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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

October 24, 2017
Chair Roger Pearce called the meeting to order at 7:01 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
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Haywood Norton   Dennis Slattery
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the Wildfire Mitigation working group would meet Thursday, October 26, 2017, regarding the wildfire ordinance and public outreach.  The City Council would have a public hearing and first reading of the cottage housing ordinance at the November 7, 2017, Council meeting.
  1. Implementation of Infill Strategies for Ashland Transit Triangle
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained during the last visit from John and Scott Fregonese from Fregonese and Associates they described the factors that limited the amount and type of development in the Transit Triangle.  They focused their analysis on Ashland Street.  At that time, they suggested changes to the land use ordinance.  Since then, they had incorporated feedback received from the Planning Commission and Council and were presenting an updated draft at this meeting. 
John Fregonese explained projected commercial rents were too low to make new construction feasible in the Transit Triangle area.  In addition, current rental rates exceeded the rental market.  Rental rates were not affordable for median income households. 
Rogue Valley Transit District (RVTD) Route 10 ran through the study area.  The Transit Triangle had vacant land and land that could be redeveloped.  The area also had shopping, public facilities and neighborhoods within walking distance.  The plan met City Council Goals 13.2 Develop infill and compact urban form policies, 12. Be proactive in using best practices in infrastructure management and modernization, and 21.2 Expand public transportation options.
Demographics indicated one and two-person households represented a large and growing share of the housing.  Ashland population was mostly teens, people in their twenties and over 50. The average median income for a two-person household was approximately $51,000.  Affordable rent for that income would be $1,200 a month.  Only 46% of the population could afford $1,200 a month for rent.  It was difficult to build new housing that was not subsided for $700-$800 a month.  Building market rate housing could take the pressure off affordable use.  The City could also use an incentive for affordable units through various programs.
Monthly rent trends indicated a slight increase.  All rents for 1-2 bedrooms had stabilized at approximately $1000 a month for existing structures.  One bedroom units were renting the same as the two-bedroom units possibly due to demand.   
Zoning in the Transit Triangle was basically C-1 and E-1.  The R-2 and R-3 zones consisted of low density garden style apartments.   
In addition to the zoning, there was a Pedestrian Places Overlay and a Detail Site Review Overlay.  Mr. Fregonese suggested replacing those overlays with the Transit Overlay.  The Transit Overlay would include many of the features in the Pedestrian Place Overlay and Detail Site Review Overlay. 
Current zoning allowed 35-feet or 2.5 stories for R-2 and R-3 zones, and 45-feet for E-1 and C-1.  Parking requirements included 1-2 spaces per unit for R-2 and R-3 zones.  Parking for E-1 was 2 spaces per 1,000 square feet (sq. ft.). and C-1 allowed 2.8 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft.
The biggest problem they had found was using the low dwelling units per acre.  The landscaping percentage and lot coverage percentage limited the number of units.  Because the volume per acre was so low relative to what could be built, the incentive to the developer was building the largest possible unit within those restrictions.  Instead of using the dwelling units per acre limit, Fregonese and Associates recommended using a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limit instead and letting the developer choose the apartment size that best matched the market.
The other possible issue was the landscape requirement in R-2 was fairly large.  A street like Ashland Street needed more pedestrian friendly plazas instead of lawn and landscaping.   Streetscape Improvements would make the area more walkable and desirable, increasing demand and leading to higher rents.
Building Solutions included:
  • Adopt the Transit Triangle Overlay.
  • R-2 & R-3 zones: 
  • Allow 3 story buildings with a stepback at 45-feet.
  • Reduce landscaping to 20%.
  • Limit building intensity by FAR to 1.25 instead of units per acre.
  • Allow limited mixed use.
  • Reduce parking for small apartments to space per unit.
  • Do not require parking in mixed-use buildings for the first 2,000 square feet of commercial use.
  • C-1 & E-1 zones:
  • Allow 4 story buildings with a stepback if adjacent to a residential zone.
  • Keep landscaping at 15%.
  • Limit building intensity by FAR to 1.5 FAR instead of units per acre.
  • Encourage mixed-use.
  • Reduce parking for apartments less than 800 sq. ft. to 1 space per unit.
2016 Legislative Session added the following for affordable housing:
  • Inclusionary units can be 20% of units for projects of 20 units or more. 
  • The City must offer one of the following financial incentives:  Fee waivers, SDC waivers, Finance based incentives, Property tax exemptions.
