Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Electronic Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Draft Minutes
January 25, 2022

I.              CALL TO ORDER: 7:00 PM, via Zoom
Chair Haywood Norton called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Commissioners Present:                                      Staff Present:
Michael Dawkins                                                      Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Haywood Norton                                                     Brandon Goldman, Planning Manager
Roger Pearce                                                            Derek Severson, Senior Planner
Lynn Thompson                                                       April Lucas, Development Services Coordinator 
Lisa Verner                                                                Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant                                                                                                                                                                                      

Absent Members:                                                   Council Liaison:

Kerry KenCairn                                                                Paula Hyatt

Community Development Director Bill Molnar made the following announcements:

  • At the January 4, 2022 City Council meeting Staff provided an update to the Council regarding the work done by the Planning Commission in developing the ordinance to create more housing in E-1 and C-1 zones. The City Council will hold its first public hearing on the ordinance at the February 1, 2022 meeting.
  • Staff had a preliminary meeting for the Housing Production Strategy which examined various strategies that the City of Ashland could adopt to meet its long-term housing needs. The Housing Production Strategy is an eight-year plan which will be developed through April 2023. Beth Goodman and her team at ECONorthwest will present a tentative timeline and scope for the project to the Planning Commission in February or March. Mr. Molnar invited members of the Commission to contact himself and Chair Norton if they wished to serve on the Housing Production Strategy advisory committee, which will meet likely meet six times over a nine-month period.
  • There are currently two hearings planned for the February 8th Planning Commission meeting: 1) A request for a minor Comprehensive Plan Map correction to clarify the City of Ashland’s Urban Growth Boundary for four properties located at 375 & 475 East Nevada Street, and 2) An application for a Physical and Environmental constraints review permit for the construction of a new single-family residential home on hillside lands with severe constraints for the vacant parcel at 329 Granite Street. 

III.            PUBLIC FORUM
The Commission heard from two prospective applicants for the vacant Planning Commission seat, Eric Navickas and Doug Knaur.
               A.  Croman Mill District Plan Update -  Townmakers LLC.
The Commission heard a proposal from Townmakers, LLC regarding the former Croman Mill site. Their team was comprised of:

Development:                                                           Planning:
Mike Weinstock, Developer                                       Michael Mehaffy, Urban Planner
Alan Harper, Land use Legal Advisor                       Laurance Qamar, CNU-A Urban Designer
                                                                                        Darren Sandeno, Engineering Planner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Applicant Presentation:
Urban Planner Michael Mehaffy presented a slideshow detailing Townmakers’ plans to create a new mixed-use neighborhood on the former Croman Mill site. This new neighborhood would comprise approximately five hundred new homes, and include bike paths, walkways, community gardens, and enclosed greenways that would connect the community. The nearly sixty-five-acre neighborhood would be made up of light-industrial, mixed-use buildings and affordable housing from single apartments to family dwellings. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as market trends towards an increase in remote work, Townmakers, LLC. hopes to create a neighborhood that includes small businesses, workshops, and dwellings that allow for an increased opportunity for its residents to work from home. The proposal would be to create a neighborhood in which one could live, work, and engage in recreational activities all within the community, while still being connected to the greater city (See Attachment #1).
The Planning Commission asked the following questions of the design team:

  • What makes the applicant believe residents of the Croman Mill district are actually going to work there, and vice versa?
This is the perceived market trend; people want to work close to where they live and that live-work-play mentality is increasingly in demand.
  • How does the applicant define affordable housing?
Affordable housing as described in the Ashland code, and more broadly on “attainable housing,” meaning that the Croman Mill site would include housing aimed at residents with diverse ages, ethnicities, and incomes.
  • If the cottages focus around courtyards and non-parking areas, where would residents park?
There would be parking in the back alleyways, but also walk-in parking from the streets will allow that ease of access to residents. The applicant directed attention to neighborhoods in Seattle and other cities in the Southwest that had effectively used this design.
  • Would this new multi-dimensional district compete with the Ashland main street and plaza area?
The new district would act as a secondary and complimentary node to the downtown area. The applicant stressed that because downtown Ashland contained the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Lithia Park that there would be limited overlap between these two districts.
  • Do the applicants have a breakdown of the number and types of units that would be built?
The current plan attempts to predict the needs of the market, but will need to remain flexible to account for potential market changes in the future. The Croman Mill site is predicted to accommodate approximately five hundred new homes, with 50% being multi-family housing, 25% for single-family detached housing, and the remaining 25% would be attached row homes. There will also be accessory dwellings attached to dwellings and larger buildings. The applicant clarified that there would be no traditional apartment buildings, and that each residential block would include a mix of dwellings to increase diversity within each zone.
  • How many acres would need to be annexed to create the district, and would Ashland affordable housing codes triggered by the annexation then take effect over the whole project?
Roughly seven acres would need to be annexed.
Senior Planner Brandon informed the Commission that the Ashland housing affordability code would trigger when changing from a commercial to residential zone, and that the remaining area would then be subject to these affordability requirements.
  • Will apartment buildings exist in the Croman Mill Site? The Commission noted several large-scale properties in the build plans. It was also pointed out that due to the high cost of houses in Ashland apartments were becoming the desired and more affordable option for many Ashland residents. Additionally, would these apartment buildings be available for purchase or kept as rentals?
In the current market the long-term plan is to retain the rental apartments as income producing properties.
  • Regarding the division of the dwellings, at what point would developing expensive, detached single-family dwellings cease and instead move to more affordable apartment buildings?

