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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

May 22, 2018
Chair Roger Pearce 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 Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
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:
    Dennis Slattery, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar discussed the Planning Commission retreat date and time with the Commission.  They agreed on June 22, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  Staff would work on a meeting venue. 
The public hearing for the Transit Triangle would happen at the Planning Commission meeting June 12, 2018.  The first reading of the Accessory Residential Units Amendments would occur at the City Council meeting June 19, 2018.  The Planning Commission would have the public hearing on the Wildfire Code Amendments June 26, 2018.  It would go before City Council in July.  A discussion on a vertical housing building zone was tentatively scheduled for a City Council study session on August 6, 2018. 
Huelz Gutcheon/Ashland/Explained carbon offset and how the government and oil companies affected the progress of renewable energy in the 1990s into the 2000s.  He commented on the 20-year contract the City had with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the need to turn everything electric to meet the 10x20 requirements.
  1. Ashland Transit Triangle – Infill Strategies Project
Chair Pearce explained the matter was originally noticed as a public hearing.  However, Fregonese and Associates had to cancel and the public hearing was continued to the June 12, 2018 meeting.  Planning Manager Maria Harris would send an email to everyone who attended the Open House December 11, 2017, and the Stakeholder meeting December 12, 2017.  Since the continuation was not noticed in the paper, Chair Pearce opened the Public Hearing for anyone interested in speaking. 
Public Testimony
Debbie Miller/Ashland/Her concern with the Transit Triangle presentations was the emphasis on what Portland had done.  She wanted to know what cities of 20,000 to 40,000 had done and the impacts they experienced.  That was her one concern with adopting the plan.
Ms. Harris provided a presentation on the Transit Triangle.  Background on the project included:
2015 City Council Strategic Plan
  • 5.2.a Pursue affordable housing opportunities, especially workforce housing.  Identify specific incentives for developers to build more affordable housing.
  • 13.2 Develop infill and compact urban form policies.
  • 18.2 Develop and encourage alternative transportation options.
2012 Greater Bear Creek Valley Regional Plan
  • No areas identified for urban growth boundary expansion.
  • Minimum of 6.6 dwelling units per gross acre.
Reasons to change the Land Use Ordinance:
Market feasibility model shows under current zoning and development standards:
  • Large residential units.
  • Residential rates exceed market rates.
  • Commercial rents are too low to make construction feasible.
Tested changes in requirements for residential density, number of stories, required parking and landscaping coverage:
  • Increased number of residential units.
  • Decrease in size of residential units.
  • Rents decreased.
Transit Triangle Overlay
  • New Chapter 18.3.14
  • Optional not mandatory.  If elect to use overlay, have to meet all requirements of 18.3.14.
  • Residential units must be rentals.
  • Hotel/Motel and Travelers’ Accommodations prohibited.
Commercial/Residential Split
  • C-1 and E-1:  50% of ground floor in permitted uses (non-residential).
  • R-2 and R-3:  60 square feet of retail, restaurant or office permitted for each residential unit.
Dimensional Standards in Overlay Option
  • Maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR)
  • C-1 and E-1:  1.5 FAR
  • R-2 and R-3:  1.25 FAR
  • Building Height
  • C-1 and E-1:  50 feet or 4 stories
  • R-2 and R-3:  20 percent
  • Landscape Area
  • C-1 and E-1:  no change, stays at 15 percent
  • R-2 and R-3:  20 percent
  • Open Space
  • C-1 and E-1:  no change, does not apply
  • R-2 and R-3:  not required
  • Building Separation
  • C-1 and E-1:  no change, does not apply
  • R-2 and R-3:  not required
  • Yards (setbacks)
  • C-1 and E-1:  no change
  • R-2 and R-3:  5-foot minimum for front yard
  • Building Step Back
  • Street side or within 25 feet of residential zone.
  • Any portion of building over 25 feet must be stepped back 10’.
  • Or a combination of articulation, offsets, setback, angles or curves to reduce building mass on at least 25 percent of frontage.
Graphics of C-1 and E-1 with 10-foot step back
The graphic showing the step back was difficult to discern.  The Commission suggested depicting the image from a higher elevation to capture the depth of the step back.  Other comments noted the sidewalk trees were mature and would reach the third story windows, further blocking the view from the street.
Graphics of R-2 and R-3
Parking under Overlay Option
  • 1 space for units less than 800 sq. ft.
  • Parking not required for first 1250 sq. ft. of retail, restaurant or office
Other Amendments
  • Deleted requirement in C-1 and E-1 for affordable units for projects over 10 residential units.
This requirement proved ineffective.  Developers at times would submit plans for 10 units or less to avoid adding affordable units.