  • The City can offer the following zoning incentives:  Density adjustments, expedited service for local permitting processes, modification of height, floor area or other site-specific requirements, other incentives as determined by the city or county.
  • The City could impose a 1% construction excise tax to fund affordable housing.
Fregonese and Associates would modify the proposal and bring it back in December for a public meeting and stakeholder interviews.  They would attend a City Council Study Session early 2018 then begin the formal adoption process with the Planning Commission followed by City Council.
The intention of not requiring parking in mixed use for the first 2,000 sq. ft. was that tenants would not be home when peak retail use occurred.  Demand curves offset each other.  However, adding a little more parking might work.
Mr. Fregonese confirmed the sidewalk and pedestrian area in front of the proposed building were standard widths.  Vertical housing deferred property tax in exchange for the housing benefits.  It was an abatement.  Affordable housing did not get built without some form of subsidy.  The City would manage the affordable aspect as a reporting requirement.  Chair Pearce added there were a couple levels the City could get a deferral for in vertical housing.  Mr. Fregonese clarified vertical housing required ground floor commercial and had to be designated in a zone near transit.
Streetscape improvements would be a Council policy decision.  Mr. Fregonese thought it should be part of the capital improvement plan.  Mr. Molnar added the Transportation System Plan (TSP) included streetscape improvements of certain block areas.  Public Works would update the TSP soon.
Commission comments expressed concern with parking putting pressure on the side streets, having more cement and less green space, and potential stormwater issues.  Mr. Fregonese would look into parking for the next iteration of the proposal.  Another concern was the potential of selling the units as condominiums instead of rentals in a mixed-use area.  Mr. Fregonese responded the Planning Commission could regulate condo conversion. Additional concern was the potential of the unit becoming a vacation rental by owner (VRBO).  It was a zoning issue.  Mr. Molnar added it required a conditional use permit to have a hotel/motel unit.  Staff would look at the zoning code and determine what was appropriate.  Mr. Fregonese noted the 30-day or more rental restriction throughout town.  Mr. Molnar commented the Commission could exclude hotel/motel use.
One Commission comment wanted to see larger units to accommodate families.  Mr. Fregonese explained they could have a two bedroom at 800 sq. ft. and still get the benefit of lower parking.  Three bedroom units would require additional parking.  A Commission observation noted this was a two-component market.  As new smaller units became available, some people would move from larger units, freeing that up for families. 
Mr. Fregonese would add one or two 3 bedroom units, see how it affected the model, and bring it back for Commission review.
  1. Revisions to Accessory Residential Unit Development Standards
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained the objective was making it easier to accommodate an accessory residential unit within an existing building on a constrained building site.  Community Development Director Bill Molnar added there was a large supply of single family homes.  This was an opportunity to create flexibility for households to convert extra space into an accessory dwelling unit.  The benefit was no changes to the house or the neighborhood.  This type of accessory unit was often more economical as well. 
Ms. Harris confirmed the way the code was written, the owner had to work within the footprint of the house that was in place when the ordinance was adopted.  A residence could not have a detached ARU and an ARU within the footprint.
Commission discussed people adding stories to their homes.  They did not want an owner to build out to the maximum capacity of the lot.  Mr. Molnar noted the code regarding lot coverage would not change.  Other Commission comment supported extending a home out or up.
A potential issue with the existing ARU ordinance was site design required open space. Staff would look at some of the standards that applied to multifamily developments and open space.  The Planning Department sent draft amendments to the state per the 35-day requirement.  One comment from the state explained there was not a parking requirement for a unit less than 500 sq. ft. within an existing house.  Ms. Harris added the state was encouraging them not to require additional off-street parking for ARUs.  A Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) representative was in the process of forming a steering committee to make suggested standards or administrative rules.
Cottage housing could apply to R-2 and R-3 zones as well.  Generally, in R-2 and R-3, the ARUs were limited to 500 sq. ft. or smaller and only on lots that were not big enough to have multiple units.  It pertained to a small pool and there tended to be less on-street parking.  It made sense for the City to start with the R-1 zones first.
Councilor Slattery suggested having a brochure that easily explained the steps and requirements for having an ARU.   
Ms. Harris explained the current permitting fees for a 750 square foot unit was approximately $10,000 and $7,500 for a 500 sq. ft.  Councilor Slattery thought they should consider giving a deferment for someone who would keep the rent for an ARU at a certain rate for a specific time. 
Commission and staff discussed history on multiple units within a home, and whether a cap was necessary.
Meeting adjourned at 8:22 p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

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