With past projects TownMakers LLC started with detached houses, but very quickly moved to Row-houses and flats above stores. The goal is price diversity, even if one kind would be more profitable. As time goes on this sort of community would become more valuable if it were diversified. The current plan would be to combine differently priced units throughout the neighborhood and not separate lower-income and higher-income homes within the district.

  • Councilor Paula Hyatt thanked the applicants and the Commission for their discussion on affordable housing, particularly around the topic of the 80%-120% Area Median Income (AMI) housing and rental units. Councilor Hyatt that asked with regards to cyclists, what type of lane structures are being considered to protect them on the road? Additionally, are there any current considerations for child-care services?

The roads would be designed to create slow-moving traffic, so the goal would be to integrate cycling and street traffic rather than diverting cyclists to a separate bike lane. This also reduces the required width of roadways. However, two routes are being considered as dedicated bike lanes. One would come down the center of the community on either side of the central greenway, while the other would travel along the railway. Further discussion would be required. As for childcare, that could be potentially located within one of the neighborhood courtyards where it would be protected from traffic. This would create a safe, closed environment for children.

Public Testimony
Saraya Lumbreras/Ms. Lumbreras thanked the Commission and the applicants for their work in developing the Croman Mill site. She requested that all development on the plot be made will all renewable energy to safeguard the community from the effects of climate change. She cited her personal experience in witnessing her family’s struggle with health issues, as well as the Rocky Mountain Institute and the De Mayo Clinic in describing the negative health effects caused by fossil fuels. According to these studies it was found that in households burning gasses, such as those used in stoves and gas heating, produced fifty to four-hundred times more carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide than fully electric homes. Because of this in many instances short and long-term nitrogen dioxide levels in homes with gas stoves exceeded outdoor EPA air quality limits. Ms. Lumbreras concluded by requesting that the City of Ashland move to 100% renewable energy for city use and in development of the Croman Mill site (See Attachment #2).

Anya Moore/Ms. Moore thanked the Commission for its work in the City of Ashland. She requested that the Planning Commission recommend to the City Council adopt formal electrification policies, immediately work to reduce gas emissions, and ensure that all future developments in Ashland are done with renewable energy. According to the 2021 State of Oregon Biennial Report nearly one-third of the state’s carbon emissions are a result of households that rely upon fossil fuels. Approved in 2017, Ashland’s Climate and Energy Action plan sought to end the city’s reliance on fossil fuels by 2050. Ms. Moore emphasized that, on its current trajectory, Ashland would not be able to meet these goals unless it committed to adopting formal electrification policies, immediately reduced carbon emissions, and ensured that all future development was purely electric (See Attachment 3).

Mira Saturen/Ms. Saturen thanked the Commission and applicants for their work for Ashland and the opportunity to speak. She requested that the Croman Mill site be developed to run solely on renewable energy, citing the health benefits for citizens, climate, and the potential jobs such a policy would create. She suggested that homes built running on renewable energy saw a reduction in housing costs over the household’s lifetime, and eliminated the necessary cost of transitioning to renewable energy in the future. Ms. Saturen further detailed the effects of climate change already seen in Jackson County, including reduced snowpack and the increase in seasonal fires. She stated that to combat this Ashland needs to commit to eliminating its reliance on fossil fuels and adopt renewable energy policies (See Attachment 4).

Dana Greenblatt/Ms. Greenblatt thanked the applicants for their presentation and the Commission’s work for the City of Ashland. She stated that she is a member of the Rogue Action Group, a non-profit that focuses on social issues such as housing. She expressed support for development of the Croman Mill site, and emphasized the growing need for affordable housing in Ashland that has seen many residents priced out of the city in recent years. She detailed Ashland’s demand for additional housing, particularly for extremely low-income households. Ms. Greenblatt conveyed her understanding that one development site could not be expected to solve the housing issues that afflict Ashland, but hoped that the applicants would do all they could to help alleviate them.
Chair Norton thanked the participants for their public comments and, citing the size of the project, hoped that more residents will submit comments in the future. He also expressed a concern that between the numerous greenways, alleyways, and open spaces, that there would be limited parking available in the neighborhood. He reminded the applicants that the City of Ashland would only be responsible for the roadways within the neighborhood, and that the upkeep for the greenways, lawns, pond, and amphitheater necessitated caretaking by a local Homeowners Association, which would further increase the cost of living in the district.

Mr. Weinstock and Mr. Mehaffy stressed their goal of exploring renewable energy alternatives in the development of the district, and described two energy-saving methods that TownMakers, LLC. are considering: Passive House Construction, which would reduce the energy cost of HVAC units by between 80-90%, and Geothermal energy. Mr. Mehaffy also reiterated their commitment to providing affordable housing and will go into further detail at a later date.

V.            ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 9:06 p.m.

Submitted by,
Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant

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