Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Regular Meetng

Tuesday, March 11, 2003




MARCH 11, 2003


Chair Russ Chapman called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Other Commissioners present were Ray Kistler, Mike Morris, Kerry KenCairn, Colin Swales, Cameron Hanson, John Fields, and Marilyn Briggs. Dave Dotterer was absent. Staff present were John McLaughlin, Bill Molnar, Mark Knox and Sue Yates.


Hanson moved to approve the minutes of the February 11, 2003 meeting. Swales seconded the motion and the minutes were approved.

Findings for 2002-089 - 3151 East Main - Ely Schless

Hanson moved to approve the Findings, Briggs seconded the motion and the Findings were approved.

Findings for 2003-006 - 340 Oak Street - A Street Marketplace LLC

Morris moved to approve the Findings, Hanson seconded the motion and the Findings were approved.

PUBLIC FORUM - No one came forth to speak.





Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts

Fields, Hanson, Chapman, Morris and Kistler had a site visit with Planning Staff. Briggs said during the site visit with Planning Staff, Mr. Marr walked up and introduced himself.

Swales had an independent site visit. He had a call from Jeff Hardesty who said he had some concerns and Swales instructed him to bring the concerns to the meeting. KenCairn had an independent site visit. Kistler stepped down from the hearing. He had done work on this project some years ago and he believes it could be viewed as a conflict of interest.


Molnar said the application is for an 80 - 81 lot subdivision in the North Mountain Neighborhood Zone. Along with a request for Outline Plan approval, there is a request for some amendments to the North Mountain Neighborhood Plan. Molnar gave a brief history of the area as outlined in the Staff Report. It is a 16 acre parcel bounded by North Mountain Avenue on the east, Nevada Street on the north, Bear Creek and the floodplain at the far western portion of the project. Approximately two and one-half acres are proposed to be a public park area and natural area associated with the Bear Creek floodplain environs. The primary street access to the development is through Fair Oaks that will come through the site, extending off North Mountain. There are three or four streets proposed for extension into the project. The project is divided into four distinct areas. One is the neighborhood core area including some neighborhood commercial uses. Due to topography and changes in residential densities allowed by the neighborhood plan, moving toward the west, the project transitions down the slope of the property to "Parkview Terrace". This includes more attached housing and a denser housing mix. As it flattens out toward the floodplain, there are more detached housing concepts and duplex structures. The fourth area is the natural area and park area associated with the floodplain.

The North Mountain design charrette that occurred several years ago provided a lot of information in a condensed timeframe. Due to topographic issues in the area, Staff anticipated some minor amendments of streets and other elements in order to adjust to grade changes and other city requirements. At that time, there was not enough time to thoroughly evaluate the information. The Planning Commission has approved some adjustments and amendments to the plan in some of the earlier development associated with Mountain Meadows.

The applicants are requesting some changes to the street layout. The North Mountain Neighborhood Plan did not include a major east/west running road that really connects the civic and neighborhood commercial area nearest North Mountain with the Bear Creek Greenway and floodplain area. The applicants are also requesting a change to the street pattern. They are requesting a deviation on some of the other north/south streets. They are requesting an amendment to orientation and location of the garages. The North Mountain Plan tries to de-emphasize front loaded types of residential buildings where the garages are prominent architectural features along the street. The plan proposes to have some flexibility in the rear yard setback specifically for the residential units along the terraces. Because of grade issues, the separation in the rear yards is three to five feet. There is a requirement that garage should be set back15 feet from the front facade of the building. Molnar noted an example of where the garage is parallel with the front facade and not stepped back 15 feet.

The applicants have requested two other amendments but it is Staffís opinion they donít require an amendment. One is for the front yard setback for the buildings facing out toward the floodplain. The front yard requirement is 15 or 20 feet. The setback is greater in these areas primarily due to the location of the floodplain corridor. Staff already assumed when the plan was adopted that the buildings could not go into the floodplain. Secondly, side yard setbacks for attached buildings. Under the Performance Standards in the North Mountain we allow flexible housing types. Buildings can be attached and where buildings are attached with a common wall, there is no side yard setback requirement.

