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Planning Commission Continued Meeting

Tuesday, August 28, 2007





AUGUST 28, 2007



The meeting was called to order by Chair John Stromberg at 7:05 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main Street, Ashland, OR.


Commissioners Present:        


Council Liaison:

John Stromberg, Chair

Michael Dawkins

Olena Black

Tom Dimitre


Cate Hartzell (Council Liaison, does not attend Planning Commission meetings in order to avoid conflict of interest.)

John Fields

Pam Marsh

Mike Morris

Dave Dotterrer

Melanie Mindlin


Staff Present:

David Stalheim, Community Development Director

Bill Molnar, Planning Manager

Maria Harris, Senior Planner

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

Absent Members:



No absent members





Planning Commission Roles and Responsibilities Update – Stromberg and Dotterrer presented the Roles and Responsibilities to the Council and engaged in a lengthy discussion with them.  Dotterrer will be talking to the Mayor next week about the next steps.  He will also meet with each Council member to get their input.  If there are any substantive changes, Dotterrer will bring them back to the Commission.


Planning Commission Goals – Stromberg said this item will be on an agenda this fall to talk about where we are with items that some members wanted to see on the list.  He’d like to discuss the Planning Commission goals with the Council with the idea that they will receive the goals in sufficient time to work their own goals out before the budget cycle starts next year.


Economic Opportunities Analysis – A public hearing is scheduled for tonight’s meeting, but it is doubtful they will get to it.  Dotterrer/Black m/s to continue the Economic Opportunities Analysis to the October 9, 2007 Regular Planning Commission meeting.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


TYPE III PUBLIC HEARING (Continued from August 14, 2007 Regular Planning Commission meeting.  The public hearing has been closed.)

PLANNING ACTION:           PA-2006-01663

SUBJECT PROPERTY:       87 W NEVADA ST 7 811 HELMAN ST.                                           


DESCRIPTION:  A request for an Annexation, and Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map change from Jackson County zoning RR-5 (Rural Residential) to City of Ashland zoning R-1-3.5 (Suburban Residential) and R-1 (Single-Family Residential) for an 11.64-acre site comprised of five parcels located at  87 W. Nevada St. and 811 Helman St. (Ashland Greenhouses).   


Site Visits/Ex Parte Contacts/Bias/Conflict of Interest – None was reported.


Stromberg handed out a Verde Village Deliberations paper he hoped might assist in organizing the issues and decisions on this action.  Mindlin had 2 additional concerns:  1)  Solar access standards (relates to comp plan map change), and 2) the applicant’s energy efficiency sustainable development performance standards (the applicant’s Exhibit K-3) (relates to comp plan map change). Dotterrer would like a review of the five criteria related to the comp plan 


1.            Annexation

Does the island argument work?  Harris said the applicants are asserting that when the western portion of the property is annexed, this will leave the eastern portion of the development as an island (H.6 of the annexation criteria).  The Commissioners generally agreed with this argument.


Nevada Street sidewalk, north side?             Harris explained that annexation criteria E.3 states that sidewalks shall be provided as required...within the annexed area.  Where the project site is within a quarter of a mile of an existing sidewalk system, the sidewalks for the project site shall be constructed to extend and connect to the existing system.  Harris said Oak Street has a sidewalk system from Nevada to Downtown.  This project site is within a quarter mile of that sidewalk system.  Pedestrians could cross at the new intersection of Almeda/Helman/Nevada to the south side and get to Oak Street, or the Commission can require a sidewalk be installed from the eastern boundary of the project to the intersection of Oak Street on the north side of the street.  On the north side of the street, there will be a connection to a new multi-use path that would help facilitate pedestrian travel so pedestrians would not cross mid-block or back track.  However, there is a grade issue and it is not clear if a city standard sidewalk could be installed. 


Fields believes this is a good time to make the sidewalk improvements on the north side because it will fit in well with the ten year plan that would include the Nevada Street creek crossing.  He added that he has less concern about the sidewalk being non-conforming than not having the connection at all. Marsh agreed, stating that transportation is an issue when putting this many people in the perimeter of the City.  We really need to emphasize the way people walk, bike, etc.  The Nevada Bridge will happen some day so we absolutely need the sidewalk link.  Dotterrer agreed, adding that he would be comfortable allowing the applicant to work with Staff on the sidewalk design.  Harris referred to her cover memo (8/21/2007), page 2, Condition 39.  The Commission was in general agreement with the Condition.


