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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

August 28, 2018
Chair Roger Pearce called the meeting to order at 7:03 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Michael Dawkins
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Troy Brown, Jr.
  Dennis Slattery
Community Development Director Bill Molnar  announced the City Council passed First Reading of the Wildfire Mitigation Ordinance at their meeting August 21, 2018.  Second Reading would occur September 4, 2018.  The Planning Commission would hear an appeal on PA-T1-2018-00011 294 Skycrest Drive at their meeting September 11, 2018.  They would also hear a proposal for an apartment complex off of Park Street.  A Public Hearing on the Transit Triangle would happen at the City Council meeting September 18, 2018.
Joseph Kauth/Ashland/Spoke on the effects the Urban Heat Island was having on the Rogue Valley and wildlife.  He thought Senate HB-100 needed to be rewritten.
  1. Planning Commission Report on Infill Strategy Ordinance Amendments for the Transit Triangle (PA-L-2018-00001)
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained the main change to the ordinance was removing draft language about maximum unit size and minimal residential density.  On page 4, Table Transit Triangle Overlay Dimensional Standards under Residential Density (dwelling units/acre), staff added a minimum base for each of the zones in the Overlay.  Staff also corrected typographical errors on page 3 under C. Special Use Standards that carried throughout the document.
The Planning Commission Report summarized key issues the Commission reviewed and how the ordinance evolved over time.  It included draft findings in terms of why the legislative amendment was needed to respond to changing conditions.  It addressed some policy language and summarized recommendations.  It would go before the City Council September 18, 2018.
The Commission noted two non-substantial typographical errors on page 8 and page 10. 
Commissioners Thompson/Mindlin m/s to accept the Planning Commission Report with corrections as the Commissionís report to City Council on the Transit Triangle.  Voice Vote: all AYES.  Motion passed 5-0.
  1. Regional Plan:  Ashland Housing Strategies
Community Development Director Bill Molnar provided a presentation (see attached) that provided background on the Regional Housing Strategy. The objective was creating a regional plan for the Greater Bear Creek Valley area.  It was intended to focus on key problem areas and identify Urban Reserve Areas (URAís) to address these problems.
Ashland focused on three areas.  North Mountain and Interstate 5, a southeast quadrant east of upper Tolman Creek Road, and Bear Creek Terrace north of East Main Street.  In 2003, the City Council passed Resolution 2003-037 not to designate URAís.  In 2007, the City Council identified several issues that were ultimately addressed through the Regional Problem Solving (RPS) Plan.  With housing costs rising, they wanted the regional plan to include a commitment that would address housing using a regional approach. 
ECONorthwest, a land use consultant, was hired to prepare the Regional Housing Strategy.  They conducted audits of each participating city.  ECONorthwest reviewed comprehensive plans and land use ordinances to customize a specific approach for each participant. The strategies fell under one of five broader policies that included potential land use reforms.  It targeted achieving specific levels of affordable housing.  ECONorthwest determined the following land use reforms and affordable housing strategies:
  1. Improve the efficiency of residential land use by increasing the concentration of housing under certain circumstances
  2. Increase opportunity for development of housing types that are comparatively affordable
    1. Missing middle housing types (duplexes, townhouses, cottage housing, or garden apartments); and
  3. Increase land use efficiency and provide opportunities for development of comparatively affordable housing.
The draft had five policies:
Policy 1: Provide a variety of housing types in Ashland that are more affordable to middle-income households, as well as provide opportunities for development of housing affordable to moderate and low-income households.
The City could identify areas appropriate for up-zoning to develop moderate and higher density housing.  It could allow manufactured home parks in the R-1-3.5 and R-3 zones and provide areas for mobile homes.   
Policy 2: Encourage development of new multifamily in areas zoned for multifamily housing and commercial areas by increasing the amount and density of multifamily development.
ECONorthwest suggested implementing the zoning overlay from the Ashland Transit Triangle project.  The City could evaluate opportunities to up-zone land in R-2 and R-3 zones by increasing base density and not setting a maximum density.
Policy 3: Monitor residential land development to ensure there is enough residential land to accommodate the long-term forecast for population growth.
The City could achieve this by updating the Buildable Lands Inventory every 2-3 years.  The City currently did this but not within the recommended timeframe.
Policy 4: Develop policies to support affordable housing by lowering the costs of housing development for low-income affordable housing and/or middle-income affordable housing.
The City could evaluate a tax abatement program like the multiple-unit limited tax exemption and the vertical housing tax credit programs.  Another suggestion was developing a program to finance or defer payments of Transportation System Development Charges (SDCs) and other fees to support selected housing types.  The City needed to evaluate Oregonís Inclusionary Zoning program.  This applied to single owner multifamily structures with at least 20 units. 