Areas of Concern

Proposed Street Improvements - All the new streets will be improved and developed to city standards. A small section of the property abuts North Mountain that is proposed to be improved with a half-street improvement. The location of E. Nevada is proposed to be improved to a half-street improvement. There is a 500-550 foot section at the northeast corner of the project that doesnít abut the project but is within the North Mountain Neighborhood Plan area that is proposed to be retained as unimproved. Nevada Street represents a second means of access to the project. Staff is concerned at build-out about traffic impacts on the dirt portion of Nevada and if it is adequate to accommodate the traffic. There is no traffic study submitted with the proposal to identify likely origins and destinations of traffic generated. There are some assumptions made that traffic generated will use the paved routes to North Mountain, but Staff is concerned that given the size of the project, any additional traffic would seem to compromise that section of the road. They therefore recommend that as part of this proposal that the applicants work out some way to improve Nevada Street in its entirety up to North Mountain. Nevada Street is identified as a collector street. In the Cityís long-range plan, it identifies a bridge crossing over Bear Creek connecting to Oak, allowing for distribution of the traffic to the west part of town. There could be some Systems Development Charge (SDC) credits available to this project for improving this section. It is Staffís recommendation this be done as part of the project.

Solar Access - The commercial area of the proposal is exempt from solar access requirements. Home sites that have a public right-of-way to the north of them will not have difficulty complying with solar. Staff is concerned with many of the other properties not abutting the right-of-way. The applicants have requested solar access be relaxed and that it not be applied in order to allow for as much design creativity as possible. This is unknown territory for the Planning Staff. They cannot think of another project where they have exempted a large portion of the property from the Cityís solar access ordinance. Relaxation of the ordinance could allow properties to maximize the height.

Molnar said the Mill Pond subdivision was afforded some flexibility to create their own performance standards for solar access. In Mill Pond a number of properties requested we measuring solar access by the allowance of how much of a shadow can be put on a south-facing wall. In a few cases, Staff has allowed a few lots to go into a different solar class. It is clear from the Comprehensive Plan Energy Element that Staff and the community as a whole still endorse solar access protection with the solar access ordinance. The applicantís proposal goes a little too far.

Molnar said the Staff Report addresses with the building orientation of units 1 through 9 towards Nevada Street. These units are duplex units each on their own lots. Historically, the higher order streets like Nevada require building orientation toward the street. In this situation, the front facades are oriented toward the interior street with the garages oriented toward Nevada Street.

An item not mentioned in the Staff Report is the grading plan for the project. There was a preliminary grading plan showing areas of cut and fill. Staff is specifically concerned with the southern area of the project (Exhibit 7-B). The applicants identify fill anywhere from three to eight feet. The major component of the North Mountain Neighborhood Plan is connectivity of the transportation routes. The way the fill is laid out, it assumes the neighboring property is going to have to bring in fill in order to keep the alley and streets following the new grade that has been established. The applicant needs to demonstrate that the project's impacts wonít negatively impact the ability of adjacent properties to be developed in accordance with the zoning district. Changes have to be made in the grading plan or a clear indication that this plan has been coordinated with the adjacent property owner.

Many items in the plan are positive. The idea of having a visual and physical connection between the natural area and the neighborhood civic and commercial areas is a great addition to the plan. Staff has recommended the attached Conditions. Staff would recommend that as a requirement of the project that Nevada Street be improved.


BOB FOSTER, Robert H. Foster Consultants, 431 Ash Street, Lake Oswego, OR 97034, introduced the design team.

Foster said they are trying to create a little village center with a tower, an amphitheater, a fountain, commercial spaces and to the northeast a gazebo or landmark structure surrounded by joint use space - parking lot, event center. The commercial uses will be neighborhood uses. He would like to build the commercial spaces from the get-go. One way to make the commercial spaces viable is to put the spine road down the middle to link the parts of the project up to the center.