Dimitre, in looking at the Verde Village Deliberations, felt concern that we were changing the comp plan and then doing an annexation.  It seems like that was not the intent.  Marsh said it is difficult to deliberate in such a linear fashion and perhaps it would be better to look at the whole package at the end before voting.  All the decisions are intertwined.


Mindlin added another concern she had about open space to the list as item #8.


2.                   Comp Plan Map Change

Does the conservation housing meet a public need that is supported by the Comprehensive Plan?  Harris referred to the draft approval Findings, page 5, outlining the five standards that have to be met (18.108.060.I.a.-e.  The applicant argued that the Comp Plan Map change is justified pertaining to a. (change implements a public need) and b. (change in circumstances), and c. (circumstances relating to public welfare exist) and d.  Fields believes the applicants meet the affordable housing criteria, but Marsh said the affordable housing is required for the annexation.  Stromberg believes the applicants meet b. because the change in circumstances relates to global warming, sustainability, etc. and he thought the conservation housing would address it because it is being more efficient in their use of energy.  Harris said the draft findings address a.  The Comp Plan Energy Chapter has a lot of policies that speak to energy and water conservation housing.  It seems the makers of the Comp Plan were thinking of that 20 years ago when they wrote it, so the need to adjust to new conditions was captured in the Comp Plan when it was written.  She thought either a. or d. could be supported.  Harris referred to Condition 26 on page 22 of the draft approval Findings that would require systems for measuring and monitoring compliance of the development with the applicants’ Performance Standards and requiring the applicant to post a performance bond or comparable monetary agreement to guarantee all residential units meet the “Net Zero Energy” Performance Standard.  “Net Zero Energy” is a way of referring to the applicants’ Exhibit K-3. 


Mindlin said they started out considering their Net Zero Energy for rationale to approve this project.  She wants to hold onto a certain standard, however it seems some Commissioners would approve the application with or without Net Zero Energy.  She thinks the applicants have proposed things and she wants to make sure it is clear – as an expansion of Condition 1, that all proposals of the applicant are conditions of approval.  Mindlin provided a list of items that she extracted from the application that are proposals of the application.  Her items are as follows:

1.       Number of Bedrooms.  That the final plan and building permits shall conform to applicant’s list currently found on page 19, Item15, “Number of Bedrooms by Housing Type” in the Revised Outline Plan.  Staff Response:  This is covered under the parking calculations. 

2.       That the size of cottages shall range from 800 to 1200 square feet, including lofts and shall not exceed 1200 square feet.  Staff Response:  The size is captured in their application.

3.       That the cottages shall be limited in height to 20 feet.  Staff Response:  At the last meeting, the applicants said the cottages would be 19 feet in height.

4.       That Earth Advantage certification shall be obtained on all units that are not part of the project given to the low-income non-profit.  Staff Response:  The application states they will do 48 units.  This would change the number of affordable units to 53. 

5.       That the homes shall obtain at least 100 points in each Earth Advantage category. (Applicant has submitted Earth Advantage reviews, stating they have 108-165 points in each category.  Some flexibility is needed in coming up with final Earth Advantage programs, but a 100 point requirement would be well below that proposed by the applicants.)  Staff Response:  The applicants’ appendices show they will far exceed the minimum number of points which is 50 in each of the four categories. 

6.       That the homes shall be shown to use 50 percent less energy than an equivalent code compliant home before its active energy producing systems are added.  Staff Response:  This is in their Performance Standard.  “Active energy producing systems” is a new component.

7.     That by the time of Certificate of Occupancy, each home shall have a set of energy systems installed which are    certified by the architect or other qualified professional to have Net Zero Energy capability.  Staff Response:  Harris               doesn’t know if Net Zero Energy capability is measurable.


Harris added that some of these items are stated in the application, some are not clear and some of the documentation is inconsistent.


Fields believes K-3 is sufficient for meeting the criteria.  He believes it is clear and we either support the concept or not.  Earth Advantage is too complex and irrelevant to deal with at the Planning Commission level.  Dotterrer asked if the Commission should approve the Comp Plan Map change with or without Mindlin’s changes.  He believes it can be approved without. Marsh said under K-3, homes will meet or exceed Earth Advantage requirements.  Harris said in the latest submittals by the applicants where they are answering questions by the Planning Commission, the applicants indicate “some” can meet an average of 150 points per category, three times the certification minimum. 


