Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Regular Meeting

Tuesday, October 11, 2005




OCTOBER 11, 2005



CALL TO ORDER – Chair John Fields called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 East Main Street, Ashland, OR  97520.


               Commissioners Present:                 John Fields, Chair

                                                                           Michael Dawkins

                                                                           Dave Dotterrer

                                                                           Allen Douma

                                                                           John Stromberg

                                                                           Olena Black

                                                                           Russ Chapman

               Absent Members:                                             Mike Morris

               Council Liaison:                                Jack Hardesty

               Staff Present:                                     Bill Molnar, Interim Planning Director

                                                                           Maria Harris, Senior Planner

                                                                           Mike Reeder, Assistant City Attorney


ANNOUNCEMENTS - Kerry KenCairn resigned from the Planning Commission.  Fields expressed his thanks for her hard work. 



Approval of the Findings for 510 Granite Street will be reviewed later in the meeting.


Black/Stromberg m/s to approve the minutes of the September 13, 2005 Regular Meeting.  Voice Vote:  Unanimously approved.


Black/Douma m/s to approve the minutes of the September 13, 2005 Hearings Board.  Voice Vote:  Unanimously approved.


PUBLIC FORUM - No one came forth to speak.


PLANNING ACTION:  2005-01674

SUBJECT PROPERTY:  11 First Street

OWNER/APPLICANT:  Ron & Carrie Yamaoka



Site Visits and Ex Parte Contacts

Stromberg had an informal site visit.  He saw the headline in the newspaper a few days ago referring to the project and felt it was an attempt to influence the commission and therefore did not read the article. 

Douma read the article and did not have the same conclusion Stromberg had.  He has walked by the site and is familiar with it.

Black had no ex parte contact.

Fields and Dawkins are familiar with the site.

Chapman and Dotterrer had a site visit.



Harris reported the approval criteria are in Chapter 18.72 and four sections of Site Design and Use Standards – Detail Site Review, Downtown Design, and Historic District Design Standards.  There is also a request for a Tree Removal Permit under Chapter 18.61.


Harris gave a brief history and description of the property as outlined in the Staff Report.  She showed the landscape plan. 


Harris showed the site plan.  The application involves the demolition of the existing building to construct the proposed 4,536 square feet.  The ground floor is for a restaurant, the second floor for offices and the third floor for two residential units.  The proposal is to set back the planters six feet from the property line for a wider sidewalk area.  The applicant plans to remove the cluster of trees growing against the retaining wall. 


With regard to the approval criteria, restaurant and offices uses are permitted uses, and residential units are Special Permitted Uses.  Setbacks from the property lines are not required.  Public utilities are available to the site.  Access for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be made. 


The upgrade on the sidewalk is required as far as the Street Standards.  Currently there is a five and one-half foot sidewalk in place that is from the back of the curb to the property line that continues in both directions on First Street.  It is a pretty narrow width to accommodate a tree well and a walking area.  The current standard is six feet clear width between the back of the tree well and the planter. 


Harris talked about the building design.  The building is traditional architectural style.  It is oriented to First Street with an entry alcove on the ground floor accessed from the public sidewalk.  It is generously sized in both width and depth and accented by the textured plaster of both the pilasters and the arch above the door.  The building has a strong vertical orientation.  It is a two-paneled building separated by the column features.  The vertical rhythm is continued with the treatment and alignment of the windows on the second and third floors. The ground floor gives a storefront appearance with an appropriate percentage of windows.  The building has a base and a cornice as required. The alley building elevation shows a higher level of architectural detail to create interest along the alley.   The building depth from the front to the back of the building is 58 feet.  The rear of the building has an elevator.  There is a lift to the elevator.  Harris showed the west elevation that faces Main Street.  The applicant wrapped around some of the details and horizontal lines and columns in accordance with the Historic Commissions’ suggestions. 


