Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission & HHSC Joint Mtg

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

April 23, 2019

Audio Recording
Chair Roger Pearce called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
Planning Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Alan Harper
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Linda Reid, Housing Program Specialist
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

Housing & Human Services Commissioners Present:    
Jackie Bachman
Sue Crader
Heidi Parker
Linda Reppond
Rich Rohde
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Erin Crowley
Thomas Gunderson
Gina DuQuenne
  Stefani Seffinger, absent
Dennis Slattery, absent

Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained the City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s decision regarding cottage housing on 476 North Laurel Street at their meeting, April 16, 2019.

Reverend Richenda Fairhurst/Ashland/Spoke on upholding funding for housing in Ashland.  The country was on a trajectory to create more poverty.  The City needed to fund housing beyond the current level.
  1.   Housing Strategy Implementation Plan
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman introduced Project Manager Becky Hewitt from ECONorthwest.  He provided a presentation that included:
  • Background on the Regional Problem Solving (RPS).
  • Problems the RPS meant to address.
  • Regional Housing Strategies.
  • The Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) Grant for “severe rent burden” cities that Ashland received.
  • The function of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the City had with the DLCD.
  • DLCD Grant objectives.
Staff wanted to complete the document by June 30, 2019 to meet the Grant parameters.  They would then start the land use process.  The Housing and Human Services Commission (HHSC) would have input on the timeline once staff started one.  The draft would go before the City Council at their meeting, May 6, 2019.  Comments from both Commissions during this meeting would go into the final version provided to the City before the deadline on June 30, 2019.
Staff discussed rezoning and annexation with the Commissions.  Rezoning property would be time consuming and controversial.  Alternately, annexation was typically property owner driven and did not selectively invite large tracks of land for housing.
Ms. Hewitt provided a presentation that included:
  • Potential changes to the development standards.
  • The multiple unit property tax exemption (MUPTE).
  • An overview of what ECONorthwest did with the RPS jurisdictions.
  • Obstacles to multi-family rental housing development.
  • Testing the zoning code.
  • Testing financial feasibility.
  • Property Tax Abatement.
  • Recommendations.
One comment addressed density that stated regarding recommendations to increase allowed density and consider a tax abatement program, the ECONorthwest analysis indicated that such changes would not produce the “rental mix” housing that was highly desired, particularly for families.  Rather, it appeared that they would incentivize small units, less than 500 square feet and rent-by-the-bedroom larger units which were what the Planning Commission was currently seeing.  Since this is occurring anyway, the incremental value of changes in zoning and tax abatements needed to be considered carefully in relation to the impacts and costs of incentivizing such developments.
Another comment stated the study appeared to indicate that it was not so much a shortage of units as the cost of multi-family rental units that was a problem.  Other items the Commissions discussed were:
  • Public opposition to high density developments in developed Ashland neighborhoods, particularly parking and traffic impacts.
  • Supply and pricing of rentals.
  • How new supply affected the overall housing market.
  • Generating enough value to cover costs.
  • Parking concerns.
  • Impacts to up-zoning certain zones.
  • Annexation policy changes to increase land availability and push prices down.
  • The City only incentivizing developments that met public need.
Ms. Hewitt would have a land costs comparison for the City Council meeting May 7, 2019.  She clarified
ECONorthwest was not recommending any reductions for parking.
In conclusion there was not much the City could do to overcome financing challenges for apartment development.  However, it could remove development code obstacles to multi-family development and offer financial incentives.
ECONorthwest recommendations included:
  • Increase densities in R-2 and R-3 zones.
  • Increase allowed height in R-3 from 2.5 to three stories.
  • Decrease multifamily parking requirements for smaller units specially.
  • Increase lot coverage allowances in R-2 and R-3 zones.
  • Revisit code to stream line multifamily infill.
  • Revise annexation policies: eliminate requirement to demonstrate <5-year land supply.
  • Advance discussions on property tax abatements with other taxing districts. 
Mr. Molnar explained changes to the annexation code that made it easier for affordable housing in the past had since been removed.  Mr. Goldman clarified the role mixed use could play in the housing strategy implementation plan.  Ms. Hewitt noted it cost more to do mixed use. 
Overall, both Commissions supported the recommendations made by ECONorthwest with several comments concerned with the tax abatement program.  Commissioners were invited to offer their reactions and the following were expressed by individual Commissioners:
  • The need for affordable housing for young families and workers living in Ashland.
  • People needed to be able to live and work in Ashland.
  • Support for increasing densities and height as long as it did not challenge solar access.
  • Opposed reducing lot coverage requirements.
  • Possibly incentivizing large pieces of land owned by the school district and various businesses for work force housing.
  • Concerns expressed about the recommendation to decrease parking requirements for multi-family housing.
  • Liked the public comment suggestion to increase story height in the railroad district.
  • Concern that 4-bedroom units had the same parking requirements as 3-bedroom units.
  • The need for more land.  Retaining current boundaries would increase the cost of land and rates.
  • The need to decide how much bulk was wanted in the R-2 and R-3 zones. 
  • Concern from developers that bonuses were complicated and difficult to comply with or use. 
  • Possibly having a tax abatement study.
  • Policies that incentivized land annexation within the UGB may be a desirable way to add multi-family including possibly affordable housing. 
Meeting adjourned at 9:11 p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

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