  • Micro-car parking standard
Next Steps
June 12:                PC Public Hearing
August 7:              City Council Public Hearing
More info:   
Commissioner Thompson thought Fregonese and Associates had conducted a feasibility model in relation to lower building heights in response to concerns of going to four stories.  Ms. Harris explained Mr. Fregonese had brought several iterations of each site and building to a previous meeting.   Commissioner Thompson also thought the Commission had wanted the analysis to alleviate concerns regarding building height.  The analysis would have determined if there was a framework to evaluate losses in terms of rental rates and unit size.  Commissioner Mindlin was sure they had already provided that information.  Ms. Harris clarified they had analyzed all the existing R-1, R-2 and R-3 stories in the first phase. The analysis revealed the projected rental costs were not sustainable.  She would include those comparisons in the future.  The last report addressed going to four stories in the C-1 and E-1 zones and showed the tradeoffs if they stayed at three stories.
Commissioner Mindlin wanted the rationale for not requiring parking for first 1200 square feet.  Ms. Harris explained the units were on a bus route to attract people who might not use a car.  It was a walkable environment with urban style living.  With residential and commercial uses the expectation was some cars would leave during the day and free up spaces.
Commissioner Mindlin noted the table on page 4 for Maximum Height.  Feet/stories indicated 3 stories for C-1 and E-1 and four for R-2 and R-3.  Ms. Harris would correct the table.  Commissioner Thompson added on page 6, item 2 under B/ R-2 and R-3 zones, should read “…a half or greater…” instead of “…a half and are or greater…”
Commissioner Norton thought the 1.25 and 1.5 FAR was new information.  He wanted examples of existing projects along Ashland Street and Siskiyou Boulevard that were close to the FAR proposed in the draft ordinance.  Parking concerned him as well.  There was no parking on Ashland Street.  Siskiyou Boulevard had parking turnouts that were typically filled with cars avoiding university parking fees.  He recognized 1.25 and 1.5 FAR was only seven feet higher. 
Staff explained the purpose of the project was creating an environment with a mix of housing to support transit and be more viable in terms of walkability.  Most of the buildings on Ashland Street were one story.  This was a different design palate.  Fregonese and Associates was proposing a maximum FAR.  Ashland did not have a maximum.  They had a minimum FAR of .25.  The Commission discussed floor area ratio with staff in 2016.  Commissioner Mindlin added the discussion had been about using floor area ratio instead of density.
Commissioner Thompson had a slight concern exempting commercial units from the first 1200 square feet.  Mr. Molnar explained the residential occupants would vacate spaces during the day.  Chair Pearce noted it could be shared parking.  Mr. Molnar added shared was implied by the ordinance but they could make the language clear the expectation was shared parking.  Commissioner Brown doubted there would be much commercial or office space in the area and gave North Mountain as an example.
Another concern from Commissioner Thompson was adequate compatibility with the rest of the environment.  Mr. Molnar used Fire Station II as an example of a two-story building in a multifamily zone.  Commissioner Thompson questioned if it was really an urban concept they were juxtaposing into a little strip and would it look mismatched.  Commissioner Dawkins explained the point was where to place the added density.  It would have an urban feel.  There were very few houses directly behind the proposed units.  Alternately, there was no east-west passage through the triangle.  It was something that should have been identified in the TSP as part of the Safe Routes to School.
Commissioner Norton did not think the extra seven or 10- feet would create a huge urban environment.  The urban feel would come from the increase in traffic.  He asked if anyone had looked at the traffic capacity.  It could add up over the years and have a negative impact in the future.  Commissioner Mindlin commented Ashland had decided not to expand their growth boundary and chose infill instead.    
Commissioner Thompson wanted to know what would prevent someone from selling the units as condominiums.  Chair Pearce explained the City regulated condominiums differently from multifamily rentals.  Mr. Molnar further explained in order to sell the units they would have to submit a condominium survey.  They would not be permitted to plat a condominium.  The improvements would stay on one lot.  They would not be able to divide the airspace.  Chair Pearce thought that was the intention of the Overlay.  It discriminated heavily against condominiums and pertained to short-term hotels and vacation rentals.  Someone could come back for a variance but it would be very difficult.  It would prohibit anything rented for less than thirty days. 
Chair Pearce noted D. Special Use Standards(1)(a) on page 3 discriminated against residential on the ground floor.  He thought the intention was no more than 50% of the ground floor square footage in all buildings combined.
Staff responded it was 50% of the total lot area.  It looked at parking, landscaping and the buildings.  The standard had been in place for a long time.  Staff had proposed different wording for Council but at the time, they did not want it changed.  It tended to apply to larger sites.  There were questions on whether it was dealing with the amount of square footage.  Chair Pearce thought staff should review it again.
This was an opportunity to revisit the FAR definition.  The definition currently stated FAR was the floor covered by the floor above.  He asked staff to also review the definition of story as well.  Staff and the Commission discussed the definition of story currently in the code.
Chair Pearce continued the Public Hearing to June 12, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers.
Meeting adjourned at 8:04 p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

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