Foster said they have tried to do double-fronted units on Nevada Street. They put front doors, porches, decks, second story windows, landscape treatments and front sidewalks to E. Nevada so they look like fronts of houses although they are sides of garages that are flanked both ways to the Hollywood driveway. He showed an elevation of the proposed units.

Foster addressed the solar issue. The lots are 5000 sq. ft. or smaller. They want flexibility in the design of the units. He showed examples of design pieces and parts of units that would have to be eliminated. They were trying not to build larger houses but solve the problem of tight development next to each other where there are real issues of shadowing. They propose to work with each one of the units and do a real good job on getting some variety on houses.

Foster said they would love to see E. Nevada improved. The biggest benefit would be crossing Bear Creek at the bridge. Foster entered a legal document prepared by Dick Stark into the record.

PAT HAVIRD (?) said there will be some minor adjustments made to the grading plan. They are working with the other owners to the south to make sure the roads line up.

KenCairn asked what the reasoning was for the setback on the uphill/downhill units. Foster said they are trying to build attached units and they are back-to-back units. The hillside is steep. They moved the line four feet back and it looks like they have a four foot separation but what they really want to do is build a sheer wall and inset the windows four feet so the buildings are attached and u-shaped.

Swales noted there several north/south streets is presenting the solar problem. When Swales did a project, he found it was amazing how much one can do using solar classification B. Is some of the problem self-imposed? Foster said the street pattern was pretty much set by the North Mountain Neighborhood Plan. They are willing to develop a solar envelope for each structure. Or, they are willing to go back to the B standard.

Briggs asked about the wetland on Ridgeway Avenue mentioned in a letter from a neighbor. Foster said they looked at it and there is a ditch running along the south side of E. Nevada. It is partly on Tax Lot 600. It appears to be a little holding area to the left of it, draining down the hill. He doesnít believe it is a jurisdictional wetland. It is not very big. Molnar said the National Wetland Inventory does not identify it. KenCairn suggested getting a letter from a wetlands expert.

Fields wondered how they would apply a solar standard. Would they have a solar standard for the buildings rather than the lot? McLaughlin said there could be a ten foot shadow at the property line, and still be able to provide great solar for the house. Ashland has experience with small lots. The difficulty is with houses getting high due to ten foot ceiling heights and two-story buildings. Ceiling heights, roof pitches and other fenestrations may need to be compromised.

Briggs asked about square footages of homes. Foster said the sizes are noted on page 33 of their application. They can create a chart showing theoretical square footages, one or two story homes, garage sizes, driveways, and the impact of solar. Briggs would like to see where the shadow would hit the houses along Greenway Drive.

Chapman wondered who will be paying for the improvement in front of Cisloís house. McLaughlin said they are asking the remainder of the improvements be done on Nevada and looking at a way to make it equitable. The Cisloís and Marrs would not necessarily have to contribute if they are not doing development. The City would probably not develop the sidewalks in this section until further development occurred to the Cislo and Marr properties. McLaughlin said the expense will have to be negotiated between now and Final Plan. If they canít reach an agreement, then it will go to the Planning Commission and the applicants can reserve the right to appeal at Final Plan. The Council holds the right to form an LID in the future. He does not think it is critical to have the agreement for the Nevada Street bridge at this point. He doesnít see any reason to change the pump station LID Condition. The applicants will be responsible for upgrading the pump station to the extent needed to accommodate this development.

DICK STARK, attorney for the owner, said the bridge is part of the avenue. They are glad to help build the connection and they are willing to negotiate with Staff for reasonable SDC credits or some type of arrangement for reimbursement for part of the cost. They do not want a LID as part of this approval because if the bridge goes across the creek, it will benefit the whole city. It is such an integral part of the cityís transportation plan and should be considered a capital project. They shouldnít be required to sign a LID for that particular project.

KenCairn asserted that even if the applicants are allowed to create their own solar envelopes, it would only apply internally. McLaughlin affirmed.