Solar Access – Harris referred to Condition 25 on page 22 of the draft approval Findings that addresses the solar setback.  Outline Plan requires all homes meet Solar Setback A.  The applicants have proposed some language about coming up with their own solar standard, however, does would that meet the City’s solar setback language?  The applicant’s language is more flexible.  Staff added language in Condition 25 as a way to compromise on this issue , “…or that each home shall receive an equivalent certification by the project architects and mechanical engineers that the shadow height on the southern facing exposures will not exceed that allowed under Solar Setback A.”  She believes they can extrapolate their information into our yardstick.


Fields said we are looking at a strategy dealing with unusual lot sizes, unusual sized houses and an unusual arrangement.  They are trying to have super energy housing.  There is compromise involved.  The solar standard can limit design.  The applicants are putting a lot into the physical design of the project.  He had heard from the applicants that sticking with a strict Solar Setback A would kill the project.  Harris said the applicants wrote findings for a Variance.


Mindlin is concerned because the energy standard the applicants are setting has a really strong focus on active systems and a rather low emphasis on passive systems. Harris agreed that the applicants are not completely addressing passive solar which is part of what the City’s Solar Setback A focuses on.  It’s more about the windows and the collection potential.  Mindlin said it’s because the project doesn’t have true lot lines that’s the problem.  She proposed a standard based on building code and Earth Advantage standards that would work well: “That each unit has at least eight percent of floor area and south facing glazing that is free of shadowing between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on December 21st.” 


3.                   Exception to Street Standards

Cottage private drive – Most of the Commissioners agreed the private drive would be acceptable, however, Dimitre questioned the width of the drive and if it is an equal or superior transportation facility.


Path in the riparian corridor instead of street adjacent to riparian corridor – Harris said the two things that dictate how the streets will run are the main sewer line and lining up the new section of Almeda with Helman.  It would be awkward to run Sander along the creek.  She thinks it can be found that the path performs the function of separation adequately.  The standard specifically says the reason is to provide a visual and physical access to the natural feature and also serve as a barrier between individual parcels and the natural feature. 


Dimitre believes one of the problems by the creek is that the setbacks might not be enough from top of bank.  If there was a street, you wouldn’t have any residential backyards backing up to the creek.  Dotterrer said they still have an equal or superior transportation access to the homes.  Mindlin believes they are providing a superior transportation facility because there will be access to homes along with the path for bikes and pedestrians.  Dawkins is concerned that the fence will wall off the corridor.  Black is bothered that a street next to the creek could create runoff into a riparian corridor is not a good idea.


Sander Way Curbside Sidewalks - Harris said the applicants don’t spell out the first criteria that there is demonstrable difficulty in meeting the street standards.  The application requests the sidewalks be curbside along the seven foot parkrow to mix with the constructed treatment wetland creating more natural and spacious treatment adjoining the residences.  In last month’s testimony, the applicant said there is not enough room between the curb and the sidewalk to have the bioswale landscape materials mix well together, but they didn’t give any technical reason why.  Harris said the main issue is the equal or superior transportation facility.  In the Street Standards adopted in 1989, there was a specific policy decision made that streets will be relatively narrow and they will be traditionally designed with parkrows with street trees between the curb and sidewalk.  The applicants haven’t given any reasons as to why this is the only way to do the bioswales.  Where is the balancing point between the design of the street and the transportation function versus an environmental street?  Harris believes you can do both and this is being posed in a narrow way. She referred the Commissioners to Exhibit EE, Sheet 2, Book 3, Narrative that shows the cross section.


Dotterrer cannot see that this meets any of the criteria.  Mindlin would like more justification for doing what they want to do.  Morris said he has an issue with sidewalks next to the street – driveway aprons across the street end up with a flat sidewalk and a slope to the street.  Fields believes it is self-imposed.


The Commissioners took a short break. 


Marsh suggested a condition that applies to the affordable housing that would remand affordable housing land to the City if it is not actually constructed or partially constructed over a period of time.


