Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Electronic Planning Commission Regular Meeting

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

February 8, 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                                                            Aaron Anderson, Associate Planner
Lisa Verner                                                                                      April Lucas, Development Services Coordinator
Kerry KenCairn                                                             Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant

Absent Members:                                                       Council Liaison: 
None                                                                             Paula Hyatt, not present

Community Development Director Bill Molnar made the following announcements:
  • Mr. Molnar informed the Commission that an appeal had been filed to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) on its decision to approve PA-T1-2021-00158, 351 Walker. It is now incumbent upon the appellant to make their argument to LUBA.
  • Staff met with the TownMakers LLC design team following their January 25th presentation to the Commission. The design team was informed that legislative action was likely necessary before development plans could proceed.  
  • On February 1, 2022 the City Council had its first reading on the Housing in C-1 and E-1 Zones that had been recommended by the Commission at the December 14, 2021 meeting. The City Council decided to postpone a decision until the Chamber of Commerce could examine an economic diversification policy.
  • An appointment of a seventh member to the Planning Commission will be made by the City Council at the February 15 or March 1, 2022 meeting.
III.              CONSENT AGENDA
A.            Approval of Minutes
               1.      December 14, 2021 Regular Meeting
Commissioners Dawkins/KenCairn m/s to approve the December 14, 2021 Regular Meeting Minutes. Commissioner Verner abstained due to her absence from the meeting. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed. 5-0.

               2.     January 25, 2022 Study Session
Commissioners Verner/Thompson m/s to approve the January 25, 2022 Study Session Minutes. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed. 6-0.
IV.            PUBLIC FORUM - None
                           A.           PLANNING ACTION:  PA-T2-2022-00036                                 
                                         SUBJECT PROPERTY:  329 Granite St
                                         OWNER/APPLICANT:  Rogue Planning Services for Clarke
DESCRIPTION:  An application for a Physical and Environmental constraints review permit (P&E) for the construction of a new single-family residential home on hillside lands with severe constraints for the vacant parcel at 329 Granite Street. The application for the P&E includes a request for six different exceptions to the development standards. The development also requires a limited activity and uses permit in the Water Resource Protection Zone (WRPZ) for a driveway crossing an identified waterway, two variances for an allowance of the maximum grade of a driveway and an allowance to exceed the maximum lot coverage, and finally a tree removal permit for the removal of nineteen significant trees. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Woodland / LDR; ZONING: WR / RR-.5; MAP: 39 1E 08 EE, TAX LOT: 704
Ex parte contact
Commissioner KenCairn recused herself due to her presence on the design team. Commissioners Dawkins, Verner, and Norton conducted site visits; no ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Associate Planner Aaron Anderson presented the Commission with the Staff’s report on the development site plans. Mr. Anderson detailed the three main components of the plan; 1) a Physical and Environmental Constraints (P&E) review; 2) Limited Activity and Uses Permit for the Water Resources Protection Zone (WRPZ); 3) two Type II variances for lot coverage and driveway grade. Mr. Anderson also noted that the published packet listed six exceptions to the Hillside Standard, but that the standard relating to building envelopes in only applies to newly created lots, and would therefore not be included in the discussion.
Mr. Anderson gave a brief history of the parcel before moving on to the site and plan review. He identified the Twin Creek waterways that run through the property and the buffer zone around the creeks that the P&E and WRPZ maps refer to. He explained that despite the steep slopes of the hillside this site was required to be considered buildable for a single-family building or duplex as the code allows. The Buildable Land Inventory (BLI) designates the property as vacant and buildable for one unit, and in 2004 a Type I Land Use Action approved a P&E exception for the development of a driveway, but was never acted upon. Mr. Anderson then provided the Commission with site plans detailing the variances requested on the application, including exceptions to the maximum grade of a driveway and hillside building height (see Attachment #1). In addition, the plans call for a Tree Removal Permit for the removal of eighteen significant trees.