There are two other items to note in the Staff Report to consider.  With reference to the 1988 Downtown Plan, Will Dodge Way is defined as a pedestrian activity area calling for enclosing the alley with at least two story buildings on Lithia Way to create “an intimate atmosphere.”  The plan describes downtown housing specifically in upper stories and describes residential units as an asset for security reasons and offering independence from the automobile.  When the Commission is applying the approval criteria, the way the policies are on the books in the existing Downtown Plan are through the provision that residential uses are allowed as Special Permitted Uses.  There is a 40 foot height limitation which allows multiple stories and the Downtown Design Standards call for multi-story development in downtown.  Secondly, with regard to the Tree Removal Permit, the arborist’s report states that eventually there will be damage to the retaining wall so the applicant is arguing these are hazard trees. 


The Historic Commission’s minutes were handed out to the Commissioners.  They recommended approval of the application with four recommendations concerning elevator location, the type of brick, a contemporary treatment for the column base and they requested samples of the exterior building materials and colors with the building permit.  There was a lengthy discussion at the Historic Commission regarding imitations. 


The Tree Commission recommended using a different tree choice for the street tree.


Harris addressed the vision clearance area as noted by Stromberg.  On the corner of an intersection or street next to alley, the corner area is supposed to be free of obstructions that are greater than two and one-half feet in height, whether it is a sign, landscaping or structure.  When Staff initially reviewed this, they used the corner of the alley and went ten feet back and 25 feet across and it met the vision clearance standard.  Harris said after another look, by using the plain language interpretation of the ordinance, there is a little corner of the building that is about 18 square feet in size that does intrude into the vision clearance area.  At this point, Staff would recommend continuing the hearing because Staff has not had a lot of time to review the ordinance.  The vision clearance requirement is addressed in three separate chapters in the land use ordinance. This is another regulation that is in conflict with the Design Standards and the Downtown Design Standards.  The Historic District Standard says to maintain the historic façade line of the streetscape by locating front walls of new buildings in the same plane as the façade of adjacent buildings.  Under the Downtown Design Standards, it says buildings shall maintain a zero setback from the sidewalk or property line.   If it does apply, continuance will give the applicant additional time to redesign the building.  If the design changes, Staff would recommend the applicant go back to the Historic Commission and back to the Planning Commission.  Harris said the new building will be set back 11 feet, making it five and one-half feet further away than the existing building.


Molnar referred the Commissioners to 18.72.120C1-Controlled Access Standards.  This section came about because vision clearance is a public safety standard.  In the past, Staff has used some flexibility in applying the standards based on right-of-way widths.  In the 1990’s when they modified the vision clearance standards, they precluded the option of applying for a Variance.  It is clear the measurement is from the lot line.


Dotterrer said one section of the ordinance talks about intersection of property lines and the other talks about intersection of an alley and street.  Molnar said Staff thought it implied that the street is at the edge of the right-of-way.  Dotterrer believes the intent of the ordinance was to provide enough vision clearance, ten feet along the alley and 25 feet along the street.  The application seems to meet the intent. 


Harris noted that Staff also looked at potential redevelopment along the whole block face. 



TOM GIORDANO, 2635 Takelma Way and BILL EMERSON, 90 Fifth Street, are representing the applicant. 


Giordano thought their project has been described in detail with their graphics shown and narrative.  They will focus on vision clearance and answer questions.


Dotterrer asked about the Historic Commission’s question about moving the elevator core.  Emerson said the lot is 30 feet wide.  The entry is half of the building width and half of the entry is a stairwell.  Once the elevator is next to the stair, more than half the building is used and that is the reason for the putting the elevator in the rear.  They will look at eliminating the lift from the rear and using a corridor from the front, but only if they can get the same amount of seating in the restaurant.  He has tried to make efficient use of the space.


Emerson noted vision clearance is listed in the following four places in the ordinance:  18.68.020, 18.92.070B, 18.72.120C, and 18.08.820.  The existing structure will be demolished and is taking up more space than the proposed building.  He thought with the street being the curb, it would allow their design.  With regard to the vertical clearance, he believes they have complied.