TOM MARR, 955 North Mountain Avenue, stated that he lives at the corner of North Mountain and East Nevada. They moved there nine years ago because of the rural neighborhood. All of the qualities of the area will be destroyed by the proposed development. He is opposed to the development. The construction, noise, and debris pose a significant hazard that will be very disruptive to their everyday life as they have found from the construction across the street.

His specific concerns are:

1. He would like the proposed alleyway on their property removed from the plan. It runs through a significant grove of trees on their property that is home to birds and animals.

2. The wetlands contain cattails, willows and pintail grass and other vegetation between their property and the Cisloís. The previous owner told him there were natural springs on the proposed property. He believes this is significant.

3. Increase in wildlife since the construction of Mountain Meadows. The proposed development would hugely impact the wildlife that is already squeezed into an ever- shrinking open space in their area. Can the developer accommodate the wildlife with more open space and animal corridors?

4. The huge complex to be built at the corner next to their property.

5. Solar access on their south side for their garden and shop and their potential future development.

6. Concerns about their full solar usage and elimination of their views.

7. Unpaved portion of East Nevada and North Mountain. He would like to see the road paved.

He submitted a written statement.

MATT MARR, 955 North Mountain Avenue, wondered if this development is furthering the North Mountain neighborhood that everyone agreed to seven years ago. He asked that the six foot fence proposed to surround the development not be allowed.

Marr discussed the floodplain. The plain at the bottom of the property is very, very flat. He read the geotechnical report. He noticed a requirement that they not fill in the floodplain. There is a letter stating they will not be doing any fill except a small portion at the north end of the property. However, in their application they mention "fill placement of four to eight feet" in the project. In a way, they are saying they are not meeting the "no fill" requirement. Their proposal is to push the water away and thus raise the creek further. This is a serious area of concern for Marr.

Marr discussed the natural features of the site. The developerís map shows there is nothing there. However, a preliminary map from the original North Mountain Neighborhood Plan shows a large area of vegetation between the Cisloís and his property containing riparian species. It is not a huge area, but it is there. He is requesting the natural springs be preserved. If this is simply a drainage area, he is asking that some allowances be made so the water can drain and not back up on their property. This is not empty land. There are things out there. The area serves as bird habitat and the presence of the cattails and grasses show it has year-round water.

Marr said the solar and view issues are a matter of livability. The neighbors get two large commercial buildings blocking their view. A five-plex will block the Marrís. As the developer said, the views are one of the greatest things about this project. That is why Marr lives there. The large buildings will completely destroy their views. They were never consulted about any of this plan. He believes they have enough objections to warrant the plan to be amended.

CAROL CARLSON, 509 North Mountain Avenue, said it seems like we are in a great rush to develop all the available land. They have not yet seen the affects of the development near her before building another. That is how we learn. She said the limitation to the wildlife in the area is water. Species have disappeared because of lack of habitat. She consulted with a Forest Service biology expert about this area and he said if you can conserve any habitat, do it. You cannot re-create it. Where is the biologist involved with this land? Is there a report? Where are the riparian people who have walked along the river and where is their report? Once it is gone, it is gone.

Carlson is also concerned with solar. Her house is cool in the summer and warm in the winter and she believes it has a lot to do with how it is oriented. She is asking that we respect our solar in terms of energy conservation. We must not overlook any opportunities we have at the beginning stages of development to build in conservation. She suggests we look at the Earth Advantage program and at others things in terms of building that we should be aware of.

Carlson said if the rear yards are going to be condensed, is there a trade-off for more open space someplace else? She suggested an open space to be used for a gathering place, gardening or picnicking that would be more useful than a gazebo. Letís not assume that everyone in every development is going to be retired and elderly.

BRYAN HOLLEY, 324 Liberty Street, stated he is a member of the Tree Commission. He was disappointed there was no representative at their meeting when they reviewed the application. He would ask the Planning Commission take a close look at the applicant's landscape plan.