Mr. Anderson explained that the development called for three exceptions to the City’s Grading code: 1) currently the code allows for up to one hundred feet of driveway to be developed on 35% slopes, and this plan would call for nearly the entire driveway to exceed these standards; 2) retention in natural state standard be reduced from 89.57% to 69.3%; and 3) that the maximum cut slope and terracing of retaining walls be nearly double the fifteen foot maximum standard. There would also be two building design exceptions requested for downhill wall height limitations and horizontal building plane limitations.
Mr. Anderson informed the Commission that this proposal went before the Tree Commission on February 3, 2022 for review as it would require the removal of eighteen significant trees from both the driveway and building envelope. The Tree Commission reviewed the application and voted three-to-one to approve it.  He concluded by stating that Staff recognizes that the buildable lot has severe constraints and that it would be reasonable to anticipate that exceptions would be necessary to develop the property.
Questions of Staff
Commissioners Roger Pearce and Lynn Thompson commended Mr. Anderson on the quality of his presentation. Commissioner Thompson questioned Mr. Anderson about the intent of the grading code with regards to terracing and cut slope standards. Given that this proposal called for allowing nearly double the standard she questioned what the implication would be in approving these exceptions. Mr. Anderson stated the applicant’s civil engineer could speak to the exceptions but stated using smaller terraced sections could result in a much bigger disturbance to the site. Mr. Molnar added that this site is much steeper than the case studies that were evaluated when the Hillside Development Standards were adopted.
Applicant’s Presentation
The property owners Katie and Joe Clarke thanked the Commission, Staff, and their design team for the work put into this proposal.
Applicant Amy Gunter began by stating that despite the steep slope and difficult terrain her team would be able to develop the property with as little impact on the surrounding area as possible. She detailed the topographical differences between the map of the area used by Jackson County and the one used by her design team, including a difference of 56ft in the property’s stated height above sea level. She also noted that in examining the map there did not appear to be a more developable lot further down the hillside. She added that this area of the site had been chosen for being the flattest, most buildable location, while the driveway allowed emergency vehicle access to the property. Ms. Gunter stated that the structure would utilize step foundations to decrease the downhill wall height and to reduce mass, while also exceeding all required setbacks. She also noted that one of the trees marked for removal by the plan would now be retained.
Ms. Gunter outlined the WRPZ on the property around the Twin Creek waterways and detailed how the plans for the driveway had been structured to largely avoid interfering with the riparian habitat. Due to the nature of the terrain the greatest impact would be around the driveway switchback and turnaround, and the culvert beneath the driveway that would allow the creek to continue  running through the property. She pointed out that the northern branch of the stream was considered by her team to have a higher ecological value, and therefore the plans were designed to have as little impact on that region as possible. Ms. Gunter called attention to the code calling for a “hardship exception” to build structures in riparian habitat, but calls for a lesser review for driveways, indicating that such development would be acceptable in the region. With regards to the driveway she also pointed out that the average slope of the driveway would be around 15% and that the code appears to support exceptions to the maximum grade allowed in order to access more buildable property.
Ms. Gunter presented the Commission with written testimony from various experts who gave findings and opinions approving development. These included Geotechnical Engineers Robin Warren and Eric Swanson, Ashland Fire Chief Ralph Sartain, and Fire Code Professional Margueritte Hickman. Ms. Gunter noted the Fire Professional’s Opinion that development could provide additional fire protection through fuel reduction and by providing greater access to potential wildfires in the area (see Attachment #2).
Questions for the Applicant
Ms. Gunter addressed Commissioner Thompson’s earlier question. She acknowledged that the property was located on nearly double the maximum slope allowed for a buildable lot, but added that it was her belief that this lot and grade were not conceived when the grade ordinance was adopted. If the team were to adhere to the existing code it would result in significant cuts into the hillside, whereas fewer but higher terraces would have a reduced impact on the terrain. She added that her geotechnical team concluded that this retaining wall design would be a better solution for the property.
Commissioner Pearce expressed hesitancy in approving the project due to its insistence in developing on the highest and most difficult to reach portion of the lot, and suggested that the project would potentially require fewer variances and exceptions if it was developed closer to the driveway opening. Engineer Todd Powell responded by pointing out that the slopes near the site entrance were between 40-60% grade and cautioned that this made developing on that portion extremely difficult. He further emphasized that the top of the site was the best location for building construction.