Giordano believes if the Planning Commission likes the project, they can approve it.  In past years, they have used the curb as the demarcation of where the vision clearance should be.  It is contrary to the development standards as the original building encroaches into the vision clearance and the building across the alley encroaches into it.  It seems the development pattern of the alleys is contrary to how it is written in the ordinances.  There is no parking on the proposed building side of the street so there will not be an impairment of parked cars along that side of the street.  They are improving the situation from what is there now.  If a standard is going to be used, he feels it should be the standard in 18.68.020. He believes there is enough looseness in the ordinance that the Commission could approve it as it is.  However, if they decide they cannot approve it, he believes they could use the General Regulations definitions and make it a condition of approval of the project with the provision the applicant goes back to the Historic Commission showing any design changes that will be needed if they have to cut off a portion of the building. 


COLIN SWALES, 461 Allison Street, passed around drawings of buildings in that block.  He is stunned that at no stage has it been noted that this building is one of only two on First Street that is a primary contributing structure on the Downtown National Historic Registry.  This is one of the few resources we have.  He noted they are single story buildings.  The lot is tiny. 


Swales said "street" includes the pedestrians that use the public right-of-way, and automobiles.  We have the vision clearance so the cars and trucks can see the pedestrians crossing in front of them.  It is too bad the applicant has not incorporated outdoor seating to take advantage of the morning sun.


The Historic Design Standards show what to avoid.  Avoid tall buildings surrounded by other historic structures that are of less scale.  The proposed building is large and out of scale.  The reason we have our historic downtown on the National Register, is to preserve the historic downtown buildings and this is one of them.  With a narrow pedestrian alleyway, Swales would envision a two-story building and getting pedestrian entry from the corner (alleyway).  There are numerous examples of angled corners that meet the street.  Why couldn’t the pedestrian entry be on the lower side of the building? 


Black said there is nothing historic looking about the old B&G sandwich shop.  Swales said it has a bulk and scale that is contributing.  Nothing says it has to be demolished and redeveloped.  If we are going to continue scraping these resources, they why are we pretending we want a Historic District?


Chapman asked Swales in what areas should we allow a three story building.  The property owner is developing the land according to the City’s standards. The downtown is where we want the efficient use of the land and to have commercially viable space. The downtown is where we conduct our business.  


ERIC NAVICKAS, 711 Faith Avenue, spoke in favor of the proposal.  The applicants have shown what we can do with a 4500 square foot building and what it looks like.  It is scaled somewhat appropriately.


Staff Response – Harris said “primary contributing status” is detailed in the Staff Report.  The meaning of “primary contributing” in terms of the National Register listing is that there are enough architectural features still intact on the exterior of the building to relate it to when it is built.  The nomination on this building speaks to the combination of stucco and brick.  It is left up to the local jurisdiction to change, adapt or demolish a primary contributing structure. 


Stromberg addressed the “imitation” comments from the Historic Commission.  Does Harris think there is enough distinction?  She responded that in these instances, Staff defers to the Historic Commission as they have enough expertise to make that call.  They felt the building is different enough from turn of the century architecture to distinguish it as being built now.  The subtle changes on this building are enough that it can be recognized as being from this time period.


Reeder said the standard that applies is 18.72.120.  It could be interpreted to mean measure to the curb or all the way to the edge of the right-of-way (property line).  He can see an interpretation either way. 


Dotterrer read the definition of street and it includes the sidewalk. 


Rebuttal – Giordano said if there is going to never be another building built in Ashland, he would agree with Swales.  The Historic Commission looked at the existing building and they found nothing architecturally that has anything to do with the original building.  The Historic Commission did not have a problem with demolition of the existing building.  Giordano a remodel and addition would give only half the square footage and cost as much as a new building.  There is a lot of articulation to the building.  The existing building feels too close to the street.