He is bothered that people will testify that building a bridge over Nevada Street will be a benefit to the citizens of Ashland. This is not a benefit. That is doom. That is what is changing our town incrementally. Once we get that built, we can get the freeway off-ramp. Then maybe someone will stop at the retail building.

Holley does not like the fountain feature. Who uses the community features? Who will look at a glowing fountain, a tower, and amphitheater? Who will use the retail area? The commercial aspect of the project is not correct. It should be thrown out. He is opposed to the 2,515 feet of vinyl perimeter fencing. This area is a pastoral, rural landscape. If they really wanted to enhance open space within the area, they would reduce the total number of units to 55 and then there would be lots more space for wildlife corridors.

Holley didnít hear one thing about affordable housing. He didnít hear anything about the market niche these homes were aimed at. Across the street is where rich white people go to die. That is not an affordable situation for most people. Will this be another area where rich white people will go to die or is there any future for new developments in Ashland that are sustainable?

The developer has complimented the Planning Department for all their help. When does Joe and Jane Citizen get the help of the Planning Department to oppose things like this?

DAVE HARD, Ashland Fire Marshall, 1097 B Street, said he supports the Condition to improve Nevada Street. This project will bring approximately 320 residential units that are north of Bear Creek, along Mountain Avenue with Mountain Avenue the only route inside the city limits. If Mountain Avenue were to be blocked by an incident, the Fire Department would have to go down Oak and around on Eagle Mill and over I-5 to reach this development and the existing developments. He stands firmly behind the Nevada Street bridge because it is very essential to give an alternative route in emergencies for emergency vehicles. It is on the Cityís Capital Improvement Plan for the budget year July 1, 2007. It is a two year project.


PAT HAVIRD, civil engineer, said they are not proposing to build structures within the mapped floodplain or the cityís floodplain. They have complied with the national standard. They have a safe project in that regard.

Foster said they can remove the alleyway referred to by Marr. The vinyl fencing proposed is to protect the adjacent properties during construction. The fence will be removed. Foster agreed to look into the wetlands or spring and make a report to the Commission.

Foster said that the trees proposed are a concept. They want trees in all areas. They do not know the exact type but are willing to work with the Tree Commission to select the species. They will have an irrigation system.

Foster said the biggest piece of open space and wildlife corridor is that land being donated along the Bear Creek corridor.

The views are in conformance with the underlying zoning in the North Mountain Plan. The North Mountain Plan calls for the whole area to be developed.

Briggs asked if they would be willing to make any units affordable. Kevin Nering said parks and open space drive up the cost of development. Where possible, they have put in ancillary units or rental possibilities above the commercial units.

Chapman asked if the applicants would agreed to investigating the wetlands issues. The applicants concurred.

Chapman wondered about the fencing. Nering said they were viewing the fencing as construction fencing. KenCairn asked about putting the fencing up as needed and take it down when an area is complete. The applicants concurred.

The applicants will work with the Tree Commission on landscape plans.

KenCairn is a little concerned about the drainage issue on Marrís property. If a road is built, Marr is right, the ground water flow will be cut off. She would like to see a Condition addressing not just the wetland but drainage problems. It is a natural drainage. The applicants will take this into consideration.

Chapman asked how the Commissioners felt about the garages on E. Nevada Street. Foster explained that they are attached to the second floor of the dwelling. Hanson said if these are built the way they are shown, you could not tell the front from the back. Briggs does not favor things that "look like" but are not real. Molnar said their recommendation would be that if this elevation is acceptable, it be included as part of the decision or record. Swales said the garages are not actually accessing onto Nevada, which tends to mitigate it.

KenCairn said these garages bother her less than those on Parkview that are equal to the face of the buildings rather than being set back. Chapman asked if Staff had a concern. Molnar said that was part of one of the applicantís amendments. They are trying to de-emphasize the garage. Nering said there is an Architectural Exhibit 11 showing a side view. KenCairn is referring to unit 3 and 4 D. Foster said perhaps they could flip the units the other way and create street facing garages stepped further back.