Commissioner Thompson remarked that the proposal’s Wildfire Fuels Reduction Plan made reference to wood mulch and straw wattles set around the property during development and queried what their purpose, duration, and potential danger on the site would be. Mr. Powell responded that, while many materials were listed in the proposal, no mulch would be used on site due to fire danger, and that straw wattles would be placed to halt erosion on the developed slopes and terraces. They would remain on site until the contractor could reseed the ground and stabilize the soil, typically a matter of months after development. The wattles would then be removed at the discretion of an Erosion Control Inspector, in this case the geotechnical expert on the project.
Public Testimony
Jasmin Holley/Ms. Holley’s property neighbors the development site and she had previously met with the design team to bring several concerns to their attention. After meeting with the design team she compiled a list of Conditions of Approval that she requested be made part of the Commission’s decision. (see Attachment #3). In addition to her written testimony she also raised a concern over the flood risk of a heavily developed site, but commended the design team for keeping the riparian habitat almost entirely intact.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Ms. Gunter addressed the concerns raised during Ms. Holley’s testimony. She stated that sporadic road access interruptions would be unavoidable, but they would be brief or have prior notice given, and there should be no limitations on roadside parking by residences. When discussing construction hours Ms. Gunter cited the current city ordinance that allowed for activity between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for weekdays and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the weekends, and stated they do not support Ms. Holley’s request to expand on those limitations. Ms. Gunter then stated that she had no objections to Ms. Holley’s other requests.
Chair Norton closed the public hearing and record at 8:23 p.m.
Deliberation and Discussion
Commissioner Dawkins stated that due to the steepness of the slopes on the lot he agreed with the developers that they chose the best buildable spot to locate the house. Commissioner Pearce concurred with Commissioner Dawkins’ assessment but lamented that the proposal did not examine other possible areas on the site for the building or explain why the requested minimum exceptions and variances were the best possible avenue for development. He further remarked that treating this area as the only buildable space on the lot was disappointing without exploring other potential areas in the proposal. He conceded that the engineering of the plan was well thought-out but that the legal arguments were lacking, and concluded that this likely was the most promising location on the lot for development.
Commissioners Verner and Dawkins echoed the concerns raised by Commissioner Pearce and remarked that at first glance the number of variances and exceptions necessary for development were troubling. After further discussion Commissioner Dawkins pointed out that this is a legal lot of land, and that declaring it unsuitable for development would not be fair to the owners. Commissioner Dawkins argued that changing the proposal to locate the house elsewhere would also be unlikely to reduce the number of variances and exceptions necessary for development.
Commissioner Thompson voiced support for the minimal impact the proposal would have on the surrounding area. She called attention to the potential for wildfire mitigation that development could provide, as well as increased access to emergency response services to the area. Based on the applicant’s design to accommodate emergency vehicles and restore the vegetation after development Commissioner Thompson declared that she was inclined to grant approval.
Commissioners Dawkins/Pearce m/s to approve PA-T2-2022-00036 with staff’s recommendations. DISCUSSION: The Commission clarified Ms. Holley’s recommended Conditions of Approval are not included in the motion to approve. Roll Call Vote: Dawkins, Pearce, Thompson, Verner, and Norton, YES. Motion passed 5-0.

B.      PLANNING ACTION:  PA-T2-2021-00031                   
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  375 & 475 East Nevada Street   
APPLICANT:  Rogue Planning & Development Services, LLC for
OWNERS:  Peter & Laura Schultz (owners, 375 E. Nevada St.-Tax Lot 1000), David Young (owner, 475 E. Nevada St.-Tax Lots 1100,1200 & 1300)
DESCRIPTION:  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. The application asserts that there are differences in the UGB’s location between the official paper maps and the current GIS maps in use by both the County and the City, and that the original maps’ scales were such that the line width could significantly alter the boundary location. The application asks to make clear that the portions of the four properties in question are within the City of Ashland’s Urban Growth Boundary as Residential Reserve (1.37 acres of Tax Lot 1000) and North Mountain Neighborhood Plan (2.08 acres of Tax Lots 1100, 1200 & 1300). PLEASE NOTE: The “1982 Ashland/Jackson County Urban Growth Boundary Agreement” also requires review and approval of applications to correct errors in the Comprehensive Plan Map by both the Ashland City Council and Jackson County Board of Commissioners. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Single Family Residential Reserve & North Mountain; ZONING: RR-.5 & NM-MF; MAP: 39 1E 04A; TAX LOT #: 1000, 1100, 1200 & 1300. 