Policy 5: Develop a Construction Excise Tax (CET) on new development to pay for developer incentives, such as fee and SDC waivers, tax abatements or finance-based incentives.
Cities could adopt 1% of the permit valuation on residential, commercial, and industrial construction.  Ashland could also look at urban renewal to contribute towards a portion of costs for housing and identify other sources of funding.  Currently, the Housing Trust Fund received local tax from marijuana sales that supported affordable housing.
Now that each city had a tailored regional plan and strategy, next was ensuring implementation.  ECONorthwest suggested cities formally acknowledged their specific strategies and revised policies.  The Housing Element did not get into detail of specific strategies.  The state was pushing cities to adopt it as part of their Comprehensive Plan and not set a timeline.  Next steps were taking the strategies through the public hearing process.
Not all cities agreed on how the regional and local adoption process would occur.  The Regional Plan took a long time to adopt and then five years transpired before developing the Regional Housing Strategy.  The original commissions and councils had changed.
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained the Regional Plan was currently a chapter in the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the Planning Commission a while back.  The discussion was adding general language describing the strategy and process for the whole region.  Staff suggested adding the Ashland Housing Strategy as a technical appendix to the Comprehensive Plan that would get updated over time.  The general language added for the Comprehensive Plan chapter on the Regional Plan had not been developed yet.
The City could handle it two ways.  One by prioritizing and establishing timelines.  Or it could be adopted with general language on how it would be prioritized in the future.  It would require ordinance modifications by zone.
The Commission had already worked on three items that addressed the Regional Housing Strategy.  The Transit Triangle, Accessory ARUís in the R-1 zone and Cottage Housing.
Mr. Molnar explained cottage housing was recommended but the City adopted that separately.  The strategy involved land use code amendments and other programs not necessarily in the code.  All code amendments had to be initiated by a majority vote of either the Commission then the Council.    
Commission comment suggested prioritizing the strategies and bringing it to the Council.  Concern was voiced that it may imply the City was supposed to do all of the items.  Ms. Harris explained each strategy was probably implemented and used in every participating community differently.  Through the regional planning process some identified urban reserve areas and were actively bringing them into their city limits for development.  The Regional Housing Strategy would have cities consider some of the items on their list first.  Ashland was not looking to bring in more land.  The state wanted to ensure that land was used efficiently.
The Commission commented on the importance of character and livability in developments and provided examples.  Other concerns were out of state buyers purchasing moderately affordable homes instead of locals due to wage disparity.  Commission comment thought there needed to be a clear understanding of the goals.  There was concern regarding manufactured home parks and the need to have a study.  Mr. Molnar clarified a Housing Needs Study occurred in 2012 that showed Ashlandís projected need.  The difficulty was the areas manufactured home parks would go was so valuable it would not achieve affordable housing.
Another concern was the valuation of impact of these changes in the historic zones.  The requirements on developers in Action 2.c were problematic.  The Commission should evaluate how that worked in the Transit Triangle.
The Buildable Lands Inventory was in compliance although most of the land was not easy to develop.  Affordable housing was not a justification for annexation.  The Buildable Lands Survey indicated the City did not need single family housing.  A suggestion would have annexation for a slate of small home strategies as a justification to annex land.
Mr. Molnar explained there was $1.7 million in the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) for housing planning studies.  The DLCD were giving priority to communities considered to have severely burdened rental housing.   They defined that as a community having 25% or more renter households paying 50% or more of their monthly income for rent.  In Ashland, 35% of renter households exceeded that mark.  The state would fund additional work in the following four categories:
  1. Buildable Lands Inventory
  2. Housing Needs Analysis
  3. Code audit
  4. Specific implementation actions regarding rental housing
This was on a fast track and had to be completed by June 2019.  The Housing Needs Analysis showed over the last 20 years that building permit data was heavily weighted towards issuing permits for single family ownership homes.  It was lucrative building purchased homes and the market was not producing rental housing.  Commission comment noted many single family homes were rented.  Other comments supported applying for the funds to audit the code.  One inquiry wanted to know the minimum required to meet state law and expressed concern regarding infrastructure.
One suggestion was determining how much low income housing and middle income housing the City wanted to create then setting targets and developing strategies to meet that volume.  Another suggestion would have a volume ordinance with a stipulation that once land was purchased it could not be increased more than 10%.
The Commission was interested in discussing the matter in more detail.
  1. Set a standard Planning Commission Retreat date
The Commission agreed to a standard retreat occurring the second Saturday of May.  They tentatively scheduled May 11, 2019 for the next retreat.  They would discuss it further when there was a full commission.
Meeting adjourned at 8:29 p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

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