Fields supposed Ashland isnít going to have families and kids anymore. He didnít see any mention in the CC&Rís of a place for a yard. There is no pocket park. The whole area is all senior, rich people housing. He sees higher, denser housing that will be more affordable but it is frightening to him. This development is on the fringe of Ashland and it seems dim, isolated and dense. It is a high density suburb. He finds Mountain Meadows quite intimidating. He doesnít think there is a lot they can do as a Planning Commission. He is not excited.

Foster could not disagree. It is a way of trying to save the Urban Growth Boundaries.

Fields believes it is up to the design team. Is there a market for commercial in that area and what will it be? We know what the model is for attached housing. You see it in the whole neighborhood. He has noticed several families in the Hersey and Mountain area. He has not really absorbed what this plan is about yet. However, once they send it with an approved Outline Plan, that is basically the Commissionís commitment to accept Final Plan. He is nervous about what they are getting into. There is one project after another that have yet to be built. There is a big question mark.

Morris questioned solar on Lots 21 through 25. He doesnít see too many in Exhibit 11 that look like they would fit on a 46 foot wide lot. Foster said they were chosen out of the Livable Oregon booklet and they will fit.

McLaughlin said if the Commission feels concern about the compliance of solar, they can ask the applicants to come back. They can continue Outline Plan. Hanson said he would like to see how it will fit.

Fields said we have to come to an agreement if we are talking about a virtual solar or using the solar ordinance. He sees the solar ordinance as a method by which to get some space and some breathing room around the units. Part of what he finds so intimidating with the density is that it has no solar alignment. There are no openings that are created when everyone has access. It will probably mean a reduction in the size of the units.

Hanson said if someone wants to move into a house with no space between units, then they know what they are getting into. He addressed the letter from Stark. He would like to see Condition 8 left in. At some point, we are going to have to build the bridge and this neighborhood will increase the traffic to such a point that the extra exit is going to be necessary. It is incumbent upon the developers to improve the street to where it can handle the traffic. He does not believe it is unconstitutional to ask for that. He believes the developer better make sure they can turn commercial into residential if they want to.

Chapman also agrees that the Nevada Street bridge is a connection that needs to be made.

Hanson does not think there should be a LID for Nevada Street. It should be the developerís burden completely. Swales believes all the properties signed off on the North Mountain Neighborhood Plan and though they are intended to be developed at the moment, they have benefited from the up-zoning. They are already benefiting from this particular project with the roads that are internal to it. It seems everyone should be a part of the LID and proportionate to the lots they create. McLaughlin said the other neighbors are not in a position at this time to reap any benefits or in a position to participate. The impact will happen from the 80 plus units.

Briggs said she would like to have this action continued. She would like to see the applicants address the following:

1. A wetlands expert testimony - jurisdictional or non-jurisdictional

2. How are they going to work out the fill on the south boundary so it meets Criteria D? How will the transition occur between this property and the Lazari property?

3. Definitely agree in writing to pave around the 500 feet at Nevada and Mountain.

4. Solar - meet the existing standards. They could take it a step further and show what they want as a compromise.

She would like to see a straw vote on houses facing Nevada on units 1 - 9. In a straw vote, five voted in favor of the applicantís design and two opposed.

KenCairn would like to see the multi-family attached and commercial return for site review.

Briggs moved to continue the meeting until April 8, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers. This will not be re-noticed. The public hearing will be left open. Hanson seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.


McLaughlin said the Oregon Downtown Development Association (ODDA) conference is scheduled for April 24th and 25th. If anyone is interested in going, there is some money available for commissioner training. The early bird registration deadline is March 17th.


McLaughlin thought it was time to start looking at a date. KenCairn cannot come on May17th. May 10th is a possible date. The Commissioners should let McLaughlin know if there are topics for discussion.


There will be a joint study session of the Council and Planning Commission on April 22nd to have the regional planning project presented. It will begin a little earlier with an open house. There will be discussion during the meeting about Ashlandís role and future development in the region.

ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 10:10 p.m.





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