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Dawkins, Verner, and Norton conducted site visits. No ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Senior Planner Derek Severson reminded the Commission that Type II map amendments are typically processed at the city level, but that this decision would ultimately need approval from both the City Council and the County Board of Commissioners and would therefore be processed as a Type III procedure. 
Mr. Severson related that when the applicants discussed platting the Katherine Mae Subdivision with Jackson County it found that there was an issue with leaving County RR-5 zoned remnant properties outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) of less than the minimum required five-acre lot area. Recording the Katherine Mae Subdivision would require an exception to Goal 14 of Oregon’s Statewide Land Use-Planning goals. The County informed the applicant that such an action would be costly and unlikely to be approved (see Attachment #4).
Mr. Severson detailed how in examining this case staff looked through various official and unofficial maps to determine if an error occurred in splitting the parcels along the UGB. These maps included “The Tarp,” an unofficial reference map from 1984, a map detailing the Urban Growth Boundary Agreement between the city and county from 1982, as well as the adopted zoning map from that same agreement. Another map was provided to staff from the applicant potentially from the 1989 Urban Growth Boundary Agreement. The boundary lines on this map partially obscure the parcel lines, but staff was unable to confirm if this map was officially adopted. Finally the Adopted Comprehensive Plan Map was adopted in 2008 and appears to be consistent with the 1982 Urban Growth Boundary Agreement. Mr. Severson concluded that Staff was as equally frustrated with the divisions created by the UGB, but could not find any indications that the boundaries were made erroneously.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Thompson commented that the narrative of the Urban Growth Boundary Agreement would be the most important aspect of this decision and pointed out that the 1982 Urban Growth Boundary Agreement map showed the City limits as being the same as the UGB line. She then inquired if there was any question over the city limits. Mr. Severson responded there was no dispute, and that if one line was found to have been made in error then both lines would likely be relocated. He then pointed to a location on the map where the lines did diverge but then reconnected before reaching the boundary of the disputed line. He stated that to staff this indicated a deliberate decision regarding boundary placement and not a cartographic error.
Commissioner KenCairn questioned if such a division of the parcels could be considered a taking and if a potential devaluation of property could be met with legal action. Commissioner Pearce responded that it would not constitute a taking and that the UGB only constitutes a jurisdictional line and does not affect the use of the parcel except in terms of development. Commissioner KenCairn responded that because of this protracted legal dispute it had already affected the property’s potential development.
Commissioner Pearce commented that per Ordinance 2951, which was adopted in 2008, the city limits were seen as being conterminous with the zoning map and therefore there was no basis to address the location of the city limits during this meeting.
Commissioners Thompson/Verner m/s to approve extending the meeting to 10:00 p.m. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.
Applicant’s Presentation
Attorney Garrett West stated the reason for this planning action was because his team believes there is a discrepancy and mapping conflict between the county and the city over the location of the UGB line. Mr. West clarified his team is not suggesting any change to the city limits at this time. He stated that the county maps show the city’s UGB line as encompassing the disputed property, while the city’s maps show them bisecting the property. Mr. West asserted that this discrepancy likely occurred when the city transitioned from physical to digital GIS maps and that the large lines drawn to demarcate the boundary lines obfuscated the border. The result was the unintended divisions of the Nevada Street properties along the UGB line. In a letter to the Commission Mr. West cited several properties in the city where the current GIS map shows the UGB to conform to the lot lines rather than divide them into smaller parcels (see Attachment #5). His team believes that this consistency elsewhere in the city shows a clear oversight with regards to the Nevada Street parcel divisions. Mr. West stated that procedurally it made legal sense to seek ratification of a decision from both the city and the County Board of Commissioners. This would provide clarity for future applicants and also make the code consistent between the city and county. Mr. West did not recommend requesting an exception to Goal 14 because he did not believe it would be approved.