4.            Location (or impact) of the Multi-Use Path – Does it meet the Physical Constraints Review Permit approval criteria?  Specifically, has the applicant taken all reasonable steps to reduce the adverse impact on the environment?  Does Condition 15 on the mitigation plan address minimization of adverse impacts?  Harris said this item can be found on Page 7 of the draft Findings.  If you locate a development that includes a path in a riparian preservation area, a Physical Constraints Review Permit is required (Chapter 18.62).  Staff has questioned whether the application had addressed criteria 3.  Harris understood the applicant’s representative to say at the last meeting that they believe they had taken all reasonable steps to reduce the adverse impact by moving the path as far as they could to the western uphill edge of the riparian corridor and also working with the topography trying to go as much with the contours when building the path as possible.  Staff had drafted a mitigation Condition 15, if the Commission is looking at approving it and it includes more specifics like doing vegetation and restoration as follows:  For every square foot of disturbance they do, they have to restore 1.5 square feet.  The mitigation plan would be reviewed at Final Plan. 


Black felt the applicants were making a conscientious effort to minimize the impact and they have had several engineering and environmental reports and it seems anything should be an improvement compared to the degradation that has happened to it over time. 


Marsh does not believe the applicants have satisfied the criteria.  They haven’t provided much information about the impact of building the path on the functions of the riparian area.  However, in placing the mitigation on them, they will be forced to reduce the adverse impacts.  She is not always comfortable placing things within the riparian area, but she thinks there is a case to be made for a multi-purpose path – that trade-off between protecting the path and providing recreational and educational options for people who are using the path. 


5.            Riparian Corridor Buffer – Is the proposal adequate?  Are the significant and natural features adequately addressed and located in an unbuildable area?  Harris said this falls under the Outline Plan criteria and the question becomes:  Are you protected enough?  Fields said we are asking to do a trade-off and there are environmental impacts with anything.  Our standard doesn’t say how much buffer should be left, so we have to weigh and balance the whole thing.  There is definitely impact – weigh human needs with no impact to the environment.  Mindlin sees the multi-use path performing many functions.  It buffers development from the natural feature, at the same time providing public access for the enjoyment of the natural feature. What is happening along the path and how one would be experiencing it?  What does the path look like in terms of the area we need for it and how close the homes are to it?  Dawkins expressed his concerns about the fence (it’s 30 to 42 inches) and how it feels more natural without a fence. He would like as little disturbance as possible.  He finds Condition 15 acceptable.  Black likes the fence as a boundary, because it is not so tall that the homeowners cannot see the creek across it and it allows the users of the path to see the backyards of the homeowners. Morris believes the fence will keep the yards from encroaching down the bank.  He is trying to weigh the four foot walls where the path is cut down to the bank that will require rails and having a fence on the wall side too.  He finds the distance on the riparian area is adequate.  They are quite a distance from the creek.  Harris said one thing not captured in their drawings is that the Street Standards require a two to four foot buffer as a refuge area on each side of the path.  If Morris is concerned about it feeling too tight, the two foot strips on each side should help in case there is too much traffic. 


Where is the path going to expand?   The application shows the ten foot wide path but has not shown the full width of the improvement and it is not explicitly stated that as that design gets finalized that it stays on the public property, but a condition can be added to keep the path on public property.  Stalheim said the legal description for the land exchange has not yet been written.  The question is if the path needs to be wider, which direction does it need to go – nearer the private property or nearer the riparian area?  Dotterrer does not want to see any less than a ten foot buffer to the houses. 


Harris read language concerning the ten foot buffer area in the setback (common area).  If it’s truly a riparian buffer area, the language could read:  “That the ten foot wide common area between the new eastern property line adjacent to the Ashland Creek Riparian Corridor and the single family homes and yards for units 68 and 25-39 shall be landscaped with local plant species including ground cover, shrubs and shade trees to provide a riparian corridor buffer.  The Final Plan application material shall include a species and size specific landscape plan for the ten foot wide buffer.” 


Marsh is uncomfortable with the whole issue because we are understating the issue of the buffer.  She is concerned we are on the verge of approving something that may fail our own standards once we get them in place.  However, in the last Staff Report it was noted that the City of Portland recommends a buffer of 50 to 300 feet.  We are talking about a ten foot buffer in this project.  If we decide to go in that direction, we need to provide the utmost mitigation for the minimal buffer.  One reason she believes we are having trouble with this is that the houses can’t be moved toward the street because of setback issue


Harris explained that our Performance Standard Options don’t have standard yards.  The perimeter of the development has to meet the underlying standards of the zone.  The front yards have to meet setback.  If there was more flexibility, they could push the houses closer to Sander Way (as tied to the buffer). 