Emerson said he has spent most of his life in Ashland and has been on the Historic Commission twice.  He is glad we have a Historic District Register.  He had the idea that a new building would have some character.  His engineer said there is no way to add a second floor to the existing building.


Harris suggested a revised Condition 10 by adding a sentence, “That the sidewalk shall be six feet in clear width as measured from the back of the tree well to the outside of the planter as shown on the site plan dated 9/9/05.”  There is some discrepancy between what was described in the findings for the sidewalk improvement and what was shown on the site plan. 


Condition 16 talks about the plant material in the front planter. The Tree Commission said with regular maintenance, it shouldn’t be a problem.  The Condition could be deleted. 


Condition 19 can be deleted because the applicant did not receive a letter from the neighboring property owner. 


In the second sentence of Condition 21, it should say “steps, landings, planter and footings.” 


Change the second word in Condition 14 to “the.”  Change the word “sigh” in Condition 26 to “sign.” 


Change Condition 23 to “no tinting on the front and alley side of the building…”


Giordano believes Ashland needs an urban design plan as part of the comprehensive plan showing how they want the downtown and surrounding this development.  A lot of these questionable issues could be decided before an action comes before the Commission.  He sees it as getting more problematic as time goes on.



Fields said if the vision restriction is serious and the building should be held back to the property line for future development, that would preclude the Commission from making a decision.  The issue is:  When you pull up to the corner can you see up the street?”


None of the Commissioners had any issues with the building design.   


Stromberg said he’ll vote against the application because of vision clearance because he understands the vision clearance should be measured from the property corner. 


Dotterrer disagreed.  The ordinance talks about “along the alley” and “along the street.”  From his reading he doesn’t believe it matters about the right-of-way, but vision along the street.  He believes it meets the law.  Chapman, Black and Dawkins agreed.  Douma agreed and doesn’t want to force buildings further off the streetscape.


Fields noted that as things have been done over time, it gets unclear in the wording.  He is looking at a more prescriptive look at the downtown.  We should be able to take the letter of the law and hold each project accountable to it.  He is assuming we have the latitude to decide intent.    


Dotterrer/Black m/s to approve PA2005-01674 with the added sentence for Condition 10, changes in the wording to Condition 14, deletion of Conditions 16 and 19, the added words to Conditions 21 and 23 and correction to Condition 26.  Roll Call:  Douma, Chapman, Dawkins, Douma, Black and Fields voted “yes” and Stromberg voted “no.”


APPROVAL OF MINUTES AND FINDINGS - Douma/Black m/s to approve the Hearings Board minutes of the September 13, 2005 meeting.  Douma/Black m/s to approve the findings for PA2005-01477, 510 Granite Street.  The minutes and findings were approved.



Douma brought up the Type II planning action heard before the Hearings Board today stating he and Dawkins served on the Hearings Board and were interested in calling the action up to the Full Commission.  Molnar said they are allowed to do so.  After thinking about it, Dawkins said it makes more sense to bring the action back to the Hearings Board.  His issue is more philosophical and deals with infill.  He would like the Commission to have a discussion on it.  Stromberg asked Dawkins to bring the Commissioners some discussion points so they can have a discussion.  Dotterrer hoped Staff could put together some background on what we have done historically with infill.


DOWNTOWN PLAN – The committee will be interviewing consultants on the Thursday. 


COUNCIL - The planning action for the partition on Liberty Street has been appealed to the City Council.  They will review it on October 18th at the Council.  Conservation Density Bonus will come before the Council Study Session on Thursday, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. 


ORGANIZATIONAL AUDIT – There has been so much interest that they will be holding two more focus groups the first week of November during Zucker’s visit.


PLANNING DIRECTOR SEARCH – Douma said he would like the consultant to share all the information they collect about what the citizens and elected officials want in a planning director.  The consultants planned to just write a summary.  He believes the information could tell a lot about what the community wants.


VICE CHAIR – We need to vote for a new Vice Chair to take KenCairn’s place.


ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by

Susan Yates, Executive Secretary






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