Attorney Brent Hall concluded the presentation by reiterating the saliant arguments made by the applicants, and elaborated that there is a area of interpretation over where the UGB line was originally intended to be located. He argued that there is precedent for moving the UGB line without adjusting the city limits as seen elsewhere, and that the reasons for those departures could readily apply to this correction. Mr. Hall itemized the past decisions as; 1) there was potential to increase level, buildable land with access to the city services; 2) an increase to potential density for the city by approximately twenty units; 3) increasing affordable housing adjacent to a future public street that would be extended for development. Mr. Hall concluded by assuring the Commission that this case could not result in urban sprawling because of adjacent properties and the I5 freeway. For these reasons he contended that there is good reason for a Type II minor amendment and that it would not be necessary to bring this issue back to the county given that it had already agreed with the applicant’s team where the boundary line is located.
Questions of the Applicant
Commissioner Thompson pointed out that there were two GIS maps promulgated by the Jackson County development services that appear to be dissimilar in where they place the UGB; one is consistent with the city’s division of the parcel, while the other follows the lot lines, and questioned the applicants why this might be. Ms. Gunter explained that the purpose of including two incompatible GIS maps was to illustrate the changes made to the UGB line on the county level over the past two years. When Jackson County deferred judgement to the city it changed its map to match the city’s. However, it recently changed once again and now follows the property lines and further muddles an already unclear situation. Commissioner Thompson responded that these GIS maps are all unofficial and thus the narrative is the most important aspect of this item, and that when examining the 1982 map it seems to clearly intend for the UGB to follow the city limits in this area. Because of this Commissioner Thompson questioned why this case could not be processed as a minor correction per the 1982 Urban Growth Boundary Agreement and not be subject to Ashland municipal codes. Ms. Gunter argued that if the UGB did divide the parcels that the remnant lot pieces would be below the minimum requirement to constitute parcels on their own, and would then require an exception to Goal 14. Commissioner Thompson asserted that a map correction is an incorrect legal avenue to process this request, and that the correction should be a change to the UGB. She voiced agreement that the outlying parcels should be incorporated into the city but questioned if the applicant’s request was the best way to achieve that.
Chair Norton closed the public hearing at 9:33 p.m. but left the public record open as this is a Type III action.
Deliberation and Discussion
Commissioner Pearce agreed with Commissioner Thompson on her assessment, and stressed that there appeared to be no discrepancy between the 1982 Urban Growth Boundary Agreement map and the map description that accompanied the ordinance. In fact the description made specific mention of divergences between the UGB and city limit lines, and the properties of East Nevada Street were not listed. Commissioner Pearce concluded by recommending to the City Council that the UGB line is correct as shown on the current maps and not a result of any cartographic mistake. He added that he would encourage the city and county to cooperate to amend the UGB line to make it follow parcel boundary lines.
Commissioners Pearce/Dawkins m/s to recommend to the City Council that based on Ordinance 2227 and the 1982 Urban Growth Boundary Agreement, the UGB boundary in this location is correct and there is no cartographic error that needs correction. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Verner inquired if it would be proper to include in the motion a recommendation for the City Council to work with Jackson County to change the UGB to match property lines. Commissioners Thompson stated there is a process for this under the original agreement. Commissioner Pearce added the Commission can state their preference for the UGB to follow property lines and recommend the City Council follow that procedure in the future, but they cannot recommend a specific process for the Council to follow. Commissioner Verner expressed concern that this leaves the applicants in limbo and the motion does not provide direction to the applicants on where to go from here. Commissioners Thompson and KenCairn stated the applicants still have options; and noted they can advocate to the City Council to work with the County to change the UGB boundary. Roll Call Vote: Dawkins, Pearce, Thompson, Verner, and Norton, YES. Commissioner KenCairn, abstained. Motion passed 5-0.
Commissioner Pearce thanked the applicants for sticking with this process and stated the Commission is frustrated as well; but stated it would be inappropriate for them to state it was a cartographic error when that does not appear to be the case.  

Meeting adjourned at 9:46 p.m.
Submitted by,
Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant

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