Fields/Mindlin m/s to continue the meeting until 10:00 p.m.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


Stalheim suggested integrating at Final Plan the mitigation plan for impact of construction, the multi-use path, the riparian corridor and the ten foot setback buffer area.  The setback would function not just as a setback but as a buffer.  Have a biologist see if there is a need for trees or a canopy to overhang the pathway and other issues a biologist would look at to address the buffering issue.  We would have to re-write some of the restoration items. 


Dawkins/Black m/s to extend the meeting to 10:30 p.m.  Voice Vote:  Approved. 


6.            Wetland Buffer – Does Condition 38 adequately address the issue?  This has to do with what is being done to protect the wetland continuing around to the dog park during construction of the project and the path.  Harris said Condition 38 says “That five feet shall be maintained between the northern edge of the path including the base materials and the wetland and also during construction the wetland be protected.  On the plan, it looks closer than five feet in some places. 


Fields asked if we are talking about a five foot buffer from the two foot buffer or a 14 foot section.  It looks like a property line might have to move to stay five feet from the wetland.  Harris said it would depend on the grade.  If it is relatively flat there, it makes sense to have the two foot refuge area and the path buffer be one in the same.  Molnar said this is definitely a Final Plan detail.


7.            Land Exchange – Recommend approval or denial?  Staff recommended the Commission decide if the land exchange (grassy area by the dog park for the riparian by the creek) will benefit the city.  The Commissioners agreed this is a fair exchange and the multi- use path is much better than an open grassy area.


8.            Open Space – Will the open space areas be exclusive to and the responsibility of each area of development or will it be available to all the owners?  Harris said the applicants have demonstrated for each section of the development there is more than eight percent dedicated open space and they are proposing separate homeowners’ associations for all three sections.  Marsh suggested the Commission endorse Condition 40 in the Staff memo relating to open space, AND insert a clause that shall address the usability, including community access to all of the open spaces.  For the three sections of the neighborhood that there is something in each of the CC&R’s that allow reciprocal visitation agreements, playground and community garden access.


The Commissioners discussed whether or not the individual lots (65-68) should be included in the agreement.  Dotterrer recommended all four lots should be made part of the homeowners’ association because they will probably use the open space and the ten foot setback on Lot 68 will have to be maintained by the homeowners’ association or by the owner of Lot 68.


Marsh would like a Condition or as part of the development agreement the following: “That the land being dedicated to affordable housing, if not fully constructed by some date in the future, would revert to City ownership” 



Annexation – Dotterrer/Black m/s to recommend approval of the annexation, including Condition 39 requiring the sidewalk be installed on the north side of Nevada Street.  Roll Call:  The motion carried with Dawkins, Dotterrer, Marsh, Morris, Fields, Black, Stromberg and Mindlin voting “yes” and Dimitre voting “no.” 


Harris reiterated the following changes in Conditions based on the Commissioners’ discussion.

-Add the sidewalk on the north side of Nevada Street to Condition 39 of the cover memo.

-Add a new Condition regarding the multi-use path to maintain the ten foot setback from the property line, the buffer area, and if the buffer area has to expand, move it to the east. 

-Add Condition 40 from the cover memo asking the applicant to show at Final Plan the usability of the open spaces. 

-Combine Condition 15 and language about the buffer area as part of a riparian biologist looking at an integrated plan.

-Add a sentence to Condition 33 that the land that is being dedicated for affordable housing shall be dedicated to the City if not fully developed in accordance with this approved plan within five years.

-Condition 38 – That a minimum of five feet shall be maintained between the northern pavement edge of the multi-use path to the wetland area. 

-Strike the last sentence in Condition 26. 

-Condition 25 – To give the applicant more flexibility, the Commissioners agreed to allow them to address how they can meet Solar A at Final Plan. 

-Condition 21 – Members of the homeowners’ association have reciprocal rights to the open space. 

-Condition 37 requires the applicant to meet the standard for Sander Way. 

Dotterrer/Fields m/s to approve PA2006-01663 with the Conditions presented and amended Conditions as discussed above.  Roll Call:  Mindlin, Marsh, Fields, Dawkins, Stromberg, Dotterrer, Morris and Black voted “yes” and Dimitre voted “no.”  The motion carried.


OTHER – The second draft of the Land Use Ordinance amendments were handed out.


ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 10:30 p.m. 


Respectfully submitted by,

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

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