating responsibilities to developers.  They should be allowed to go as far as reasonable in order to provide a livable environment.  Requirements needed to be defined clearly so the City could say no if necessary.
Planning Commission majority wanted the code clarified on the 8% requirement for open space.  They wanted to continue applying it as it had been with options on common, private, or partially common and private space.  Porches and decks included in the 8% could not have obstructions.  Walkways should not go towards the 8% open space.  The Commission wanted open space, common open space, recreational open space, and private open space defined and in the Definitions section of the code.  Permitted use as OS open space should be classified as parks because it was public open space. 
Meeting adjourned at 8:22 p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

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